For those not wanting to wait (and those not wanting to pay 70+ Euros for a Kunstrasen ticket next July) this was the perfect Deep Purple presentation. Some compromise is inevitable of course, but how much and where? As Purpendicular With Purple original Ian Paice on drums step onto the Harmonie stage we are about to find out…
I half expected Ian Paice to be surrounded by a bunch of keen youngsters eager to keep the old classics alive. It was a pleasant surprise then to discover a band with some considerable pedigree – not least the man on keyboards, a former keys man for no lesser than Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow
The years might have deflated his flamboyance a little, keyboarder Paul Morris still waves a hand out at the audience from time to time and delivers the sort of Hammond sound that seems to be becoming a forgotten art. One of the pleasures of experiencing such a band up close is to see much better who is doing what. That chunky riff of hard Rock heaven kickstarting ‘Smoke on the Water’ gets its power, not from guitarist Frank Pané (he’s stroking the strings lightly with his fingers at this time) but from the keyboard. How many bands have I seen with the guitarist hammering this out? The small stage is proving a great teacher.
I can appreciate Ian Paice’s drum style better too. Not blown about in an open-air breeze, it’s solid but rarely flamboyant. Even his solo on Hush fits that description. certainly no flying drumsticks or bare-hands-on effects. The Man has, after all, fit his sound around the musical pyrotechnics of Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord for many a year. Of course, Paice is a legend and could get applause for blowing his nose. He knows it and possibly hates it. There is an air of someone who really wants to enjoy a sweaty pub gig, followed by a pint at the bar. It’s not as simple as that of course when you are a legend. When the show finishes it’s official set they stay on stage and Paice smiles as he points out “Normally at this point we (Deep Purple) would be leaving the stage and you would have to applaud for ten minutes to bring us back. Here we’ll just have a drink on stage and carry on…!” I didn’t see them come out later, perhaps they did. I would like to think so. If there’s a reason that Paice plays these gigs and still plays with Ian Gillan and co I would like to think it was for the intimacy of the shows.
But I’ve jumped to the end already, and there was so much worth mentioning from that moment of arrival onstage at 8 pm sharp to the dramatic music of Enrico Morricone’s ‘Il Buono, il cattivo’. Heaps of Deep Purple classics of course. Obvious favourites from ‘Machine Head’ such as ‘Highway Star’, ‘Space Truckin’, ‘When a Blind Man Cries’ and of course ‘Smoke on the Water’. Classics like ‘Fireball’ and Black Night’ couldn’t fail either of course and What would any Purple concert be without the pumping riff of ‘Perfect Strangers’?
To my shame, I never caught the original band in their 70’s glory. They were the heroes at my School though and whenever there was a break you could hear Ian Gillan’s strangled cries on ‘Child In Time’ wailing from a cassette recorder (remember them?) in some dark corner of the common room. We even had a local band that tried to play like them. ‘Loner’ they were called and they weren’t bad, but of course, this evening’s fare was several leagues above them. The pedigree of keyboarder Paul Morris has already been ascertained. Guitarist Frank Pane doesn’t try to be Richie which is a wise move. He can play though as gigs with Bonfire and Joe Lyn Turner testify. Bassist Malte Frederic Burkert has laid down the back rhythm for Graham Bonnet too. No shortage of talent then.
Vocalist Robby Thomas Walsh can hit the high notes that elude Ian Gillan nowadays, although he rations those high notes out which is pretty sensible and leaves out ‘Child in Time’ very wisely, since singing that would blow anyone’s vocal chords halfway through a tour. I have to be honest, and it’s a slight criticism, that I couldn’t make out quite what he was singing most of the time, but who cares? The music was as close to hitting a Deep Purple nail on a Deep Purple head as you are ever likely to get and the extra power gained from the smaller venue was marvellous.
Some nice little musical surprises are hidden around in the set too. There was a moment when Pané seemed to be easing his way into ‘Parisienne Walkways’, a snippet of Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ at the end of ‘Hush’ and ‘Mistreated’ segued into BB’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’ and Grieg’s ‘Hall of the Mountain King’. “Do you love the Blues?” asked singer Walsh and immediately answered his own stupid question with a smile “Of course you f**kin’ do!”. The reward was a gloriously rocking ‘Sweet Home Chicago’. Could the smile that was perpetually on the face of Ian Paice get any bigger than it did when they launched into this one?
The band were smoking from the first number of the evening ‘Highway Star’ to the last frantic encore of the night ‘Stormbringer’. You’d probably have to go back to 1969 to see Deep Purple on a stage this size. So, compromises? Well, Irishman Robby Thomas Walsh has the hair and vocally he’s good, but he’s not in the Gillan/Coverdale class. I rather would have liked to see Bonn’s Patrick Suhl onstage for this gig – He has the hair too and he also has the voice for it. The band are all top class, but the quality of Paul Morris on keyboard was the evening’s surprise high-point to my ears. It’s odd, even unfair perhaps, to call a band that contains Purple’s drummer in its ranks a mere ‘cover band’ but essentially, aside from a couple of self-penned numbers, that’s what they are in musical content at least. You won’t though, as Paice points out, find a better band playing Deep Purple. Walsh created Purpendicular in 2007 so they really have a wealth of experience and are on occasion joined by the likes of Roger Glover. The Glover autograph on the back of a fan in front of me had a few heads up and hoping that he got it just before the show. No Roger Glover though onstage or off – but more than enough Purple magic to make a blind man cry with happiness.