Power to the Purple

Once touting itself as the world’s loudest band, legendary 1970s group Deep Purple returns to rock Caesarea again.

Deep Purple (photo credit: Courtesy)
Deep Purple
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Not much has changed since Deep Purple last visited Israel in 2008. And for anyone who attended their stellar shows then, that’s a good thing.
The lineup – consisting of vocalist Ian Gillan, Roger Glover on bass, Ian Paice on drums, Steve Morse on guitar and Don Airey on keyboards – has been stable for a decade now. That was when Airey replaced founding organist Jon Lord – otherwise, the members have been constant since 1994 when guitar virtuoso Morse took over for gifted but problematic longtime axeman Ritchie Blackmore and provided a lifesaving boost to the veteran Purple people Gillan, Glover and Paice.
In 2008 – on their 40th anniversary tour – the band performed four times: three at the Caesarea Amphitheater and once at the cavernous Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv. This time, they’re keeping it to a more modest two performances, both at Caesarea, on May 14 and 15.
One of the second tier of British hard rock bands that skirted on the edges of heavy metal in the late 1960s and 1970s, Deep Purple was never afforded the critical acclaim showered upon Led Zeppelin or the trailblazing status bestowed upon Black Sabbath, but their workmanlike, crowd-pleasing riffs and soloing are the ones still being heard and seen today in sold-out arenas around the world.
Drummer Paice, who’s the only founding member of the band that formed in 1968 (Lord and Gillan joined a year later), explained to The Jerusalem Post before the band’s 2008 shows that their sustained popularity was not a fluke.
“We’re not the most fashionable unit touring out there in the world. We’re not spring chickens, but the shows we’re putting on are among the best we’ve ever done. That filters around to fans, they talk to each other on chats and websites, and I think that our continued success has something to do with that,” he said.
It also has to do with the memories the band’s music provides for fans who first heard it back in their youth in the 1960s and ’70s – like Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. When Deep Purple performed in Moscow in March, lifelong fan Medvedev invited the group to his home, where he greeted them by blasting a Deep Purple album on the sound system.
“When I began to listen to Deep Purple, I could never imagine that one day I would sit at the same table with them,” Medvedev reportedly said, recalling that as a DJ in his school, he had to get the permission of the Young Communist League committee to play their music at school parties.
During the same Eastern European tour, the band also played in Kiev, where one of the attendees was the British ambassador to the Ukraine, Leigh Turner, who wrote his own review in the Kiev Post.
“The set is outstanding, with loads of original 1970s material to keep the likes of me happy (I particularly enjoy “Space Truckin” from my favorite album of 1972, Machine Head) and plenty of evidence to support Deep Purple’s once-proud claim to be the world’s loudest band... it is clear that Deep Purple have lost none of their ability to rock,” wrote Turner.
According to Paice, the key to the band’s resurgence was when vocalist Gillan rejoined the band in the early 1990s after various absences during the previous two decades, when he was replaced by a variety of singers including David Coverdale and Joe Lynn Turner.
“When you go back to what created our megasuccess in the early ’70s and if you keep the greater percentage of people involved in that process, you can also keep the spirit of the music of that time. So when you have three of us from that lineup [Paice, Glover and Gillan], it’s easy to continue getting the music to feel the way it should and play it the way it should be played,” he said.
And with the newer fresh faces of Airey and Morse, who wowed the local crowds in 2008 with his stunning playing and effervescent stage demeanor, the Deep Purple of today can indeed hold up the band’s legacy with pride and power.
Deep Purple performs in Caesarea on May 14 and 15.