June 19th at Minneapolis’s Orpheum Theatre, Deep Purple headlined a night on which one could’ve and should’ve, as the quip goes, had a V-8.
Original drummer Ian Paice with early members bass guitarist Roger Glover and storied lead singer Ian Gillan are on tour, enlisting Steve Morse (guitar) and Don Airey (keyboards), backed by conducted string and horn sections, performed a two-hour set. All of which amounted to much ado about mediocrity.
Rock dinosaurs Deep Purple, even in their heyday, weren’t much to write home about, cashing in on the coattails of metal forebears Led Zeppelin. They didn’t have the material. It’s telling that Ian Gillan did some of his best work on the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Today, Deep Purple ineffectually revisit a bygone era. The overblown show had Glover and Morse going through tandem, clichéd motions, expending more energy on occupying the spotlight than on making music. Gillan walked through the set. At his most animated, he literally strolled, perfunctory vocals crapping out on the high notes. Airey, given a world of leeway, mired down song after song with intros and interludes that went nowhere and took their sweet time about not getting there.
Even the band’s greatest hits fell flat. On “Woman From Tokyo,” Gillan did it by the numbers. No passion. No fire from the band. Just him standing there while Paice thrashed, Glover and Morse pretentiously taking over as frontmen. Pre-encore set-closer “Smoke on the Water,” far from worth the waiting, was anticlimactic. The classic recording from Machine Head raised the bar in 1972. It gave hard rock bands everywhere something to live up to. This rendition had none of precision, none of the passion that made the song a classic.
Openers Ernie and the Automatics shot their load early, leading with a sharp, bluesy cut. From there on, it was all wall of deafening sound (Deep Purple played just as loud, but, thank God, nowhere near as shrill), ascending bass lines, screaming guitar leads and shrieking vocals. Since the lineup included guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Sib Hashian from Boston, the band felt licensed to throw in a medley that included the old hits “More Than a Feeling” and “Taking My Time.” Ernie and the Automatics’ set, long story short, was a slapdash bucket of slop.
The evening was singularly uneventful, a waste of ticketbuyers’ money.