Deep Purple was once listed by Guinness World Records as the world’s loudest band. On Saturday night at Fantasy Springs, the band made it clear that although Deep Purple may no longer hold that title, “loud” still defines the group’s live setup.
The 75-minute performance started off with “Highway Star” from the 1972 album Machine Head. Deep Purple’s live sound is much more powerful than what you hear on the records. Thanks to Steve Morse and Don Airey, the guitar solos and keyboard work, respectively, are quite tight.
While the show got off to a good start, much of the performance was improvised, which was both good and bad: The show was bogged down by long guitar solos and lengthy keyboard solos. It seemed like frontman Ian Gillan spent at least half of the show off stage while Morse and Airey improvised. After the first 25 minutes of the show, Gillan said, “That’s enough jazz. Now we’re going to play 45 minutes of folk music,” before performing “Vincent Price,” off the latest album, Now What?!
After “Vincent Price,” Morse was left by himself onstage and performed an impressive guitar solo that sounded at times like a classical orchestra. Airey was given the same treatment not too long after, when he showed off his skills on his Moog synthesizer before playing the intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley,” a piece he’s known for playing during his days with Osbourne. This earned him quite an ovation from the knowledgeable Fantasy Springs crowd.
When it came time to end the show, people got what they paid for: Deep Purple’s two best-known songs, “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke on the Water.” Both are still live delights, especially “Space Truckin’.”
Deep Purple is still a powerful live band after all these years. The group was an early influence to heavy metal, but the performance showed how Deep Purple was also a pioneer band in prog-rock and blues-rock. Some minor details were problematic, such as the fact that Ian Gillan’s vocals were delivered in a fashion that sounded odd.
The long solos by Airey and Morse were top-notch and sounded great, but at times, I found myself hoping the band would throw in more material from the old days, or even the current era. Regardless, many people left the show (myself included) with ears ringing, having just witnessed great live material by one of the most innovative rock bands in history. That’s undeniably a good thing.