The reaction to the announcement that Deep Purple would play Mile One Centre in St. John’s was, frankly, astonishing. “Deep Purple,” one concerned citizen yelped. “Who wants to see them?”
Apparently, a stadium full of Newfoundanders. Well, half-full.
The empty seats were still filling Thursday as Halifax’s Gloryhound prepared the audience for one of rock’s most iconic groups, and the gathered masses sounded ready for a show, roaring their appreciation to the hard metal rafters above.
“What did they do other than ‘Smoke on the Water’?”
What? Clearly these are not music fans. How could they not have heard of “Lazy,” or “Hush.” How could mention of the band’s name not call up the tumbling opening riff of “Strange Kind of Woman?” The slow burn of “Child in Time?” The pedal-to-the-metal rush of “Highway Star?” I blame worldwide classic rock radio. Or maybe “Guitar Hero.”
“It’s just not the same without Jon Lord or Ritchie Blackmore.”
OK, I’ll give you that one.
Those two guys started the group and had a hand in the greatest of the band’s hits. But this is Deep Purple, and lineup changes were as much a part of its early days as touring and recording.
And there’s still Ian Gillan, second front man and arguably the best screamer rock and roll ever produced.
So there was one question left for the real fans: will Deep Purple in 2012 measure up to our cherished memories of Deep Purple in 1973?
In a word: yeah.
Actually, I’ll take two words: hell yeah.
OK, so Gillan, 66, kind of lost the high notes in the upper-register keyboard-guitar cacophony of the better known howlers, and Don Airey may not have had the precision of the Young Lord, but these guys still know how to rock an arena.
From the opening “Highway Star” right through to the “Hush” encore, the place rumbled with energy.
And volume. Serious volume. Here’s a band that remembers the value of decibels. The crowd was left with banging heads and ringing ears. That’s rock and roll, baby.