by MIKE CHAIKEN
Deep Purple is on its “Long Goodbye” tour, wrapping up a career that has seen many personnel incarnations, spin-offs, and imitators over its five decades-plus career.
And the Purple will be missed by the rock music universe because it unintentionally provided a template that a generation of bands that followed. The group also provided a reminder of the creativity that can be harvested from crushing volume, crunching guitar riffs, pounding drums, and soaring vocals.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see groups like Deep Purple again. With no disrespect to the new generation of rockers, in today’s music industry climate, most groups are lucky to get three albums out before the labels say farewell or the fans migrate onto another trend.
Although, admittedly the quality swung around a bit over the years, Deep Purple still was able to release 20 studio albums, plus countless live sets, over the course of its career.
The Mohegan Sun Arena performance on Oct. 9 demonstrated that Deep Purple has lost none of its firepower over the years. The classics and deep tracks were full of energy. The playing was sharp- from the tight rhythm section of bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice, to the creative flourishes from keyboardist Don Airey, to the expert shredding of guitarist Steve Morse, and to the soaring vocals of Ian Gillan.
One trademark of Deep Purple’s generation of rockers was a desire to stretch out and demonstrate their skills on their chosen instruments.
Solos are almost a forgotten art form in 2019. But Deep Purple showed how entertaining these interludes could be, if the talent and creativity were there.
Morse offered inventive runs in every track performed by Deep Purple and took his mastery on the guitar even deeper with his solo spotlight. And Airey, a late edition to the band following the loss of founder Jon Lord, proved to be a master about the keys. His solo harkened back to the heyday of progressive rock, offering up a mix of rock, jazz, R&B, and classical music.
Let me also take a moment to salute Gillan.
Ian Gillan is a wonder. Even as the band heads into retirement, the group’s best-known singer still has iron lungs. He can hit the high notes just as he did when the group’s “Machine Head” thrust the band into superstardom. He may be using more restraint, the result likely of vocal training as the years marched on, but there is a lot to be said about protecting your bread and butter by “following the instructions.”
Then, of course, there is the joy of hearing the classics from Deep Purple. The group gave the audience the warhorses, such as “Space Trucking,” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Highway Star.” The quintet sounded just as excited to play the tracks as they did decades ago.
The group also pulled out a couple of deeper tracks. And they came from some unexpected places. For instance, they trotted out “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” from “Purpendicular,” the first album to feature Morse, and “Uncommon Man” from “Now What?!” The band also reached way back to “Bloodsucker from 1970’s “In Rock.” Deep Purple also reminded the audience that they still make new music, performing “Time for Bedlam” from 2017’s “Infinite.”
The end of the road may be coming for Deep Purple But rather than feeling like a funeral, the show at the Mohegan Sun Arena felt like a celebration that demonstrated the group has lost none of its spiritual or instrumental fire.
I give Deep Purple at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Oct. 9 4 ½ out of 5 stars.