thu 25/07/2024

Deep Purple, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Deep Purple, O2 Arena

Deep Purple, O2 Arena

Veteran rock band shows a new future for nostalgia tours

Deep Purple: they all came out to the O2, by the River Thames shoreline...

If anyone tells you that Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) wasn’t a masterpiece then they’re an idiot. In fact, it was, more or less, the only successful use of an orchestra with a rock band ever. Now, 40 years on, a pensionable Purple have hit the road again with a full symphony orchestra. But they’re not playing the Concerto. They’re playing their hits. Critically, they’re performing them without founding keyboardist, Jon Lord, and guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore.

So, at 8.30pm when support band Cheap Trick had failed to ignite the room, even with a five-necked guitar, a 12-stringed bass and a lead singer looking like Dave Lee Roth, it looked like this might be another nostalgia night for music past its sell-by date.

It wasn’t. The current line-up showed itself far closer to the spirit of the heyday than the actual classic line-up was for years. By the time Blackmore left the band almost two decades ago he was, allegedly, half mad. Now, he plays the lute in medieval theme-weekends dressed as a pixie. Steve Morse, on the other hand, last night proved himself able to alternate between the delicacy of Blackmore’s old phrasing and Van Halen-style fretboard-eating. And Don Airey, having played keyboards in every band in the extended Deep Purple family tree, was a total shoo-in. 

The middle-aged man in front of me inserted earplugs and started singing

Drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover are ever reliable. What came as a relief to the 20,000 people present was that singer Ian Gillan, whose career has reached such lows that he’s been forced to apologise for his appearances, was not only at his vocal peak but able to curb his tendency to over-sing.

With an entire Purple line-up for once at such a level of technical brilliance, the idea of bringing along an orchestra worked a treat. More than a gig, it was a show, and a spectacle, making the endless showing-off seem like something you should be marvelling at.

The songs too, in their new guises, were given renewed freshness. Conductor and arranger Stephen Bentley-Klein did an excellent job, inserting stabs of Rat Pack jazz where the likes of Michael Kamen would have used slabs of strings. Gillan, looking a bit like David Essex, was a genial host, and following a brief orchestral intro we were into “Highway Star”. Having just heard Cheap Trick sounding like they were playing ukuleles in an aircraft hangar, I had concerns about the sound, but from where I was sitting it was rich and full.

The evening worked best from Steve Morse’s instrumental, “Contact Lost”, onward. The latter captured the magic of a golden era of melancholy guitar compositions such as Blackmore’s “Weiss Heim”. Next up “When a Blind Man Cries” brought a real moment of beauty, and during the “Smoke on the Water” the middle-aged man in front of me inserted a pair of earplugs and started singing as if for all his life.

It was moot whether the evening needed quite so many solos, or whether they all needed to be quite so over the topIt was moot, however, whether the evening needed quite so many solos, or whether they all needed to be so over the top. Morse’s solo in “The Well-Dressed Guitar” sounded like the mall scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure where Beethoven plays the synths. But in the superb “Lazy”, as conductor Bentley-Klein turned round and started duelling on electric violin, suddenly all this showmanship seemed more than a clever musical joke.

The night was billed as “The Songs That Built Rock." It was still not an outrageous exaggeration. The worst fault of the set list was not having “Smoke on the Water” as the closer and deploying “Black Night” up higher. Surely, everyone knows the O2 has the country’s most turgid atmosphere, and the big guns need to come out early? But Deep Purple produced a great show last night, hitting on a way to present their material that was marginally tongue-in-cheek, fun, and yet still did it justice. They also demonstrated they're still masters of the rock orchestra.

The current line-up of Deep Purple perform "Smoke on the Water"

With an entire Purple line-up for once at such a level of technical brilliance, the idea of bringing along an orchestra worked a treat


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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The show sounds well worth seeing. I wasn't disappointed when I saw them a few years back, with Lord, but minus Blackmore. I thought the insult against Blackmore was uncalled for, having seen Blackmore's night recently at a sell-out concert and being knocked out by his amazing talent. It is a shame he has moved away from Rock, but hey, he gave a large chunk of his life to Purple and Rainbow, so let him enjoy doing what he wants to do - it's his life.

Fact check: Blackmore left DP almost 2 decades ago, and not a decade ago. And, he's playing extremely well with Blackmore's Night- he has grown and developed as a musician, while the other DP guys mainly just do the same old thing (one of the reasons he quit DP!). Without Blackmore and Lord, it isn't really DP, in spite of the talents of Airey and Morse.

Of course you are right about when Blackmore left James. Thanks. I have corrected it. Russ

I make a point of seeing Blackmore's Night every time they play a concert within a 200 mile radius of my home. Blackmore never disappoints, whether he's playing the acoustic or during the moments when he plays the Strat. Lots of great stuff on his latest CD! DP were true titans in the '70's and in the '80's, and even when they were most commercially successful, they were still an underrated band. And why the hell are they still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?!

Hi Last night was the third time i have seen DP, first time was at Knebworth MK2 reform gig in 80S, Then On Rapture tour 5 years ago, but last nights was the best! Blackmore is a good musican and writer, but Steve Morse would blow him out of the water!!! Lord ive seen lots in Whitesnake days, but Don is also brilliant, its all about the music , these guys can play!, but the need to bring new material out! Blackmore has always chopped and changed line ups, at least without him its stable!! Morse is one of the unsung best!

The embedded youtube is not the current line-up but I enjoyed it anyway.

I was at the gig and really enjoyed it. Cheap Trick were fine -- not exactly easy to ignite a crowd at the Millennium Dome as a support act. Excellent gig, poor venue (and why cannot people just bloody well sit still for five minutes instead of getting up and going to the bar / bog / bar and so on in a loop - it was like sitting in the midst of a load of five year olds. But Purple and the Orchestra were excellent, and I recommend it to anyone swithering about going to see some of the forthcoming dates.

I saw this show at Ravinia in Chicago this summer and I have to agree with the was fantastic! The crowd really enjoyed it and the music sounded great. Deep Purple are still relavent and have a large fan base.

No concert tour that matter for current Purple — when Glenn Hughes’ Black Country Communion made real big success. I see this article as a kind of consolation to Morse Purple. New DVD “Live at the Montreax 2011″ was a splendid performance, but I realize reason that new material of Morse era didn’t be almost included there - such as “Sometimes I feel like a screaming". Most of British Purple fans don't know that “Rapture of the Deep” could sell only 5,000 copies in U.S.A. Roger Glover suggested the next studio album might be EP. Ian Gillan recently said that I can’t understand rock business so well. Joe Elliot once pointed out that Deep Purple might lose potential commercial advantage forever in the United States because of musically failed album “The Battle Rages On”.

David Coverdale's Whitesnake easily defeated reunion Deep Purple in 1987, and Glenn Hughes’ Black Country Communion easily defeated Morse Purple in 2010. current DP have no longer a major band in the US.

In the US, Morse Purple is left by the wayside due to low ticket sales on concert tour, sometimes distributed free tickets to audiences, and brings up more deficits. Unfortunately EMI records refused contract extension with the Morse DP because Abandon & Bananas failed commercially so they belong to minor label Edel/Eagle records. In the US, Morse Purple has sold only 20000 copies with four studio albums and some live albums from 1996 until 2010. As a result lack of interest holds a major key.

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