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Rocking In Riverbend

Deep Purple live at Riverbend Music Center (Cincinnati, USA 2017-09-10)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was witness to what might be Purple’s last show in North America. The September 10th show will go down in my memory as the best of my 8 Purple shows and not because it was the possible last show, but because of the ferocity of the bands performance, the set list and the crowd enthusiasm. Additionally, and I hate to call them this, but the “supporting” acts were headliners unto themselves.

Edgar Winter performed a brief set with the songs you’d expect along with a few you wouldn’t. Freeride opened the set and Frankenstein closed it with some Rolling Stones, blues and a tribute to his brother in between. Mr. Winter defied his years with a performance full of showmanship, great vocals and incredible musicians in his backing band. While not a big Winter fan, I can say that he won me over and if I ever get a chance, or if you ever get a chance, go see him perform. He is a multi-talented musician and performer and clearly enjoyed performing on stage. At his age of 70, I can’t imagine he would continue to do this if he wasn’t having fun and it clearly showed during his set.

Alice was up next and what can you say about Alice that hasn’t been said? His performance was excellent, his band was tight and he had a great set list as well. Not really any surprises from him and his show and song list was very similar to what I saw when he opened for Motely Crue last year. The crowd was enthusiastic, his stage props and antics keep the show moving and Alice himself was clearly still at the top of his game even at age 69. Again, I think at this age, he is doing this because he loves to do it, not because he has too. As an added bonus, Edgar Winter, Edgar’s guitar player, Doug Rappoport and Steve Morse all played on the show closing “School’s Out.” It was an over the top show closer after an exceptional performance. To be honest here, Alice was so good that I wondered how Purple would fair afterwards. Between the stage show and the overall performance, it pulled a lot energy out of the crowd and Purple’s flash comes from their music, not props.

Those fears were put down quickly when Purple took the stage. The stage by the way, was backed by what appeared to be the fuzzy underside of several large mattresses and a large video screen. Once the stage was illuminated however, those mattresses were suddenly icebergs and was a nice nod to InFinite artwork. As the band walked onto the stage, the crowd roared as the opening notes of Highway Star announced their arrival. The opener was simply blistering. At 72, we all know that Gillan doesn’t have the voice he once had. That said, he killed that song and his ability to hit those high notes was the best I’ve heard in several years. In fact, his voice was strong and his range excellent over the course of the entire show. I’ve seen shows where he struggled for the entire show or parts of it, but other than needing to catching his breath during a few words of the second song, Fireball, he was damn near flawless. I’m a big Gillan fan and while I can easily overlook any vocal issues due to his age, this night he proved that he continues to be one of the best vocalists out there at any age.

The set list was Highway Star, Fireball, Strange Kind of Woman, Uncommon Man, Lazy, Knocking at Your Back Door, Pictures of Home, Perfect Strangers, Keyboard Solo, Time for Bedlam, Space Truckin’, Hush and Smoke on the Water.

No real surprises with the set list but to me Fireball, Knocking and Space Truckin’ were the highlights. Uncommon Man and Time for Bedlam were nice additions but as expected brought the crowd down a bit. They songs did a get good reaction from diehard DP fans and I thought Time for Bedlam worked very well live. Would have also loved to have heard Hip Boots and or All I’ve Got is You but I’m greedy. As far as Space Truckin’ goes, I believe that is a song that they have performed at every DP show I’ve seen and it is usually a song were Gillan struggles a bit. This night, while not Gillan of old, he did very well and hit high notes without struggling or causing his voice to suffer for the next verse. Simply superb.

I should also point out as per other shows on this tour there was no encore. They did bring out the aforementioned Doug Rappoport to join them on Smoke on the Water. It clearly wasn’t rehearsed prior and it was nice to see Airey, Morse and Rappoport noodle as they led into Smoke. What was also cool was that Rappoport was clearly thrilled to be playing with Deep Purple on that iconic song. He was all smiles, mugging and enjoying the moment. At one point, he pointed to his arm and showed that had goosebumps from playing with those guys.

The rest of the guys were of course tight and right on. Paice was a workhorse and I really enjoyed his playing. While I’m not a drummer, I think the best compliment I can give him is that I noticed Edgar Winter’s drummer sneak on stage and sit behind Glover’s amps. He sat there for roughly half the show and simply watched Paicey play. That was very cool to see.

Glover was in the pocket all night, very engaged with the crowd and very energetic. I noticed that he sang along and occasionally, when he would hit the low note during a bass run he would mouth the words “boom.” Clearly this is a guy that still enjoys what he is doing. My wife also swears that he made eye contact with her and smiled at her. I didn’t see it and can’t verify it, but she won’t forget it even if he was actually looking 4 rows behind her.

Morse and Airey were both fantastic as always. Both had smiles on their faces for the entire show and seemed to enjoy being on stage with their bandmates and the interactions they had both musically and personally while playing. This is clearly a band that likes each other and still likes to play. The music and their performance that night showed it.

What also seemed clear to me that night, is that this is a band that has reached their creative peak. This clearly isn’t the 1970’s version of Deep Purple and I’m not sure that is fair to compare the two. This version has two different members and a lot of years behind them. What I do see is that band that has made some of their best music of any era with Now What?!! and InFinte. Both are superb and show a band that is still honing their craft and moving it forward. This is also a band that reached a creative peak some 40 years earlier and then reached it again while staying true to their roots and moving the music forward.

I know there are various opinions on the band but I urge you that if you get a chance to go see them on this tour by all means do it. Purple clearly aren’t who they used to be, but they are who they are and right now, they are a hell of a band. They are also a hell of a band that at some point will call it day. I hope we get one more album out of them and they tour for a few more years because these guys are still on top, still creative and clearing enjoy playing and to paraphrase Ian Gillan, “they might not have made their best album yet.” I believe that and I believe that once these guys call it a day, we’ll never see another band of this caliber in our lifetime.

Go see Deep Purple on this tour if you can and tell me I’m wrong afterwards….. if you can.

review by Scott McNay

4 Comments to “Rocking In Riverbend”:

  1. 1
    MrPtheDPFan says:

    Thanks very much .nice detailed revue .

  2. 2
    Adel says:

    They saved up their engery and went out with a bang. That’s my whole point on extensive touring. They can’t play on full throttle day in day out. Even the young and fit ones do crack out. So it’s a massive achievement to finish the tour with no one needing extra oxygen in the show!!!

  3. 3
    Susan langdon says:

    Saw them at Blossom Music Center and they were fantastic!😊

  4. 4
    Jet Auto Jerry says:

    WOW, sounds like a great show all around and it sounds like they got better as the tour went on. Pictures of Home? Damn, I dig that song and wish they would have played in in L.A.

    Hope that they come back to So Cal once more for a full show in 18/19. Maybe a smaller venue for a higher ticket price and 2+ hours. I can dream can’t I?

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