Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Shredding. Slapping. Fingering. Oh my.
Three-fifths of the 'classic' Deep Purple team that wrote the famous "Smoke on the Water" descended upon Verizon Theatre Sunday and squeezed every possible solo into the evening. On a purely logistical level, you've got to give props to any band that can jam 30 instrumental solos into a tidy 1-hour, 45-minute set, even if this iteration of the band isn't quite as Deep or as Purple as it was three and four decades ago.
If rent-a-musicians like guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey are commanding all the spotlight time, you might be at an aging Deep Purple show. We get it guys; you're proggy and bluesy and technically proficient despite your advanced years.
At least the band hasn't, even in its sixth decade, resorted to fire-spitting guitars or spinning drum-solo chambers suspended above the stage.
Touring in support of the 2013 release Now What?, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Co. mixed in four clunkers from their most recent album, focusing more on getting to the material the loyal but subdued crowd came to see. "Apres Vous" is an altogether predictable 4/4 mess, while "Vincent Price" feels like a college band's most basic Black Sabbath knock off. Before diving into the very Halloween-y latter cut, Gillam jokingly informed the audience that they had reached the end of the jazz portion of the set and the rest of the show would be "45 minutes of morbid folk music."
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He wasn't lying, if morbid folk music includes a keyboard solo every four minutes. But hey, the crowd at Verizon — which came together to time warp back to 1971, not necessarily demanding Gillam hit all the screeching high notes in "Highway Star" or "Hard Lovin' Man" — ate it up. Most didn't even notice the band left out one of its more important prog offerings, "Child in Time." Before coming back out for a three-song encore, Deep Purple backloaded the set with the heavy hitters "Perfect Strangers," "Space Truckin'" and every guitar student's first riff, "Smoke on the Water."
The classic back-and-forth interplay between Gillan's vocal shrieks and guitar made their presence felt, even if original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore did not. Morse, though he has capably been filling in since 1994, is more of a plodding shred-head than the properly fitting piece of the proggy Purple puzzle that Blackmore was.
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Titling their newest release Now What? was somewhat apropos, as it becomes easier and easier to question whether the band can continue to hold up. But a few thousand North Texans filed out of Verizon Sunday with grins and ponytails after briefly being brought back in time for the evening.
Highlights of the set included the opener "Highway Star," in which it was immediately laid flat on the table that Gillan is now nearly 70, along with "Perfect Strangers" (which, being a hit from the 1984 album of the same name, fell more inside the singer's register) and "Space Truckin'." Everyone loved "Space Truckin'," and the inclusion of 1968's "Hush" in the encore sent everyone home, just in time for bedtime, a little younger than when they first arrived. That's one thing you've really got to respect about shows at Verizon on work nights: They are not screwing around time-wise.
Hard Lovin Man
Strage Kind of Woman
The Well-Dressed Guitar
Hell to Pay
Smoke on the Water
Green Onions jam (encore)
Black Night (encore)