As you can see, I am still running guest posts. It’s true! All you have to do is ask nicely. And have a post.
Walking along Dudley Street next to the great black structure that is Festival Hall in Melbourne’s west, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end as the anticipation kicks in.
Tonight, the great venue was playing host to the one time “Loudest Band in the World” according to the Guinness Book of Records, British heavy metal/hard rock act Deep Purple.
Moments before Deep Purple took the stage, those sitting in the first three rows were informed they would be allowed to move to the front barrier at the insistence of the band. This proved a hit and soon the entire floor was on it’s feet awaiting the start. The house lights went down and a trip back to 1970’s hard rock>British Invasion had commenced.
As the opening of Highway Star filled the Hall, fans young and old came to life with a deafening noise that competed with now 16 year Purple veteran Steve Morse’s guitar, founding member Ian Paice drums, relative new comer Don Airey’s keyboards and the rumbling of Roger Glovers bass. However, that noise would pale in comparison to the noise that engulfed the stage as Purple front man Ian Gillan appeared from behind Ian Paice’s drum kit to take his place in front of the adoring fans.
With guitarist Morse and bassist Glover playing off one another with classic rock movements all night and the interaction of Gillian with all members, Deep Purple roared through their classics without showing the hint of being the road touring warriors they are.
Gillan, Morse and Glover continuously interacted with the audience with great body language with a showing that would have made all present feel they were part of what was happening on stage. Deep Purple was putting on a show that they wanted to be at, and the fans couldn’t get enough of.
At one stage, the band went off, leaving only keyboardist/organ player Don Airey on stage who wowed the crowd with some classical playing, occasionally throwing in a quick riff of a well known song from his days as a member of White Snake, or his days playing with Gary Moore and Ozzy Osborne. When the band re-appeared, they cut into The Battle Rages on, one of the last songs recorded with beloved (by the fans at least) Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore.
At the conclusion of The Battle Rages on Gillan advised the crowd it was time for some “space traveling” and once again the audience roared with delight as the last track of the famous Machine Head album, Space Truckin’ was performed.
Guitarist Steve Morse then entertained the crowd with a bit of aimless riffing. His fingers running all around the fret board, Morse was looked like he was doing little more than filling in some time between songs… that was until he hit those three notes. Those three notes that every kid who has ever picked up a guitar has played. Those three notes that start a song that tells the story of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert and effectively, the recording of Machine Head, arguably the most famous Deep Purple album. As Morse broke into Smoke on the Water, with the rhythmic thudding bass of Glover, the crowd went absolutely ballistic. Arms were raised with the rock salute, heads and graying hair bounced up and down… Deep Purple had the crowd hypnotised.
The band had stirred the masses and the adrenaline in Festival Hall was almost tangible. Deep Purple, however, were now done, at least briefly. Glover and Morse flicked their picks in the audience, Paice threw his drumsticks to a couple of very lucky fans (and one at least that still hasn’t come down from now having said drumstick in their possession) and they left the stage.
The crowd wanted more, and that’s what they got with a two song (and bass solo) encore. Deep Purple returned to the stage with their live act staple, a cover of the Billy Joe Royal classic Hush before ending the night with the unmistakable hard rock anthem and now sing-along Black Night. With a final Glover/Morse interlude and the long drawn out final notes that often go with a live song, the concert was over, and the legion of Deep Purple fans left the past and returned to the present, with a fresh memory, a glimpse into the past and rock show never to be forgotten.