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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Deep Purple

Live in Ventura, California, August, 2007

Review by Rick Damigella

Deep Purple stormed through Southern California in August as part of their current world tour, playing three shows from San Diego to Ventura over five days. I took in two of the gigs, the first being in Costa Mesa at the long underutilized Pacific Amphitheater and then the very next night at the Ventura Theater. While the first night was much more a classic rock radio greatest hits affair, night two was more of a hard core fan concert, with a slightly different set list, a more intimate venue and vastly more energy and enthusiasm coming from the crowd and the band, especially Ian Gillan.

Their current set list opener is “Pictures of Home” followed by “Things I Never Said” (originally a Japanese bonus track from their latest, Rapture of the Deep) “Into the Fire” and “Strange Kind of Woman.” All this is before the band takes a short break for Ian Gillan to intro the next new number for the current tour, the title track from Rapture. This was followed by another new song, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” whereas on the previous night this slot was where “Woman from Tokyo” was played. As much as I love and revere Purple’s classics, it is great to hear more of their new Steve Morse-era material in place of the older songs. Ian Paice’s drumming on “Kiss” was some of the most intense I have seen him perform live.

Early on in the set the crowd was treated to the guitar mastery of Steve Morse. Instead of a solo where everyone else leaves the stage, Morse played the haunting blues beauty of “Contact Lost” with the rest of the band on stage with him. This segued directly into his live set center piece, “Well Dressed Guitar.” The energy coming from the entire band (including Gillan who commanded the crowd to clap along while standing behind Morse) was simply amazing.

The set continued with classics “Knocking At Your Back Door,” “Lazy,” and a keyboard solo from Don Airey which led straight into “Perfect Strangers.” “Space Truckin'” was next and then what is fast becoming a tradition at Los Angeles area shows, the band’s producer Michael Bradford joined them on stage. Having seen him lurking around the wings during the show this really came as no surprise but whereas he usually only joins the band for “Smoke on the Water,” this time he played alongside Morse on both this and “Highway Star.” Morse seemed to surprise Bradford by pushing him take the solo on “Smoke.” Bradford caught on quick but the sound board operator seemed surprised too and had to quickly bring him up higher in the mix.

The real shocker of the show was the double encore. The previous night, a large portion of the audience got up and left almost before “SOTW” had ended, thus missing “Hush” and really killing the energy. This performance was vastly different, and you could see it on the band's faces as they retook the stage and Ian Gillan, bathed in a single spot light, announced in a hushed voice: "dearly beloved, we are gathered here tonight, to rock and roll.” The band then stormed into “Speed King” like it was 1972, not 2007. The song lasted nearly 10 minutes and featured an oldies medley of “I've Got a Woman,” “It's Now or Never” and “High School Hop.” All this was followed by solos from both Roger Glover and Ian Paice. Whereas on most So Cal tour stops the band is seemingly limited by early concert curfews (seriously, the cost of security tends to go way up after 11pm at most venues) to only a single encore song. Tonight the addition of the aforementioned “Speed King” medley was followed by 1968’s “Hush” which Ian Gillan has made thoroughly his own.

As for the venue, I have seen shows at the Ventura Theater on several occasions and am very impressed by the atmosphere and especially the acoustics. Even if you hang by the bar at the back of the theater you are still closer to the stage than you can possibly get for the same price at bigger venues. The only sour note of the night was the rather Neanderthal-like security troll who chose to answer my very simple and civilized question regarding the seating arrangements with an answer I shall not print here.

Deep Purple over the past decade and a half have become more energetic and vital in their recordings and live performances. The amount of fun being had by each of the band members is evident on their faces as they play. Even though they are relegated to classic rock radio status here in the U.S. with nary a chance of their material being played on terrestrial radio, they don’t let up in their live shows and on nights like this, a lucky group of hardcore fans were treated to a show that felt more like we were seeing the band at a theater in Europe rather than one a stones throw from the Pacific.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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