Kansas Star Casino
August 8, 2015
By Jeb Wright
Highway Star | Après Vous | Hard Lovin' Man |Strange Kind of Woman |Vincent Price | Contact Lost |Uncommon Man | The Well-Dressed Guitar | The Mule |Lazy |Hell to Pay |Keyboard Solo |Perfect Strangers |Space Truckin' |Smoke on the Water
Hush | Black Night
The mighty Deep Purple rolled into the Land of Oz on a Saturday night to deliver their special blend of classic rock and roll. They rolled up their collective sleeves, took a deep breath and took the stage to three-quarters (at best) of a full house but played like they were at Carnegie Hall with ‘standing room only’.
The band is made up of ‘true pros’, having weathered every storm possible over the last forty-plus years of their existence. They have seen fads come and go, been the new kids on the block, over the hill, retro, hip once again, dinosaurs, forgotten about and icons during their massive career. They have also been -no matter who has been in the band, and there have been many- consummate musicians; this night was no exception.
The band is split into two factions—the old dudes and the older dudes! The rhythm section of Deep Purple consists of founding member and drummer extraordinaire Ian Paice and bassist / producer Roger Glover. On this night they entered stage right and, without ever meeting eyeballs, kept the groove in the pocket all night long! The pair had an air of confidence and through their musical prowess made all those in attendance admire and respect them.
The “new” guys consisted of 20 year plus Deep Purple veteran Steve Morse on guitar and keyboard wizard Don Airey, who has only stuck around since around 2001, making him the ‘new guy’ in the band. These two have the difficult task with the band, for no matter how long their tenure, they know that they will be judged by Blackmore/Lord standards for every note during their performance each night. They will be watched closely by the Purple faithful as they are in the spots that were once occupied by the legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and the departed iconic keyboard maestro Jon Lord. These two men were very much responsible for much of the musical personality of Deep Purple, even though the material and sound was always a band effort. Despite the pressure, Morse and Airey not only do the former band members justice, their own personal trademark tones make the music their own.
Let’s be honest: there are two guys on the planet that could step into the boots of Blackmore and Lord this successfully, and those dudes are named Morse and Airey. The right guys have the job, and on this night -and every night when they take the stage- these two at certain times during the performance and at key moments in the classic songs in some ways just steal the show… which seems perfectly fine to the rest of the band. By the expressions on the other band member’s faces not only do they expect virtuoso excellence from these players but they also enjoy watching and hearing how they perform each night. Airey and Morse may be under the shadow of some of the iconic songs, but as accomplished musicians in their own right, they live under no one’s shadow.
The last member to be mentioned in this review is vocalist Ian Gillan, who, on this night, was spot-on vocally, so much so that the men’s room after the concert was abuzz with comments on how damn good the vocals were. I went there to check; after all, that is THE place to be for accurate testimony!
Gillan is one of the best in the history of hard rock, and hearing him handle “Highway Star,” “Strange Kind of Woman,” “Lazy,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Black Night” and “Smoke On the Water” was like being dipped in healing waters! Between songs he rambled on about this and that and was even cut-off by the start of the songs a few times, to which he simply smiled and retreated from the stage to enjoy a beverage or two during all of the jamming.
It was nice to hear the band mix the new with the old. As great as it was to hear “Hush” it was equally satisfying to see the band full of energy performing newer material including the rocking “Hell to Pay” and “Vincent Price.” The band has struggled with studio greatness with this lineup, but the last album Now What?! rocks hard and contains a lot of the classic Deep Purple elements the fans have been clamoring for, making one both happy to hear the tunes and hopeful that the next release will be even better!
In short, this was an excellent night of rock and roll. Glover and Paice kept it tight while Gillan impressed vocally, and Airey and Morse made jaws drop. The only thing better would have been “Knocking at Your Back Door” and “Demon’s Eye” making it to the set list!