From The Setting Sun … (in Wacken) (2CD+DVD) To The Rising Sun … (in Tokyo) (2CD+DVD)
EarMusic Released 28 August 2016
Deep Purple release these 2 new live albums which I have to say I’ve been looking forward to, as the current line-up of guitarist Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs) and pianist Don Airey (Rainbow et al) alongside classic mainstays Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover has produced some fantastic music of late.
The kind of music that, if you stop and listen to, is a poke in the eye to those constantly harking for the past. The band are best known for their Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice Mk II line-up and a string of classic hits including Smoke On The Water, Child In Time, Black Night and Perfect Strangers.
Formed in the late 60s from the ashes of Roundabout, by pianist Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, with Maze/MI5 drummer Paice replacing Roundabout’s Chris Curtis, the band were augmented by Nick Simper and Rod Evans. After three albums (and a cover of Joe South’s Hush, a hit in the USA), Simper and Evans were replaced by vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, both formerly of Episode Six, on the recommendation of drummer Mick Underwood, a former session musician and colleague of Blackmore’s.
The albums In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head and Who Do We Think We Are were all major successes, augmented by Made In Japan, probably the best hard rock live album ever.
With bassist Glenn Hughes and vocalist David Coverdale the progressive hard rock took more bluesy and soulful turns with Stormbringer and Burn, and Come Taste The Band (with guitarist Tommy Bolin, Blackmore having left to form Rainbow) was a strong album in its own right but just not Deep Purple, and proved to be a swansong.
After years of side and solo projects, the classic line-up reformed for 1984’s Perfect Strangers and the wonderful 1985 Knebworth performance. After one album with Joe Lynn Turner, Gillan returned again and Blackmore left (this time permanently), and after Jon Lord’s retirement (and subsequent death), the current line-up has been stable for many years.
Deep Purple live albums have sometimes been a bit hit and miss, the aforementioned Made In Japan is a standout by any and all standards (it is essential listening), there has been the odd turkey along the way.
So to these albums.
The Wacken show, probably Europe’s premier rock/metal festival, recorded in 2013, opens with a few bars of Mars before the driving opener of Highway Star opens in driving and blistering fashion.There’s feeling and power here, and Airey’s keyboard break is spot on. Any range lost in Gillan’s voice is more than made up for in a complete blast. The guitar break Morse has made his own and I do have to say (and 2 fingers up at any doubter) that it’s a wonderful start. Into The Fire and Hard Loving Man follow suit nicely, and Vincent Price (from the more recent Now What epic opus) is a classic if eerie number that goes down well. Strange Kind Of Woman is another familiar classic. Contact Lost is a short showcase for guitarist Morse, from 2003’s Bananas.
Well Dressed Man (from Rapture Of The Deep) has a strong classical influence and Hell To Pay are both great, the latter a solid hard rock track.
Disc 1 closed with an 8 minute Lazy, including Airey’s own take on the lengthy intro. There’s lots to enjoy in this track, it’s a bit of a party that really should be extended even further (Deep Purple if you’re going to do this please make it 15 minutes).
Disc 2 opens with Above And Beyond (another modern classic), a moody classical feel, and No One Came (an oft overlooked Fireball number).
Don Airey’s keyboard solo leads into Perfect Strangers – a wonderful track from a great album – really wish Deep Purple would play more from this period. Space Trucking is a fantastic track but is played in more the original album form (aka far too short) but is the first number that the band feel a little off the pace, and Gillan’s trademark timing (It was that and the screams that made him so perfect, so unique) is a little off. The guitar work is a far cry from Blackmore’s but again Morse has made these tracks (largely quite successfully) his own.
Smoke On The Water gets a cheers, and features a guest slot from Uli Jon Roth. The inclusion of Hush may be odd to some, but I love the song. I also love Green Onions (the Booker T & The MGs track) that it’s blended with. A strange choice indeed, but a welcome break from the norm. Black Night closes the set – a fiery touch of class.
The Tokyo show (recorded early in 2014 at the Budokan, from where one of the Made In Japan nights was taken), another solid performance, Apres Vous and Into The Fire opening with aplomb and a good scream or two too. The performance is as good, and a couple of changes in the setlist are good.
Vincent Price, Contact Lost, Uncommon Man and Well Dressed Man follow, and the willingness to play this amount of recent material puts certain more predictable bands to shame.
The Mule is good and features a drum solo, albeit much shortened from MIJ, and Above And Beyond rounds off disc 1. Disc 2 kicks off with Lazy and Hell to Pay, and Don’s intro to Perfect Strangers a pleaser and pleasure as always. The 6 minute Space Truckin’ is stronger than the previous show too.
Smoke gets a good response, Morse’s guitar a bit crunchier. The Green Onions / Hush medley runs to 10 minutes, and again Black Night closes the show with aplomb.
One issue is going to be track length – there is a lot less variation of performance or arrangement, no longer work outs. I know they have a lot more to get through but at least play with the tracks a bit more, go 10-15 minutes on at least a couple of numbers. Second – performance; the newer tracks are tight and polished, and the older ones sound a bit flat, a bit overdone. But then, if the band are tired of playing (or hearing) Smoke On The Water I’m not surprised.
Final issue – set list. Will always cause contention but I do love the number of newer tracks (the old ones have been done to absolute buggery, there’s enough solid Morse era, or at least post Perfect Strangers, for a purely post 1984 set or two). The set is far more Saxon than some of the more predictable bands (think Motorhead or Lynyrd Skynyrd), a good mix of new and old, and is all the better for it. And I am pleased they’ve dropped Fireball, as the last time I saw it Gillan’s timing of phrasing was way off and that’s what made the song.
Whether due to Wacken being an open air festival and a hot day, or it just being an off day for the band, both recording (esp crowd noise) and performance sounds a little flatter than the Japan performance (stronger on both counts).
In the main I’ve got to say a wonderful representation of the current band; any criticism is because I know the band and their catalog so well. There are CD/DVD editions as well as 3LP DVD / Blu Ray; the video for these was not available for review at the time.
Wacken 8/10 / Tokyo 9/10