Deep Purple - Hard Rock Live, Hollywood - August 31
Photo by Orlovic via Wikipedia Commons
Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
August 31, 2014
Better than: Anyone might have had a right to expect.
It took awhile before the crowd was treated to one of the most famous riffs in rock history, the one that goes "Dum dum duuuuum... dumdum de dum de dum... dum dum duuuuuum dum de daah...," that of course being the immortal intro to "Smoke on the Water," the signature song that marked Deep Purple's ascent into hard-rock hierarchy. And while many of those in attendance held their breath waiting for that immortal refrain, there was, fortunately, plenty to keep them satisfied until that moment.
Still, those who expected one reliable riff after another may have been surprised at Purple's progressive leanings and determination to bring its instrumental prowess to the fore. After rousing the crowd with the ever-insistent opener "Highway Star," succeeding offerings became more about the solos than the songs, with each musician -- guitarist Steve Morse, keyboardist Don Airey, bassist Roger Glover, and drummer and sole original member Ian Paice -- spending ample time showing off their instrumental dexterity. Morse and Airey in particular were spotlighted repeatedly, and indeed the energy and exuberance in these extended workouts were more than enough to dazzle the spellbound crowd.
Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of putting so much of the spotlight on the solos was that singer Ian Gillian often seemed like an incidental player in the performance. His vocals often seemed muted, and his struggle to clear the high notes, so much a part of Deep Purple's sound, was all too obvious.
Luckily, the arrangements were exceedingly tight and the musicians were able to represent themselves well. Glover looked especially enthused, posing and, at times, literally prancing about the stage, clearly belying the fact that he turns the big 7-0 next year. He even lingered after the final encore, tossing guitar picks to the crowd and obviously relishing their affection.
Still, the songs the group omitted from the set list were almost as noteworthy as those included. An encore reading of "Hush," a signature song that preceded even Glover and Gillian's entry into the band in 1969, was a nice reward for the faithful, as was "Space Truckin'," which gave the crowd a chance to shout out the "C'mon!" refrain.
However, the absence of "My Woman From Tokyo" was as inexplicable as it was disappointing. Likewise, while its early cover of Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" obviously preceded the band's current incarnation, one couldn't help but hope it might include that early signature song as well.
Ultimately, though, this wasn't a concert that focused on reclaiming the oldies. Instead, most of the selections were chosen as a means of emphasizing Deep Purple's flash, frenzy, and finesse.
So too, special effects and production values were minimized in favor of maximizing the musical values. Happily, no extraneous support musicians or back-up singers were employed, as is the practice of many so-called "classic rock" bands these days. (Think the Who, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones.) Not content to be categorized as some sort of oldies outfit, Deep Purple proved it's every bit as relevant and vital as it has ever been. Considering its tenure stretches back some 45 years, that's a stunning statement in itself.
Personal bias: Never much of a headbanger myself, attending a Deep Purple concert was something akin to a guilty pleasure. On the other hand, having unashamedly enjoyed the band in its formative years -- when "Hush" and "Kentucky Woman" were part of the initial template -- there was admittedly a nostalgia factor that also encouraged me to attend.
The crowd: Mostly middle-aged headbangers and longtime fans with a passion for Purple. Still, it was somewhat surprising not to see any young metalheads in the audience. After all, Deep Purple was one of those bands that helped create the transition from heavy rock to metal mayhem.
By the way: It was kinda cool to have Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain come out to help with the band's introduction. A resident of Boca and a hard-rock hero himself, he expressed his admiration for the band, while no doubt enjoying some backstage banter with his British brethren.
"Into the Fire"
"Hard Lovin' Man"
"Strange Kind of Woman/Vincent Price"
"The Well-Dressed Guitar"
" Hell to Pay"
" Keyboard Solo"
"Smoke on the Water"
"Green Onions" (Booker T. & the MG's cover)
"Hush" (Billy Joe Royal cover)
" Black Night"