Well, I guess those old guys still got it (sort of, anyways) — DEEP PURPLE @ Massey Hall, February 12th

Though I tend to stay away from the classic rock touring circuit, I thought it was kinda cool that Deep Purple was touring across Canada in the middle of February.  (I mean, who does that, eh?)  I had actually never been to Massey Hall before in my six and a half years in this city, but I thought was a pretty classy place, if a little outdated.  Speaking of past-their-prime, they were plenty of grey-hairs in attendance, some of whom still sported long, glorious manes, mind you.  Who knew that Rogaine had a product for mullets!?

Anyways, I had initially balked at coughing up 100 bucks for a ticket, but after listening to some classic Deep Purple records, I eventually came around.  The show was almost sold out, but there were a few single seats available when I went online a few weeks ago.  That said, my options were either up in the third-tier gallery, or two rows from the stage, albeit with the caveat that I was close to the speakers with a restricted view.  Oddly enough, both tickets were the exact same price, making this a no-brainer.  And while I did indeed have my right ear to the speakers the entire evening, my view wasn’t restricted in the slightest, save for the people standing in front of the stage, a privilege only accorded to front-row ticket holders.  But hey, us young whipper-snappers don’t mind standing up for a concert–in fact, I’m not used to sitting down!

This is the “obstructed” view of the stage from Aisle 4, Row B.  Not too shabby, eh?

 

First of all, props to Hamiltonian heavy rockers Monster Truck for landing the opening slot on the Southwestern Ontario gigs (London, Toronto, Hamilton).  I cannot think of a band in this area better suited for this gig, and I believe they won themselves a few new fans–though I doubt those folks will be catching them at the Bovine anytime soon.  I also dug their keyboardist’s Ritchie Blackmore outfit.  Too bad he was on the other side of the stage, so I couldn’t get a good picture!  In fact, I only took a few photos all evening, since I didn’t really have the greatest angle…

This is the view of the stage from Aisle 4, Row B with a band on it:

 

As for the headliners, Deep Purple came out to a rousing “Highway Star,” during which I couldn’t help noticing how old Ian Gillan looked on stage.  He was wearing a boot on his right foot, but seemed to be able to move freely.  On the other hand, his age has definitely added a few wrinkles to his voice, as he failed to hit the shrieking high notes on the opening number.  His performance improved somewhat during the set, and he even traded notes with guitarist Steve Morse on “Strange Kind of Woman,” a la Made in Japan, only this time he didn’t last quite as long.  There were also times when his voice reminded me of Axl Rose–proof that even at 66, he still sounds as good as the next generation. ;)

 

The first thing I noticed about Steve Morse was that the man has a million-dollar smile.  He belongs in a toothpaste commercial, seriously.  And while he played Blackmore’s riffs faithfully, I found that he came up a bit lacking in the guitar-solo department.  No doubt about it, the man can play, but he sounded more mechanical, like a “How to Shred” 80′s guitar video, as opposed to his legendary predecessor’s organic blues chops.  I actually got kinda bored during his spotlight solo section, and even sat down (to the delight of the people behind me).

 

Now, this definitely had the feel of a real 70′s rock show, despite the fact that some of these guys are pushing 70.  Not only did they play extended, jammed-out versions of every song, but each musician got his own spotlight solo–even bassist Roger Glover, who, I gotta say, looks awfully fit for 66!  I hafta question sticking his solo smack-dab in the middle of the encore, though.  More on that later.  Ian Paice, who’s three years younger than his Mk II bandmates, still keeps a steady beat at 63, and I preferred his moment in the spotlight to Morse’s.  Don Airey was pretty rockin’ on keys too (hey man, Jon Lord’s 70 now!), although his solo was more classical-piano oriented, with a hint of “O Canada” thrown in for good measure.

This was my best look at the Purple backline:

 

The set was built around the songs that people wanted to hear, with all the Machine Head classics (“Highway Star,” “Maybe I’m a Leo,” “Lazy,” “Space Truckin’”) alongside other early 70′s numbers like “Strange Kind of Woman,” “The Mule” and “My Woman From Tokyo.”  Naturally, they left “Smoke on the Water” to the end of the set, before coming back with a throwback encore of “Hush” and “Black Knight.”  Betcha when Gillan replaced Rod Evans in ’69, he didn’t expect to be still singing “Hush” 43 years later!

The best part of this gig was that even after a nearly two-hour set, it was all over by 10:30.  Most folks didn’t hafta stay up past their bedtime, while me, I got home in time to catch the last episode from Season 2 of Eastbound and Down on The Score.  Man, I can’t wait for Season 3!

As for Deep Purple, well, I’m glad I got to see ‘em before they died.  Don’t think I’d pay 100 bucks to catch ‘em again though, not unless Blackmore comes back and/or they play In Rock in its entirety.  They might need a backup singer to hit the high notes on that record, though, I suppose…

(And for the record, buddy, the song’s not “Sweet Child in Time,” it’s just “Child in Time.”  They probably thought you were heckling them by repeatedly yelling out a Guns ‘n Roses tune, though I don’t think that’s the only reason why they didn’t play it.  And while we’re at it, peace, love and understanding to the big, bearded hippy who danced wildly during a few numbers.  Sucks that security harshed your buzz.  Bummer, man…)

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