I’m not generally a big fan of live music. It’s always seemed to me that you get half the quality at twice the price. Of course, you also get a sense of energy and community, and sometimes, a great performance (which you then wish you had as a recording…).
Somehow, though, I’ve managed to see a decent number of live acts, including some of my favorites: Cat Stevens (back when he was Cat Stevens), Gordon Lightfoot, Waylon Jennings, Carrie Newcomer*, Steve Forbert, John Gorka, Darden Smith, ДДТ. Also, for some reason, some non-favorites that are good (Nazareth – as invitees of the Prime Minister of Mongolia), and some … others (Robert Plant?). Last night, however, I finally heard a band that’s been at the top of my list for for 40 years.
Happily, Eastern Europe has never given up on the classic music of the ’70s. Some might argue that they just haven’t caught up, but … Justin Bieber? … what’s to catch up with? In any case, I turned down (procrastinated away) my chance to see Whitesnake last summer. But then, Whitesnake has been inconsistent of late, by which I mean that their penultimate album, Good to be Bad, leaned heavily toward bad – in the form of the commercial sludge that made David Coverdale a lot of money – instead of good (the early albums).
When I heard that my town would be visited by the best rock group of all time, I procrastinated some more. But I was rescued by my office mates, who presented me with a ticket. And so, last night, after four decades of fandom, I went to see Deep Purple.
The sound was terrible . They opened with a song from the new album, which I don’t yet own. I literally couldn’t isolate any of the words. It was only when they shifted into older material** (“Into the Fire”), that I knew what Mr. Gillan was singing. Maybe Mr. Nikolic (President of Serbia, and an old fan) could hear better from his box seat.
Eventually, the sound improved, and the group settled into a smooth display of astonishing talent. Ian Paice on drums (the only constant member of the band), Ian Gillan (with a sly nod to Jesus Christ Superstar), Roger Glover on bass (a key driver of the band’s musical direction), and Don Airey on keyboards (a surprisingly effective replacement for Jon Lord, whom I always saw as the heart of the group’s sound). Steve Morse and his guitar were also present (with a host of technically able solos that underlined the many ways that his sound and the band’s just do not fit).
So, what’s the point? Just to review a concert that virtually all of you were not at, and that most wouldn’t have wanted to go to anyway? Well, partly that – Deep Purple is the best band of all time, after all, and my personal favorite. If you don’t like “Lazy” … well, I like to keep the blog polite. These guys are and were great musicians. Sure, there were a few weak albums (House of Blue Light, Slaves and Masters ), but overall, these guys, in all their incarnations, are the band to listen to.
All of which is a long lead-in to this point: the first story I ever wrote seriously was inspired by a Deep Purple song. The song, “Blind” is from one of Deep Purple’s early albums (the last one with Rod Evans and Nic Simper, the year before In Rock, with Gillan and Glover). For years, I half-heartedly sent that story around every now and then. Finally in late 2011, I decided to try a little harder. As a start, I sent “Blind” out again to the first place on a list of venues I found on Wikipedia. Much to my surprise, “Blind” was immediately accepted by the (now defunct) Absent Willow Review. That acceptance encouraged me to get serious about writing. So “Blind” was the start of my writing career, and the catalyst, twenty years later, for my decision to write more than just the one story.
I’m happy to say that “Blind” is soon to be republished, in the Song Stories II anthology from Song Story Press. It’s tentatively scheduled for release on 15 March 2014 – so just under one month after I first, and finally, saw Deep Purple live.
* Carrie Newcomer may not count, since (gratuitous name drop), she taught me to play guitar, so I saw her live at least once a week. But I also saw her perform in legitimate venues.
** For those interested, the set list is here.