Review: Deep Purple, The Roundhouse, London 17/10/13
Words: Malcolm Dome Pictures: Kevin Nixon
London, The Roundhouse
Thursday 17 October 2013
It starts with the swelling grandeur of classic intro Mars, The Bringer Of War, and ends with the sweltering majesty of Black Night. This is Deep Purple in 2013, showing that they transcend age, era and trend. They balance five songs from excellent new album Now What?! with one or two other moments from more recent releases and the welter of classics such as Space Truckin’ and Lazy. And the 100-minute set proves just how comfortable the five men onstage are in performing with one another.
There’s still a simplicity and power about what the band do, augmented by their delight in the virtuosity exposed at every opportunity. Every musician gets the chance to shine in solo spots. Don Airey’s keyboard flourishes of classical inspiration and jokiness provide a fine lead into Perfect Strangers. Steve Morse’s guitar mastery shines through on Contact Lost and The Well-Dressed Guitar. And Roger Glover has his moment in the spotlight, when his bass creativity merges Hush into Black Night.
But it’s Ian Paice behind his traditionally small drum kit, who outdoes everyone when he displays his chops during The Mule, the highlight being his use of sticks which light up on the darkened stage, changing colour in unison with the deceptively straightforward beat. Surely he is the most underrated drummer around.
Leading the charge is Ian Gillan, who marches almost sedately through every song. Over the past several years, his voice has often sounded strained due to fatigue brought on by Purple’s perpetual touring regime. But here the vocals are colourful and rich. And his quirky sense of humour is still intact. At the end of Hard Lovin’ Man, the huge sound of a gong reverberates, with Gillan standing at the front hilariously tapping a miniature gong that belongs more on The Sooty Show! And he revels in pointing out that both Paice and Airey live close to rivers. “I just thought you’d like to know that!” he quips merrily.
The new songs sound are so embedded they sound as if the band have been playing them for years. Above And Beyond, dedicated to “Our beloved Jon Lord”, is especially memorable, enhanced by outstanding work from Airey and Morse. This pair have a growing rapport that’s underlined when they complement each other in a fascinating exchange of musical ideas, during an extended Hush. And Vincent Price has an ominous, almost doomy feel to it.
Inevitably the main set ends with Smoke On The Water. This may have become one of the most clichéd songs in rock. But by playing it straight, Purple bring out its enduring genius.
A somewhat surprising cover of Green Onions starts the encore, before Hush and Black Night finish everything off, replete with Gillan dressed in a white, sparkling jacket that looks like it’s been nicked from Graham Norton’s panto wardrobe.
You can’t compare this performance to, say, the Made In Japan era, but Deep Purple are better now than at any other time in the 21st Century. That’ll do.