Deep Purple in Australia, 1999 concert.
Deep Purple is one of the hard rocking bands from the early '70s that helped define a genre, alongside other luminary bands such as Led Zeppelin. They've had several ups and downs; among them personnel changes and two break-ups, one of 11 years. Since 1994, most of the members who made their best-remembered music have reunited, and with the addition of guitar maestro Steve Morse, have gone on to rejuvenate their careers and even make some new progressive music. This concert from last year combines new songs with old remembered hits and is now recorded in glorious Dolby Digital 5.1 surround on this DVD. Combining a full concert with a 76-minute documentary makes this a disc welcome in any fans collection.
I was like millions of other would be rock stars as a youth in the early '70s; the first guitar riff I ever learned was the beginning to "Smoke on the Water." A simple riff anyone can learn quickly, yet it was the backbone of one of the biggest hits of '70s rock. While this song is the one thing probably everyone knows about this band, they've done a lot more. Little known are the facts that during the years at their peak, they sold more records than anybody, even Led Zeppelin. Besides doing great business in the US, with many top ten hits, they had an incredible following overseas; from Europe to Australia and Japan. Over the last 30 years they've sold nearly 130 million albums.
Deep Purple began in 1968, and after some quick shifts in personnel ended up with vocalist Ian Gillian, keyboard artiste Jon Lord, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Blackmore is the only original member not with the present day incarnation of the band; having left for a solo career in 1993. From 1969 to 1973, Deep Purple was as big as Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and other bands that defined the genre that would become Heavy Metal. That was when the cracks within the band members began to show, and they split, with members forming bands such as Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Gillian. In 1984 the band reunited, and brought out the triple platinum album "Perfect Strangers." The band has been noted for touring nearly constantly and did so until 1993 when Blackmore left for good. For a year the band acquired guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, then moved ultimately to Steve Morse.
Deep Purple was not an "image" band. The members are each highly talented musicians who depended on sheer talent and ability to mold songs that would tell a story, or simply drive home a beat and rhythm that struck a chord in many thousands of fans. Since 1993, the band has done the well-received album "Perpendicular" in 1996 and "Abandon" in 1998, and has toured extensively since. Their music combines a hard backbone of bass and drums, with artistic stylings on both keyboards and guitar, along with the powerful vocals of Ian Gillian. This remains true today, as they show the intensity they did back in the '70s for modern audiences.
Deep Purple is still very responsive to their fans, and has a large presence on the Internet. They continually do videos and special recordings available only from their internet site. Two of those recordings; the video of the 1999 Melbourne, Australia concert and the documentary "A Band Downunder" are combined onto the commercially available DVD Deep Purple: Total Abandon. This is another great DVD with only a couple flaws.
The concert itself is a great mix of old and new music from Deep Purple. I confess to not having really followed the band since Blackmore left in 1993 so I wasn't familiar with some of it, but I was impressed. They are still the Deep Purple I remember, with perhaps even a new edge on their songwriting. Steve Morse very ably fills Ritchie Blackmore's shoes; no need to worry on that count at all. Other than a couple very old hits I was hoping to hear, there is nothing to complain about on the concert at all; it lasts almost 2 hours and has a solid 16 songs. And of course, "Smoke on the Water," "Highway Star," and "Woman from Tokyo" are among them.
Besides the concert itself, the most important factor in a concert DVD is the sound. No worries here either; this is a great multi channel surround track with an expansive and deep soundstage, proper placement of instruments by channel when called for, and plenty of punch like you want out of a rock concert. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is especially fine; offering a wider, deeper soundstage and more clarity. Even the plain stereo track is more than adequate, however.
Many concert discs scrimp on the extras, especially when the concert lasts as long as this one does. Not here; we have a full documentary lasting 76 minutes covering the Australian leg of the Abandon tour. Interviews with the band members, all the promotional footage, even live recordings of the radio shows they did, offer a great look at the band and their present aspirations. Also included are a couple live performances Deep Purple played at the House of Blues here in the US as they were developing some material, one of which does not appear in the concert itself. Very nice.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I do have a few complaints. The video, while mostly sharply detailed and suffering from little to no artifacting, does have a couple color balancing problems. It isn't always easy to tell when you're watching a concert with colored lights playing across the stage, but when a green light is shining on someone and their skin looks purple something is amiss. This is a small complaint as no one really expects accurate fleshtones during a rock concert with said colored lighting an ever-present factor. My other complaint with the video is that the introduction of the disc, showing the city of Melbourne and the band getting ready for the show is in widescreen but the concert itself is in pan-and-scan. A couple times you see half a performer in the shot, which isn't good. For the most part this is still a very good transfer if you don't mind full frame.
I also wish that there had been a subtitle track for the lyrics, or at least have them in a separate booklet. Since I wasn't familiar with all the new stuff I had a hard time with some of the lyrics. Just a nice extra I think all concert discs should have as a matter of course.
My only real complaint with the concert was that by the end vocalist Ian Gillian's voice appeared to be failing; and the vocally demanding finale song of "Highway Star" suffered in the high notes. Not badly, and as a vocalist myself I can relate to not quite having the throat ready for that one last demanding song, but he was straining at the chorus. I was disappointed as this is one of my favorite songs of theirs, but it is a minor complaint, and some wouldn't even notice.
If you're a Deep Purple fan, or used to be one, then this is a great disc for purchase or rental. I have a few complaints, but none of them overshadow the great sound and music. These guys have been playing for over 30 years and they know their craft well. You can find few more talented musicians anywhere.
Deep Purple is acquitted with due consideration of their long and distinguished career and contributions to rock and roll. I'd admonish them to include lyrics and do a bit better job on the video transfers in the future however.
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