Deep Purple – Montreux Jazz Festival 2011
Review by Ian Parry
To any Deep Purple fan, other than having them turn up at your local pub, the Montreux Jazz Festival with all the “Smoke” history is probably the ultimate gig.
After a five year absence they are back to headline the closing night of the 45th annual festival and this time round they’ve brought an orchestra too.
It’s the orchestra who open the show with a short piece before the band appear to join the intro to Highway Star building up to a crescendo until Gillan takes the stage to even more applause before launching into the song. Hard Lovin’ Man and Maybe I’m a Leo swiftly follow until band and orchestra take a breath for the first time.
Many rock bands have played shows with orchestras in the past, Kiss, Metallica and Scorpions immediately spring to mind, but surely none more successfully than this. The arrangement of Purple’s songs translate to the full orchestration with ease, possibly a lasting influence of Jon Lord’s classical leanings on the composition. But this is no orchestra overkill where ventures like this have fallen in the past. When not needed in some songs they’ll sit back.
Strange Kind of Woman sees the band take full flow, whereas strings and horns take full effect for the likes of Rapture of the Deep and Perfect Strangers. Even the solos take on a new dimension.
Whilst no Deep Purple show would be complete without the guitar and keyboard slots, as Steve Morse moves into instrumentals Contact Lost and Well Dressed Guitar the Orchestra kicks in too. Lazy even manages to include a violin solo from conductor Steven Bentley in a “duel” with Morse’s guitar.
With a combined age of well over 300 – and that’s just Purple, not the orchestra – these guys are still setting the pace and the classics keep on coming, Woman From Tokyo, No One Came, but with the orchestra in full flow, When a Blind Man Cries is stunning, Gillan’s vocals as powerful and emotional as ever with a stunning lead break from Morse. We’re already an hour and a half into the show before a thunderous Space Truckin’ takes the energy levels up another notch before closing the main set, not surprisingly, with Smoke.
Introducing it with a nod to the gig that inspired the song, with a touch of Zappa’s Peaches En Regalia, Smoke becomes the classic singalong. A couple of thousand voices in unison claiming “We all came out to Montreux” couldn’t have been more true.
Blues roots are again displayed with Booker T’s Green Onions riff teasing the crowd before leading into first encore of Hush with Black Night ending the show.
Deep Purple are no strangers to playing with Orchestras with their own Concerto shows and appearance with Pavarotti in the past, but this is the first time in forty years that they have gone on the road with this type of performance.
After touring around the world for five years since the release of last album Rapture of the Deep with little let up – nearly 100 shows in 2010 – something a bit different has kept the fires burning. The band look like they are having a ball on stage, reveling in the performance.
The show hits the UK in November, don’t miss it. And with rumours of a new album in 2012 the future still looks bright, the future looks Purple.