Photos & Story by Scott A. Smith
As thunderously great as their end-of-tour concert was at the Dallas House of Blues on a hot summer night back in 2007, Deep Purple’s show on Sept. 21 at the Tulsa Hard Rock might have been just as epic and thrilling.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band stormed the Tulsa stage with confidence and purpose at 8:17 p.m. and executed a most joyous, 110-minute set that was highlighted by radio favorites, brief solo performance spots, lesser-known gems and a surprise or two. Billed as part of Deep Purple’s “The Long Goodbye” farewell tour, the gig boasted several electrifying moments, namely a perfectly played “Perfect Strangers,” the driving “Space Truckin'” and the moving “Pictures of Home” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming.”
Wearing black pants, T-shirt and shoes, singer Ian Gillan was in terrific voice throughout the set. Right off the bat, Gillan was commanding on show-opener “Highway Star,” a track that gained urgency and grit with each passing verse. One or two high vocal notes escaped Gillan’s grasp, but virtually every other one the singer nailed with ease. Gillan’s pipes were every bit as muscular as they were at the Dallas 2007 concert.
Presiding over what looked like an eight-piece drum set, Ian Paice set the tempos and vibes with assertive, incredibly accurate drumming. Has Paice ever had a bad night on-stage? No live album, concert video or bootleg has ever captured a faulty effort from Paice, who continued to dazzle Deep Purple die-hards and casual spectators alike at the Tulsa Hard Rock. The guy never misses a drum head or cymbal strike.
To Paice’s right stood bassist Roger Glover, whose trademark bandana rested above his trademark smile and happy eyes. Glover worked his orange-colored bass with wizard-like ability and ease. At times, his bass sound took on a fun, dirty tone, while other passages had the strings give off clearer sonics. Like Gillan, Paice, guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey, Glover looked incredibly excited to be on that Tulsa stage.
No stranger to showcasing his guitar chops on vinyl and in concert, Morse’ solo spot alternated between a rough-and-tumble mood and one that was soothing and hypnotic. The guitar master’s offering was filled with taste, as was the piano, organ and keyboard sounds from Airey. With a slight smile, Airey performed alone at the keyboard for a few minutes, allowing the melody of Richard Rogers’ “Oklahoma!” song to sneak through the venue’s sound system and be met by waves of cheers and whistles.
Amazingly, the band’s encores “Hush” and “Black Knight” carried as much or more energy than the songs that arrived before. Even the radio staple “Smoke on the Water,” which surely has been played live by Deep Purple 1.7 billion times since its original 1972 release, exuded an attractive freshness for the appreciative audience.
Just about everything Deep Purple did in Tulsa was top-shelf quality. They were classy but bold with an edge, rehearsed but loose. Like those of us watching from the dark, Deep Purple simply had a ton of fun.