Deep Purple

SECC, Glasgow

26 November 2011

Deep Purple plus 38-piece orchestra plays "the songs that built rock".

Before I begin my review, so you know where I'm coing from, I have to say that I LOVE orchestras. I've seen eight different symphony orchestras this year alone. And possibly my favourite gig of all time was Deep Purple with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in 1999, playing Jon Lord's Concerto for Group and Orchestra.

Ok. So: I think having a rock group "backed" by an orchestra is a terrible idea. A piece specifically written for an orchestra (such as Lord's Concerto) — that's brilliant. But an orchestra sawing away to add a bit of extra sound to a standard arrangement of a rock song — no. What's the point of that? It adds nothing to the song.

And I'll go one further: last night, the orchestra detracted from the songs. When you've got to stick to a standard arrangement because that's what the orchestra has written in their scores... it goes against everything that is Deep Purple. It removes the reason I go to a Deep Purple gig.

So, the best parts of the gig were the songs where the orchestra rested and the band broke into some semblance of a spontaneous jam: Lazy (superb jazz organ jam at the start), Hush (more fantastic organ work), Roger's bass solo, Steve's (too short) guitar solo. The Well Dressed Guitar was a highlight of the show, but then that was actually written for group and orchestra... proves my earlier point!

One thing I will praise the orchestra for is their energy and enthusiasm. And it was great to see them all headbanging and dancing in their seats when they weren't playing, obviously loving the music. And another highlight of the show was the conductor coming on stage with a violin during Lazy, to duet with Steve.

The venue was the big hall in the SECC. Of all the big sheds I've been to it's the best of the bunch, but that's still not saying a lot. The sound was pretty good as far as big sheds go, and the stage was high enough to see most of it even with some massive tall people in front of me. The light show was beautiful. But the organisation in the SECC was diabolical. We got there before the stated show time but they were so slow letting people in and showing us to seats that the support band (Cheap Trick, not particular favourites of mine but a very entertaining live band) were into their second song before we were seated. I noticed the security was very agressive about making people sit during Cheap Trick, and maybe that crushed the atmosphere a bit because most of the audience was subdued throughout Deep Purple's set. It took Smoke on the Water to finally get everyone on their feet. (The day I don't stand up for Smoke is the day they will be carrying me out in a pine box. I mean, it's like the national anthem.)

Deep Purple themselves were in top form, despite the constraints of the orchestration. They played for close to two hours, which is a longer playing time than we've had in the "package tours" they've been stuck in for the last few years.Ian Paice is still the drummer I most want to listen to, he still swings in the way that rock drummers don't, Steve and Don both put in 110% effort, and Roger was as solidly reliable as ever. Ian Gillan's voice wasn't strong and several times he backed off from notes, but when he sings (not screams) he sounds great — I wish he would stick to that and not try to scream like he's still 20, because I still love his singing voice.

Ok, a lot of negative things in the review, but the bottom line is that I still love these songs, I still love the sound this band makes, and they still do what they do better than anybody else. Yes, this was a great gig and I came out happy.

But I can't in all honesty tell you that it was the best concert I have ever seen.

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