Deep Purple

support Electric Guitars
author BV date 11/02/14 venue Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, DEN

I have considered myself a fan of Deep Purple for many years now – most noticeably during my teenage years where my infatuation with classic rock acts became somewhat obsessive according to some. It was therefore with a hint of utter disappointment that I reviewed Deep Purple’s 2013 studio effort, ironically titled “Now What?!”, as those were my exact thoughts for the band’s future. Not entirely willing to let that chapter of my musical tastes pass into oblivion with no hope for overwhelmingly awesome new material just yet, I decided to see if Deep Purple could at least win me over again through a live experience. As I entered Falconer Salen I was quite excited, hoping to catch what could still be a great live band, in spite of their lacking prowess in the studio.

All photos by Philip B. Hansen

Electric Guitars

First of all though, there was the matter of the support act. Electric Guitars, an outfit fronted by two guitarists of immense technical prowess – namely Mika Vandborg and Søren Andersen, took the stage around 20:00 and surprisingly enough there was already a surprisingly large gathering of people in the venue. As the band thundered through their rambunctious, albeit quite forgettable set they seemed to, at least, exercise some alright crowd control. Supporting acts the size of Deep Purple is always an ungrateful gig and as such, one could argue that Electric Guitars did pretty damn well in convincing the first five or so rows to partake in their rather corny stage antics – namely the handclapping above one’s head just to name one example. Technical as Vandborg and Andersen are though, they do seem to lack the skill to create truly memorable, distinguishable songs as the set most of all reminded me of a showcasing of guitar skills on top of a rather interchangeable instrumental platform which never seemed to differ that much from the following song – like a modern-day AC/DC with added emphasis on guitar trickery. Songs like “A Song About You” were, however, briefly memorable and harvested somewhat large amounts of applause.

Hilariously so, it wasn’t without a hint of irony that the band harvested their largest round of applause during a brief escapade wherein they teased the crowd with the riff from AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. As the band left the stage after 30 minutes or so, I pondered whether or not their set would have been more exciting, had they been provided a better sounding mix, as it was quite heavy on the bass and the drums – essentially leaving out the part of the mix which was, quite obviously, meant to be emphasized. In essence though, I just believe that Electric Guitars lack the nerve to really go beyond the stage and really grasp the audience. They might get it eventually though, but for the time being I view it as nothing more than a mildly interesting showcasing of two excellent guitarists in a setting of mildly interesting, albeit forgettable songs. Their show could probably be quite excellent, but a venue of this size still seems far beyond them.

Deep Purple

As the clock hit 21:00, a powerful and ominous instrumental prologue in the form of “Mars, The Bringer of War” would precede the band – opening the show with a near symphonic edge to various effective and colourful projections from a rather impressive lighting rig. As the band erupted into two surprisingly powerful tracks, namely “Après Vous” and “Into the Fire” my hopes for the concert immediately rose to abnormally high levels – surely a powerful start such as this would indicate a rejuvenated outfit, fueled by Ian Gillan’s voice which was, quite surprisingly, in very decent form as opposed to how some people have regarded it in recent years. However as the band reached “Hard Lovin’ Man” they already began to reach a sort of stagnation. From this point onwards, the band would throw themselves into lengthy instrumental excursions - which were quite expected as Deep Purple signifies the very essence of such jamming. However, often performed by one instrument at a time in a display of technical prowess and, quite a bit less flattering, self-indulgent instrumental wanking these instrumental sections lacked the punch and sheer joy that could have made them extraordinary - instead we are treated to lukewarm instrumental indulgence in the most introverted way possible. Granted, occasionally they became smooth transitions in between tracks, yet somehow they were dominated by a sense of stagnation and, well, unnecessary filler material which left me pondering whether or not they actually possess the needed energy to pull off a 90 minute show without breaks anymore?

Granted there were obvious highlights in the form of the classic “Strange Kind of Woman” which quite frankly raised the roof from sheer applause, but it was also very evident that the majority of the crowd present could give less than two shits about most of the newer material. There were, however, newer highlights as well, as Don Airey and Steve Morse’s interplay between organ and guitar was especially dynamic on newer outings like “Vincent Price” and “Contact Lost” – which also showed on the crowd’s rather impressed faces at times. – had it not been for the many unnecessary instrumental excursions, the band would probably have had the crowd in the grasp of their hands. In spite of the fact that “Lazy” and “Perfect Strangers” also claimed thunderous applause, it was also during these classic tracks that the band appeared the most weary – having trouble living up to the glory of days long past – especially the guitar eclecticism of Steve Morse lacked strength and appeal as his playing consistently appeared as a dim, unflattering version of Ritchie Blackmore’s classic riffs and solos. In that sense, he fared far, far better on the band’s newer outings where one couldn’t hold him up to an impossibly high standard.

During “Space Truckin’”, which is coincidentally an old favorite of mine, the band reached an undisputed highlight in terms of proficiency and stage presence. The foundation laid down by Ian Paice and Roger Glover was as strong as one could possibly expect and Gillan’s vocals rang with a grace befitting of a man his age, rather than sounding strained from trying to reach his long gone vocal range of the past. As the time came for the inevitable outing of “Smoke on the Water”, right before the band would then leave the stage, the crowd quite obviously went ballistic – after all, this was surely what all the nostalgia infused old-timers were here for. – Any indication otherwise had been sorely missed throughout the show until then, at least.

Returning for two decent renditions of “Hush” and “Black Night” – the latter having its crazily magnificent groove destroyed by a lengthy blues-jam, the band once again left stage to thunderous applause. Now remains the question; “are Deep Purple still a magnificent live act?” - The answer is, for my part, one of utter ambivalence. Had they kept the lengthy, self-indulgent wanking on the down-low, this might have been an experience of utter joy. However, such long periods of stagnation are usually an indication of a band in decline and although they can still sell out Falconer Salen, I’m not really sure that they should be able to. It was a solid show to be honest, but nothing special at all.

7

Setlist:

  • 1. Mars, The Bringer of War (Gustav Holst intro)
  • 2. Après Vous
  • 3. Into the Fire
  • 4. Hard Lovin’ Man
  • 5. Strange Kind of Woman
  • 6. Vincent Price
  • 7. Contact Lost
  • 8. Uncommon Man
  • 9. The Well-Dressed Guitar
  • 10. The Mule
  • 11. Above and Beyond
  • 12. Lazy
  • 13. Hell to Pay
  • 14. Perfect Strangers
  • 15. Space Truckin’
  • 16. Smoke on the Water

--Encore--

  • 17. Hush
  • 18. Black Night

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