Deep Purple to play in Jerusalem for first time ever

The classic rockers from England were in the habit, in pre-COVID times, of appearing here almost annually.

 DEEP PURPLE with Roger Glover, bottom right. (photo credit: BEN WOLF)
DEEP PURPLE with Roger Glover, bottom right.
(photo credit: BEN WOLF)

One sure sign that the coronavirus pandemic may be behind us is the arrival in Israel next week of Deep Purple.

The classic rockers from England were in the habit, in pre-COVID times, of appearing here almost annually. And their well-performed brand of bluesy, hard rock pyrotechnics – honed by the longtime lineup of early-day veterans vocalist Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice, together with latter-day staple Steve Morse on guitar and Don Airey on keyboards – has repeatedly satisfied the fist-pumping local audiences, for whom one more version of “Smoke on the Water” is never enough.

The feeling must be mutual because the band chose to launch its first major tour in over two years on May 22 in Tel Aviv’s Menorah Mivtachim Arena. Ticket sales flew so briskly that a second date was added the next night at the Jerusalem Payis Arena, marking the first time Deep Purple will be performing in Israel’s capital.

Despite their relative newcomer status, Morse, a guitar virtuoso who was enjoying a thriving solo career, has been with the band since 1994, and Airey replaced a retiring Jon Lord (who since died) in 2002.

According to bassist Glover, 76, it marks the longest-standing lineup in the band’s history, an achievement he chalks up to the mellowing out of the golden years.

 Roger Glover, Deep Purple -  playing in Le Zenith Paris (credit: Stephan Birlouez) Roger Glover, Deep Purple - playing in Le Zenith Paris (credit: Stephan Birlouez)

“Maturity may have something to do with longevity, but it all depends on the personalities in the band,” Glover told The Jerusalem Post in a recent phone interview. “Some bands are volatile, and others are calm. For us, Steve Morse brought an era of peace to the band. When he joined, we decided we weren’t going to be led by anyone. We were a band of five members, all of them equal leaders. So there’s no jealousy and no motives for any arguments.”

Glover said that the band members are excited to get back on stage after the last two years of the COVID pandemic, which has seen them mostly grounded, although they did begin a tour in February that was truncated when some band members tested positive.

Glover has some affectionate feelings for Israel, especially the Tel Aviv restaurant where “I ate the best hummus I ever had in my life.”

He’s traveled the country on his various trips here, including a three-day diving holiday with the whole band in Eilat.

Despite the enforced layoff, the band quickly gets up to speed on its classic material, according to Glover, who said that usually the band members need only a day or two of rehearsal to fine-tune their well-worn material.

One hiccup will be the integration of acclaimed Irish guitarist Simon McBride with the band in place of Morse, who is sitting out the six-month tour that begins in Israel to care for his ailing wife.

“Simon’s brilliant,” said Glover, adding that the band shouldn’t miss a beat.

“It’s not like we haven’t been playing; we just haven’t been playing together. So we do have to actually rehearse together a couple times. It’s brushing off the cobwebs, but it always falls into place. It’s a bit like putting a comfortable glove back on.”