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Concert Reviews:
Deep Purple revels in past, recent glories at Freedom HIll

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Like any band that's been around nearly five decades, Deep Purple has plenty of past glories.

But it's also a group that knows how to make that past sound perfectly valid, and potent, in the present.

The latest incarnation of the British rock group -- its eighth over all -- tore through an hour and 50 minutes of both classic and more contemporary Purple fare on Tuesday night, Aug. 4, at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre. The quintet does have three albums to call its own, of course, but no group calling itself Deep Purple can get away without playing "Smoke on the Water." Or "Hush." Or "Space Truckin'," "Highway Star" or any number of other favorites whose tight arrangements make them sound as current in 2015 as when they were released during the 70s.

Credit that to guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airy, Purple people for 21 and 13 years respectively. Besides ably handling the more recent material -- including four songs from last year's "Now What?!" album -- each brought a deft touch to the Purple classics, inserting distinctive but subtle stylistic touches that gave them some ownership of the songs without losing their well-worn trademarks, whether it was virtuostic romps through "Strange Kind of Woman" and "Lazy" or a metallic encore rendition of Joe South's "Hush."

Couple that with frontman Ian Gillan's remarkably fit voice and the sturdy bedrock created by bassist Roger Glover and drummer Ian Paice and you had a stellar performance by a band happy to show off its laurels but not content to rest on them.

Among the highlights were Morse-Airy duels on "Apres Vous" and "Hush," ferocious versions of "Vincent Price," "Hell To Pay" and "Uncommon Man," the majestic Morse showpieces "Contact Lost" and "The Well-Dressed guitar" and Morse playing most of the iconic "Smoke on the Water" with a broken string. There were also some playful touches, including the guitarist's pre-"Smoke" riff-o-rama that included bits of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary," the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams" and the Amboy Dukes' "Journey to the Center of the Mind," as well as a nod to Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' "C.C. Rider" that led into "Hush."

Gillan thanked the Freedom Hill crowd for "sending some great vibes down her to the stage," but it was only returning what it was receiving from the band.

Opener Blue Oyster Cult, meanwhile, played a firm and crowd-pleasing heritage card throughout its hour-long set. Following L.A.Guns, the New York sextet played its biggest hits -- "Don't Fear the Reaper," "Godzilla," "Burnin' For You" -- with enough deep cuts ("The Red and the Black," "ME262," "Then Came the Last Days of May" and a blazing "Buck's Boogie") to please the aficionados.

And frontman Eric Bloom graciously thanked his Detroit area fans for the Tigers' trade of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to his New York Mets, especially after a three-double hitting performance in a recent game.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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