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Q&A: Deep Purple

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame metal legends Deep Purple might be saying goodbye after churning out plenty of classic riffs and hits during a career that saw the group sell over 100 million albums.

G.K. Hizer
August 28, 2019

When Deep Purple takes the stage at The Joint: Tulsa, the appearance may be part of the group’s “The Long Goodbye” tour, but don’t count on it being the last you see or hear of the band. After crossing the 50-year mark, legendary members like lead singer Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice may realize that they can’t go on forever, but even they haven’t acknowledged this is a final farewell.

When the tour was announced December 2016, Paice hinted that it “may be the last big tour,” but added that the band didn’t know for sure. “We haven’t made any hard, fast plans, but it becomes obvious that you can’t tour the same way you did when you were 21,” says Paice. “It becomes more and more difficult. People have other things in their lives, which take time. But never say never.”

Since then, the tour has taken a detour or two, including a co-headlining tour with Judas Priest in the latter half of 2018.

That may raise a few eyebrows from casual and loyal fans, alike, but Deep Purple has been no stranger to defying expectations, taking unexpected detours, and being a magnet for controversy.

Although the group has been a dependable juggernaut of rock stability since guitarist Steve Morse joined in 1994, that’s not always been the case. The band that’s best known for the iconic rock track “Smoke on the Water” spent its first 25 years in a whirlwind of membership changes as the group continued to evolve (or in some cases, devolve) sonically.

While the band initially formed with Rod Evans on vocals and has seen the likes of David Coverdale and Joe Lynn Turner take over the microphone, Gillan is arguably the voice of Deep Purple. Anchored by the steady-as-stone rhythm section of Paice (the only member to survive every iteration) and Glover, Gillan’s bluesy wail could only be possibly overshadowed by former member John Lord’s Hammond organ as the signature of Deep Purple’s sound. And while Ritchie Blackmore’s involvement vaulted the band into the spotlight, much of the drama also revolved around him.

The addition of Morse in 1994 injected new life and creativity into the band. Starting with Purpendicular (1994), the Deep Purple machine not only stabilized but also found itself a rejuvenated band of road warriors. Modern radio hasn’t cooperated, but many fans argue that the past 25 years have been some of the band’s most consistent and creative. And while Deep Purple has always thrived on the road, Morse’s blend of fluidity, blues sensibilities, and ability to throw down huge riffs has weaved itself seamlessly into Deep Purple’s groove-heavy hard rock, making it an even more potent live act that tours consistently.

Sure, lightning usually only strikes once with a riff as substantial and instantly recognizable as “Smoke on the Water,” but a single spin of “One Night in Vegas” from the group’s last studio album, Infinite (2017), proves the band is churning out tunes just as heavy and progressive as ever.

Although the band’s 1984 reunion effort, Perfect Strangers, is highly regarded as a return to form, it also sounds dated, and a bit forced when standing next to the progressive hooks of Infinite and Rapture of the Deep (2005) — both of which serve as examples of latter-era Purple’s power and creativity. Even so, controversy has continued to follow the band, even if only peripherally. While many consider Deep Purple to be part of the foundation of hard rock and heavy metal, the band found itself consistently overlooked by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, causing a backlash from not only the record-buying fan base but admiring musicians as well. After being nominated in both 2012 and 2013, but passed over, artists as diverse as Gene Simmons (Kiss), Geddy Lee (Rush) and Steve Lukather (Toto) lobbied for the band’s inclusion, publicly commenting on their absence.

The band was nominated again in 2015 and finally inducted April 8, 2016, with the Hall commenting upon the initial announcement that “Deep Purple’s non-inclusion in the Hall is a gaping hole which must now be filled.”

When the band arrives in Tulsa Sept. 21, fans will enjoy a career of recognizable classics. Although some passively consider Deep Purple to be a one-hit-wonder, only knowing “Smoke on the Water” by name, five decades of classic riffs will roll out over the course of the evening as the band’s career output includes tracks like “Hush,” “Highway Star,” “Woman from Tokyo,” “Burn,” “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door.”

Deep Purple
The Joint: Tulsa | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
918-384-ROCK (x7625)
Sept. 21: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend