Review Copenhagen concert 13/6
It's a lovely sunny, breezy afternoon in Amager, just south of Copenhagen near the airport. The stage is a couple of hundred feet from the seashore. There's anticipation and an eager mood in the audience. The boys are back in town, and for them it's classic ground - Copenhagen has been the starting point for many phases in their career. Now they are back, and the word is they are better then ever.
At 18.48 they enter the stage, just three minutes after schedule, and they start jamming a few bars from that Thin Lizzy classic. For the next two hours they prove themselves worthy of both anticipation and rumour. There's no doubt about it - Deep Purple is better and tighter band than ever.
Let me get one thing straight from the start: I do not think that all the material that the band has recorded over the years is good. Some of it is in my opinion even downright bad. I don't think their latest studio release Abandon is one of their better albums. And I've attended seven or eight concerts over the years, from the release of the album "In Rock" and onwards. And two of those (following the "Stormbringer" and "House of Blue Light" releases) were not very good in my opinion either. But then again, a few of those other concerts were very good indeed. But this enchanted evening in Copenhagen they were absolutly great. Here's what happend in more detail:
After the intro of "The Boys Are Back In Town" they leap straight into PICTURES OF HOME - one of my personal favourite Purple songs. The riff expands into the melody in a very clever way and Gillan is underlining this by singing it along with the guitar and organ. Unfortunatly his mike is a little low in the mix at first during the concert, so it's difficult to catch all the words. This is a grand opener and is followed by TED THE MECHANIC - and it really knocks me. It's a very, very good song, but it's one of the few tracks on "Live At The Olympia" that I think not quite is on par with the studio recording on "Purpendicular". But this version here is magnificent.
STRANGE KIND OF WOMAN follows next. And although I'm standing very close to the stage and Gillan's mike has got more power by now I can't hear his singing due to the fact of the massive singalong in the audience. Everybody sang along on the first verse and chorus. The band plays loud, but the sound quality was nearly perfect and crystal clear. So far they delivered an intro that most band would love to have as a finale. And then comes BLOODSUCKER - another crowd pleasing masterpiece. And they sound so incredibly good! It's so tight, tough and goes straight to your belly. But it's never repetitive and boring but rocking and swinging - which I think is that unique Purple trademark blend. By now I've come to realize that a lot of this is owed to Ian Paice. His drumming has carried the set so far and he's got the perfect companion in Roger Glover on bass. They interlock the rhythm between them. They provide a solid foundation for the other members to stand on, and they know how to use it!
All these songs range from fairly old to very old, but the next one is "69" from the "Abandon" album. One of the better in my opinion. (Gillan introduces it by telling us that they wanted to write a song abot the sixties, but couldn't come up with a title for it.) Here they expand it by adding a lot of famous bars on guitar from Steve Morse, making it a medley of different famous sixties songs (among them: The Beatles' "Within You, Without you"). It's very clever and enjoyable. Another highlight of the night.
WOMAN FROM TOKYO turns out to be yet another highlight. This classic number causes another massive singalong and jumping in the audience (we would all be dancing if it wasn't so packed in front of the stage). Once again the band proves their total control of the material, the song span from solid riff'n roll to a surprisingly soft middle-8. You can hear the routine these musicians have in every bar, but at the same time they sound so amazingly fresh - as if they just composed this number. Jon Lord has been brilliant as ever this evening handling the keyboards, and Morse is exactly the guitarist this band need. Losing Blackmore was the best thing that could have happened to them, and it's so obvious. A little bit sad, but true. They are a happy band now, and you can hear it in every beat and see it for yourself up there on the stage.
SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE SCREAMING is the next song. It makes me once again think that Deep Purple is so much more than a hard rock band. Their music contains so many elements that's beyond that. This is a beautiful, melodic piece that builds up to a magnificent solo on guitar from Morse. It's another song with a big span in it, that the group master totally on stage.
WATCHING THE SKY continues the show, and to me that's an odd choice from "Abandon" ("Almost Human" would be much better). I'm just not able to grasp what this song wants to be. I think it sounds a little better on stage, than on the album, though. But we're back on the track with SPACE TRUCKING - what a joy! Giving it a swinging intro before the classic simple riff. A short version, more "Machine Head" than "Made In Japan", a decision I can respect (some things you just can't top). But it's rocking! This leads into the GUITAR SOLO from Steve Morse. He has just the right combination of technique and show-off artistery that makes him the perfect choice for the band. I'm really impressed by the way he uses the volume knob on the guitar to create the "swell" sound. He also knows how to use the gadgets in front of his feet in a musically interesting way.
LAZY - my all time favourite Deep Purple song comes next. This defines my made up genre "swinging riff'n roll". Jon Lord is excellent, and the band is so tight behind him it's unbeliveable. Once again more "Machine Head" than "Made in Japan", and once again I respect that of the same reasons. The highlight of the evening for me.
The next song gets a funny intro: Morse plays a series of famous opening riffs on his guitar ("Heartbreaker", "Whole lotta love", "Iron Man" and many more) "realizes" that it is the wrong riff, start again and so on. Of course he finally finds the right one and it's SMOKE ON THE WATER - powerfully played, forcefully sung and with a groove that sends goosebumps down my spine. They sound so fresh - I can't imagine how many times they must have played this over the years, they ought to be fed up with it by now - but it's handed out to us in powerful tones covered with a thick layer of pure joy. Great singalong from the crowd - naturally. When it all was oveeeeer - it's time for KEYBOARD SOLO from Lord. I just love them. And of course - on the piano he plays "Wonderful Copenhagen" ( I - honestly - thought he was going to do just that.) The solo ends with the opening chords of PERFECT STRANGERS - yet again a spot on, hard hitting, rocking and swinging version. They play it a little bit faster than the studio recording, but not as fast as on LATO (which I think is a little too fast) This version is perfect. The sound is perfect. The beat is perfect.
SPEED KING finishes of the set. This is a very expanded version that includes a lot of duelling between Lord and Morse, a great drum solo and a duel between Gillan and Morse. Very impressive! They're having such fun and so do we - for a while the whole song turns into "It's now or never" (Elvis version of "O sole Mio") and then back again.
HIGHWAY STAR - last song of the evening. A wild version with an especially nice opening from Morse on guitar. Otherwise it sounds very much like it always has, from "Made in Japan" and onwards.
After this it's unfortunately over. The band has impressed me a lot. Musically I think they never been so good before. What I love about them is their way of handling their material. They perform so well. You can tell they've been doing this for a long time - I was something like seventeen when I saw them the first time, and I'm 45 now!
I just love them as the experienced performers they are, and their way of trailing off into different solos in all directions just to be back on the beat in the next bar. They treat their old material with respect but without reverence (thank God!). You feel that they love what they are doing. All members of the band performed extremely well, Gillan sang better than I've heard in many years. I really can't single out one in the band, but I do want to mention Paice again. I have not fully understood how important he is to the group before, but the man is a master!