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Concert Reviews:
Deep Purple still smokes, this time with an orchestra

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011

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DETROIT -- Deep Purple is no stranger to orchestras. After all, the veteran British hard rock troupe did record a "Concerto For Group and Orchestra" back in 1969.

Its performance with a 25-piece orchestra on Friday night (June 17) at the Fox Theatre -- part of its "The Songs That Built Rock" tour -- wasn't quite as ambitious; the ensemble, played as part of the quintet's regular repertoire rather than diving into an original composition. But it was still an appropriate teaming and a good fit, with the orchestrations arranged by "lunatic conductor" Steven Bentley-Klein giving some extra power and majestic dimension to Deep Purple's grinding, expansive heaviness.

The downside; a muddy and muddled sound mix that buried many of the essential nuances -- particularly Steve Morse's guitar, some of Ian Gillan's vocals and even Bentley-Klein's violin solo on "Lazy." A collaboration so well-conceived and executed deserved better.

Despite that, it was at least evident that Purple was in good form and enjoying the orchestral backing during Friday's one-hour and 50-minute show. Bentley-Klein's arrangements played off the songs' familiar riffs, bolstering the melodies in a complementary fashion without overwhelming the band. Favorites such as "Smoke on the Water," "Black Night" and "Perfect Strangers" were, well, perfect fits, while the foreboding, "Jaws"-like introduction to "Knocking at Your Back Door" benefited from the extra texture provided by the strings.

Deep Purple kept the greatest hits coming all night -- including "Highway Star," "Woman From Tokyo," "Space Truckin' " and a garagey rendition of Billy Joe Royal's "Hush" -- but some of the show's sharpest moments were lesser-known fare such as the brawny "Hard Lovin' Man," the chugging, brassy rocker "No One Came" and the bluesy "When a Blind Man Cries." Morse, meanwhile, dazzled with a couple of instrumentals: the spectral "Contact Lost," which was inspired by the Columbia STS-107 space shuttle disaster in 2003; and "The Well-Dressed Guitar," an animated, Trans-Siberian Orchestra-like opus.

It might not have been suited for, say, Orchestra Hall. But for rock fans with a taste for something a little bit different, Deep Purple and company showed a little classical influence needn't make its rock any less potent.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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