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Empire, Liverpool, 15th March 1976

Garry Freeman was there! Based on some very good notes(!) here are his detailed memories of Deep Purple's last concert with Tommy Bolin.

Deep Purple: The night when 1 became 5

I had seen the Mark II line up twice since 1971 and by 1976 I was a hardened and devoted fan of Deep Purple. Like many, I'd felt that Purple couldn't go on after Richie left but I'd been pleasantly surprised by the new album "Come Taste The Band". So, I thought why not give them a fair hearing at The Empire in Liverpool? Oh - and while I'm there, I'll tape it as well. David Coverdale did all the between song announcements except where I've indicated.

"We've got some rock'n'roll for ya!" Straight into a version of "Burn" that kicks ass - hard! Jon Lord is fairly low in the mix and Tommy's gutsy chords are clear, vocals are strong but Glenn's screaming has already started. Average Hammond solo from JL and then GH goes into screaming overdrive during the second half of the song just before Tommy's solo - and what a solo. He may not have liked having to play RB's music but he certainly could play the solos - and with finger vibrato towards the end of it as well! Towards the very end of "Burn" there is the real beginning of the 'battle of the screams' between Glenn and David - with GH winning by a mile (not in style or content - just in volume!).

"Thank you, Liverpool. Wanna apologize for coming on late. We've had trouble with the equipment and apparently there's still some hassle with Jon's equipment and also... whatever!!" (muffled shouts) "Oh! It's alright now!! We're gonna do some new songs for ya, off "Come Taste The Band". Gonna feature a song from Tommy's solo album "Teaser" and we're gonna give ya rock'n'roll from "Burn", "Stormbringer", "Made In Japan", "Machine Head" and all those goodies." (The crowd went wild at the mention of the earlier albums.) "Here's a song about a lady who sells herself for money. It's on the new album. It's a rock'n'roll song so you can shake your ass. It's a song called... "Lady Luck"!!!"

"Lady Luck" is a very unremarkable, lacklustre performance - very close to the album version and at best below average Purple in terms of fire and enthusiasm. It's as if they're only playing it to promote the new album - which they probably were!! "We'll do a song for ya. It's a rock'n'roll song. It's a song Tommy Bolin and Glenn Hughes wrote. It's a song about getting pissed and missing your old lady. It's a song called "Getting' Tighter"!!"

They then launched into what I thought was one of the best performances of the night - a 10 minute version of the song listed as 3:36 on the original album. It's full of improvised sections and kicks ass seriously in a big way. The solo guitar intro from Tommy is great with plenty of wah-wah, fusing into a bluesy section before the rest of the band come in. It seems like the only song of the night that GH didn't ruin with his frenetic screaming. There's a really funky bass solo about half way through and a superb guitar/vocal battle between Tommy and Glenn that matched many of those between Blackmore and Gillan in the later days of Mark 2 and "Strange Kind Of Woman". Just before the end of the song there's another good bluesy vocal section featuring GH with JL and IP backing. Throughout "Getting' Tighter" the whole band seem to have a real, instinctive feel for each other's style - and it works. They were enjoying what they were doing.

"We're gonna do a song which features the lovely Jon Lord on synthesiser. It's a song that Tommy and me wrote. It's a love song. Song called "Love Child"." Another very average, unremarkable performance of an average rock song, including a lengthy synth solo (to a very bluesy backing) from JL in the elongated middle section.

"You're very kind - thank you. This is a song off an album that was made in Switzerland (thunderous applause). The song tells the story of the recording, the fire and everything" (thunderous applause again). Then Tommy went straight into the opening chords of "Smoke On The Water". A good version of a great song with blindingly hot solos from Tommy in the middle and towards the end. What I thought was the saddest part of the night was when "Smoke" segued into "Georgia", the old blues standard. GH sang soulfully, with real feeling and conviction but it was just the wrong song in the wrong place. Glenn was viciously heckled during "Georgia" - someone close to me shouting at him to "shut up!" Despite all of that, the band received ecstatic applause at the end of "Smoke".

