A combination of missing goddamn gigs and a conversation last week with a member of The Datsuns put me in mind of this show at the moral hell-hole that is Sydney’s (for now, only) casino.
Progenitors of hard rock and metal with a not-quite-hidden pop heart, a band with a foot on either side of music’s Lake Geneva, as it were, and – as you might expect after all those years – a mixed history with band members, Deep Purple came with history. And baggage.
As did the audience and reviewer. Indeed, one reviewer not far from this piece of writing gained some baggage the gig after this show when Purple’s Ian Gillan unloaded some “choice” words about the mental capacity, wit and general life worthiness of said writer.
Look, he was probably right.
Star City, Sydney, April 20, 2004
As any parent knows, sometimes ruefully, you are judged on your offspring. Of course, the truth may be completely different but send out ratty, raggedy tykes and people think you’re a bit slack. Send out entertaining and lively kids and you’re considered fun impressive parents.
Take for example Billy Thorpe, who opened the show for Deep Purple. His voice still sounds good and he has a zest for the rock life that is impressive. But it doesn’t take long to be reminded how Thorpe spawned the dull boogie that defined Aussie pub rock for two decades. Yawn.
Rough contemporaries of Deep Purple were Black Sabbath and Sabbath’s offspring is both the sludgy end of grunge and the uncompromising Metallica brand of metal. It’s a legacy that is intense, heavy and respected but frankly not hugely entertaining.
The same can’t be said about Deep Purple. As they showed once again in a 100-minute show that preached to the deeply satisfied faithful, Deep Purple can be held responsible, for better and worse, for the likes of Dep Leppard, Iron Maiden, Guns ‘N Roses and glam metal in general, right up to today’s Darkness. Bands for whom pop (as in tunes) could co-exist with riffage and volume. Bands which, like Purple, attract women too, not just lonely men with bad hair.
Woman From Tokyo for example still swings as much as it pounds thanks to the still supple rhythm section of Roger Glover and Ian Paice; Strange Kind Of Woman has the blues (as in Chicago), not the blues (as in depression); and of course Highway Star really does make you want to hit the road and fly (yes, even in my 12-year-old Suzuki) in no small part because of the guitar work of Steve Morse.
The trade-off naturally is that you have to put up with dodgy moments, and I don’t just mean Ian Gillan’s odd dancing. There was Don Airey’s keyboard solo that travelled from prog to baroque to Waltzing Matilda but began to sound so much like an organ shop demonstration that I half expected Chris Marshall to jump out.
And then there was a new song Gillan (whose voice still rattles cages) introduced with “this is in 7/4 and 5/4” but whose typically appalling lyrics suggested it really was in ’74.
But hey, it was ear bleedingly loud, the band couldn’t wipe the smiles from their faces all night, dozens of people entertained with spontaneous head banging and Space Trucking Song and Black Night are as much dumb fun as you could ask for.
As Jack Black would say, we raise the goblet of rock.