By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the most influential British bands from the ’70s brings their current Long Goodby Tour to the Warfield Sunday when hard-rock icons Deep Purple come to San Francisco.
A group that has gone through a multitude of distinct line-ups with great success over the course of 50 years since first coming together in 1968, Deep Purple got its start as a progressive-minded psychedelic rock quintet anchored by classically trained organ player Jon Lord, bassist Nick Simper and talented session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. The addition of singer Rod Evans and 18-year-old drum phenom Ian Paice filled out the version that would score the band’s initial hits with cover tunes by Joe South (the radio staple “Hush”) and Neil Diamond (“Kentucky Woman”) that sat alongside original tunes that showcased Lord’s fiery interplay with Blackmore.
By the time the band had released its third album, Lord, Paice and Blackmore were discussing a move in a heavier direction that would lead them to ditch Evans (who would relocate to the U.S. and found the underappreciated all-star group Captain Beyond) and Simper and put together the band’s seminal Mark II line-up. New singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover made their recorded debut on Deep Purple’s ambitious live classical-meets-rock recording Concerto for Group and Orchestra, but it was the string of records that followed that established the band as one of the biggest hard-rock acts this side of Led Zeppelin.
1970’s In Rock included the epic “Child in Time” powered by Gillan’s wailing vocals and the blazing rocker “Speed King,” two songs that would help codify the emerging sounds of hard rock and heavy metal on both sides of the Atlantic. A relentless schedule of tour and recording would follow as the band established itself as one of the powerhouse live performers in rock with their marathon shows packed with extended jamming and solos and Blackmore’s flashy, swashbuckling style of guitar. Fireball and the landmark Machine Head featuring the ubiquitous FM radio hit “Smoke on the Water” as well as the live favorites “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'” would both be hailed as classics.
The band’s intense work schedule would lead to tensions with Gillan and Glover leaving after the release of the hugely popular concert document Made in Japan and a final studio effort Who Do We Think We Are? in 1973. The band would land on it’s feet, bringing on bassist/singer Glen Hughes and lead vocalist David Coverdale who helped make subsequent smash albums Burn and Stormbringer. However, the funk and soul influence heard on the latter recording would lead Blackmore to strike out on his own, starting the band Rainbow with singer Ronnie James Dio and former Jeff Beck drummer Cozy Powell to solid commercial success.
Purple would soldier on, recruiting guitarist Tommy Bolin for a final album in 1975 (Come Taste the Band) before dissolving the group. The members would work together in various capacities (Lord and Paice both joined Coverdale in his band Whitesnake), but eventually the Mark II line-up of Purple reunited in 1984, scoring another hit album with Perfect Strangers and once again touring the world to wide acclaim. But the volatility that split the band up a decade before would eventually resurface after a second less successful studio album and new live recording that largely stuck to the band’s ’70s hits.
First Gillan would leave, getting replaced by onetime Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner for a single album before Paice, Lord and Glover pushed to get Gillan back. But friction between the singer and guitarist led Blackmore to walk out in the midst of a European tour a final time.
Since then, Purple has remained busy recording periodic albums of new material with American guitarist Steve Morse (who played more jazz fusion oriented material with the Dixie Dregs and his own trio) and regularly touring, even after Lord retired from the road in 2002 and was replaced by veteran player Don Airey (Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy). The keyboard great sadly passed in 2012, before the band was finally given a long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
A year ago, the group teamed up with equally iconic British metal outfit Judas Priest for a co-headlining tour that stopped at the Shoreline Amphitheatre that proved the original members still had their chops intact. The band will play hits from its classic era as well as songs from its latest Bob Ezrin-produced album Infinite when Deep Purple takes the stage at the Warfield in San Francisco Sunday evening. Bluesy SoCal retro-rock crew Joyous Wolf opens the show
Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m. $59.95-$119.95