Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
There’s always been a special link between Deep Purple and Montreux that goes way beyond the creation of arguably their best-known track.
The rock legends and the Swiss resort town may be always linked in the public perception by the fire over Lake Geneva four decades ago but it seemingly has become a second home to the band and when they closed the Montreux Festival on the 30th anniversary of their historic stay there it couldn’t have been a more fitting date to record for posterity.
Joined by the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt with conductor Stephen Bentley-Klein, this was a celebration of no uncertain terms, both band and orchestra bringing a power and fresh dynamic to the set. Whilst Purple have famously worked with this sort of set-up previously, there’s something special here that resonates with the material like never quite before.
Whilst the quintet are more than capable of making a huge sound by themselves, the orchestra fill out the sound with touches that bring an added fire and drama to the numbers. This isn’t an attack of bombast though, as some such projects seem to be, but a much more subtle approach that sees the additional musicians brought in to compliment the central band, rather than overwhelm them.
There’s also a huge amount of pleasure to be gained in seeing the obvious joy that all involved had, the accompanying DVD / Blu Ray of the show seeing the normally austere and reserved orchestra rocking out with big smiles on their faces.
Following a brief, sweeping introduction, the full blooded ‘Speed King’ opens the show with a roar, Ian Paice’s pneumatic drumming and the fretwork of Steve Morse particularly thrilling as both pour a huge amount of energy into their performances and strip away the years since the track was originally birthed.
The swirling organ playing of Don Airey, accompanied by stabs of brass, add extra weight to an electrifying ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’, the song ending in tumult as it segues straight into ‘Maybe I’m A Leo’.
Throughout, there’s a great range of classic and newer tracks, the release a stroll through their back catalogue that shows a band still firing on all cylinders and as passionate about the music they produce as they ever were.
1971’s ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’, with a particularly lyrical solo by Morse sits perfectly alongside the titular ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ from 2005, both sparkling with added colour from the strings, the latter basking in a particularly gorgeous Middle Eastern vibe to the riff that is juxtaposed with a screaming guitar solo. There’s a Beatlesque slow section that adds to the lushness of the arrangement of ‘Woman From Tokyo’ and the lone Morse with orchestra ‘Contact Lost’ is tasteful and soaring, worthy of the price of admission on its own.
Whilst wisely not pushing himself as far as he did in the 70’s, Ian Gillan still possesses a voice that is a thing of absolute wonder and tracks like the soulful ‘When A Blind Man Cries’ illustrate this perfectly, the singer on incredible form.
Throughout the playing and performing by the whole of Purple is a prime example of the perfect balance between grace and fire, a group so perfectly honed through years in the business and on the road that there’s no need to grandstand, everyone getting their own chance to shine.
Whilst not given specific spotlights, watching the show you’re reminded once more that the Paice and Glover pairing is one of THE best rhythm sections in rock, bringing the locomotive heart of Deep Purple’s propulsive rock steaming along yet full of deft touches that lift them way beyond the fairly workman-like output of most bands who tend to aim for the meat and potatoes artillery blitz approach. Paice in particular can hit incredibly hard but there’s also the jazz man’s swing to what he plays, as Glover provides the bottom end that adds both heft and colour.
A truly epic take on ‘Lazy’ features a kinetic and wild violin solo by orchestra leader Stephen ‘BK’ Bentley-Klein and the extended psychedelic marvel that is ‘No One Came’ lead into a fun Don Airey solo before the band truly step up another gear and enter the home stretch.
Featuring a snatch of ‘Gethsemane’ from the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ by Gillan, there’s probably not another song in the set more suited to the orchestral accompaniment than ‘Perfect Strangers’, the stings in particularly swelling and filling out the space in a similar way to the way ‘Kashmir’ did for Led Zep.
As with that behemoth, there is such a power dynamic going on here that sets it apart from most of the ‘classic rock’ selections that are usually trotted out and certainly was such a key release from the long awaited reunion of the Mark II line-up at the end of 1984.
Rolling on from that high, a triumphant ‘Space Truckin’’ leads into a teased introduction of THAT riff as the head, full barrel into ‘Smoke On The Water’, the added punch and drama of the orchestration bringing added weight to this most instantly recognised and well known opus in the rock world to finish the set.
When the song turns into a singalong, led by Gillan, you can’t but help to be wreathed in the same smiles that plaster the faces of the orchestra, the utter joy and thrill of the music and occasion transcending any perceived barriers that may divide the classical and rock world.
The inevitable encore comes in the shape of a run through of the Booker T and the MGs classic ‘Green Onion’ that segues into debut single ‘Hush’, the Joe South song still as appealing as it was when first released way back in 1968. An, ironically incendiary considering the location, ‘Black Night’ rounds off the evening, the band cheered on by ‘Funky’ Claude Nobs whose appearance brings a wonderful sense of symmetry to the occasion.
Still one of the greatest and most important bands in rock music history, ‘Live In Montreux 2011’ shows Deep Purple certainly aren’t prepared to rest on their stratospheric laurels for quite some time to come and the same is true now, a decade later.
Deep Purple – Strange Kind Of Woman (from “Live at Montreux 2011” ) Available Now: https://mercury-studios.lnk.to/DeepPu…