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William Clark/ Music Enthusiast Magazine

On their anticipated return to North America in support of their most recent offering, 2013’s ‘Now What?!,’ the news that Deep Purple was (finally!) heading to the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida, resulted in a full house of veteran hard rock fans arriving to pay witness to one of the most influential rock groups from the late 60s.

While the band’s latest studio album didn’t quite receive all of the recognition it deserved in the States upon it’s initial release, the fan reception was largely positive as the members of Deep Purple ran through such choice selections as “Vincent Price” and “Uncommon Man” early in their set, but not without first rushing onto the stage to the energizing bass lines and accompanying synthesizer fills which introduce the fan favorite track, “Highway Star.”

Particular emphasis throughout the night was centered towards both new material and deep tracks directed towards the audience’s die hard fan base, some of whom were found boasting state license plates hung from their neck with a lanyard or vintage memorabilia from previous European treks.

Songs such as the 1970 ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ live staples “Into the Fire” and “Hard Lovin’ Man” quickly followed the opening number, whereas a type of nostalgic quality was introduced on “Strange Kind of Woman” when Ian Gillan and Steve Morse engaged in a guitar-vocal duel not unlike that which the Deep Purple frontman once shared with estranged guitarist Richie Blackmore.

Each member of the roster had their own isolated opportunities to gallivant their well preserved musical talents during the performance, however it was soon time for Morse to stand proud at the helm for a strong rendition of the instrumental which concluded Deep Purple’s 2003 effort, ‘Bananas.’ The articulate guitar work to “Contact Lost” was met with significant acclaim from the audience, before Don Airey delved into an impressionable synthesizer solo which notably incorporated his immediately recognizable introduction to Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Mr. Crowley.”

Following a solid run through of the previously mentioned “Uncommon Man,” Ian Gillan took to the sidelines as the instrumental side of Deep Purple came to the surface; “The Well-Dressed Guitar” allowed for a conclave of defining Steve Morse climbing arpeggios to take command, before the ‘Fireball’ anthem “The Mule” had Gillan handling both lead vocal duties and tambourine playing throughout the entire song, aside from a traditionally mesmerizing drum solo from Ian Paice which implemented glowing drum sticks which frantically alternated colors upon each smack on the skins.

The overdriven organ work to “Lazy” quickly bolstered the attention of the crowd, before another selection from Deep Purple’s ‘Now What?!’ came into rotation. The refrain to “Hell to Pay” was largely handled by Steve Morse and durable bass player Roger Glover, as large LED screens allowed those unfamiliar to chant along with the battle cries for revolution. In what was easily the most superlative rendition that this listener has come across, the brooding overtones to “Perfect Strangers” was further accented by ringing natural harmonics and frigid vocal ad-libs, while superior lighting arrangements complimented the dark bridge section.

This was the first of a trilogy of songs synonymous with the Deep Purple moniker; “Space Truckin'” continued to show the members of Deep Purple in fine form throughout the high octane cut, and was the only time where Ian Gillan demonstrated restraint from his persistent glass shattering operatics which heavily decorated the band’s set. Perhaps most surprising was the addition of the generation-spanning “Smoke on the Water” before the band’s encore, considering that it’s almost become tradition for any artist to leave with their most readily known song.

Deep Purple aren’t ones to follow any habitual rock and roll normalities, however, and knew how to keep this Floridan audience clamoring for these musicians to return on stage. The band obliged, and returned to the upbeat synthesizer roars to Billy Joe Royal’s “Hush,” which Deep Purple adopted into their own signature approach with apparent ease. It took a little prodding, however this crowd of largely seasoned rock fans were soon yelling along after every four notes to a climbing Roger Glover bass solo, before ultimately concluding with another live staple, “Black Night.”

Deep Purple reassured their ability to deliver a performance worthy of their reputation and longevity, and this audience was right along side them every step away, which hopefully served as a proud representation that North American fans don’t necessarily only care about the ‘Greatest Hits.’

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