"God bless ya - yeeeeooowwww!!! Thank you. Here's a song - features Jon Lord on keyboards and Mr Ian Paice on drums. A song for ya called "Lazy"." Great keyboard solo spot from JL - mostly Hammond with some synth, plenty of organ rocking and use of presets - the like of which I've only ever heard before during Curved Air's "Francis Monkman" solo in Vivaldi (Hey look everybody, I can play synth with no hands!!). We have to remember that these were the days (still) of monophonic synthesisers. "Lazy" itself is preceded by GH's "Jon Lord on keyboards", and it's off we go. Tommy naturally enough takes a supporting role during this one but there are still some very nice guitar licks to be heard. Vocals are shared evenly between GH and DC, with Glenn screaming his head off. Great drum solo from IP.

After "Lazy", Glenn takes a few mins to talk to the crowd and he seems to be speaking very much from the heart. In the background, JL is playing a very soulful Hammond. "Mr Ian Paice there on drums - come on!!!! Aaarrgh! We're all very very tired, especially me. After 6 months - it's been six months doing this - we've been working every night more or less all over the world. This is our last gig for about 7, 8, 9 months. All we're saying is - whatever you want to do tonight, you do it, because if I see anybody putting anybody down well... after 6 months on the road! Have a good time!"

Straight into "This Time Around" - to huge applause. An excellent intro from Glenn on vocals and Jon on Hammond and synth. As Ian and Tommy come in this becomes a superb version of a very good song. It segues into a great version of "Owed To 'G'" with some tasty guitar from Tommy against a very tight backdrop of JL, IP and GH. It's so good the cloud are clapping along during the quieter sections.

"Bless You! I leave you in the capable hands of the finest guitar player in the world - Mr Tommy Bolin". What follows is the most depressing section of the show. Tommy's solo spot kicks off with bursts of guitar synth and effects pedals - a mass of noise with some long gaps between them. Unfortunately, these gave the Mk 2 and Mk 3 freaks too much opportunity to heckle him. Tommy plays some good guitar but having built the show to something of a climax at this point his spot was a let down to the crowd - and it shows. After less than 90 seconds, calls of "Get off!" and "We want Richie back" can clearly be heard. The cat calls and whistles then start and Tommy seems to be provoking the crowd into reacting. Then suddenly, he gets most people back on his side by playing a blues lick that gets most everybody clapping along. Back to the heavy chords, feedback, calls of "Fucking get off!" until IP comes back on and sets up a solid rock rhythm for Tommy's playing that once again gets the crown involved. Sadly he then reverts to using the guitar to provoke the crowd. More calls of "Bring back the Cat!" and "Get off" plus a very strange one that is clearly audible - "Bring back Hendrix!"

The spot ends with a crescendo of feedback as the others retake the stage and IP counts them into "Stormbringer". I was surprised at just how good this version was - even GH's screams didn't seem too far out of place alongside a great vocal from DC. The highlight of "Stormbringer" for me was a great solo from Tommy that should lay to rest forever those claims that by this point of the short tour JL was playing all Tommy's parts. This was NOT "Last Concert In Japan"! The song itself was totally different to other live versions I've heard, with two quieter improvised sections building to a "Child In Time"-like climax. Huge applause after this one!

"God Bless You! Thank you Liverpool! Thank you!" (DC)
"Thank you, God bless you all!" (GH)
"Sweet dreams, God bless you!" (GH)

Then the encore.

"OK. Thank you very much" (GH). "We're gonna do a song for ya. It's a song all you fuckers know so you'd better join in with us! It's a song about speed, alright??!!!" (DC) Then Ian, Jon and Tommy start the intro to "Highway Star". "'We ain't doing it without you - come on!!!" (GH) . A great organ / guitar battle between JL and TB precedes the first verse - it really kicks off "Highway Star"!! It's one of the fastest versions of the song I've ever heard - but there's not a note or a word out of place. Great - and I mean great - solo from Tommy. The song is cut short with only the one solo and then into a kicking "Not Fade Away". The crowd seem to be really enjoying this as DC says "We Love ya. Thank you. God bless you all!" Then it's a reprise of the last verse/chorus of "Highway Star".

"Bless you all!!" (DC). "Thank you very much!" (GH). The band leaves the stage as JL's synth goes into preset auto pilot. That's it folks. That was Liverpool, 15th March 1976.

Garry Freeman

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