Chatting – in broken French and English – with the owner of a small Italian restaurant, who was asking if we were in town for Santana, we had to reply that it was Deep Purple which had brought us here. He suddenly and unexpectedly went all misty eyed, and quietly proclaimed that Montreux was their spiritual home.
He might just have a point. And last night there was something more than a little special about Smoke On The Water roaring off the stage of the Stravinsky auditorium, literally a stone’s throw from the small roller skating rink it was first laid down in 45 years ago.
And with Frank Zappa’s lad on guitar as well.
We haven’t travelled abroad for a Deep Purple show in almost twenty years, but a combination of circumstances made us push the boat out to do this one. I’d missed the last two UK visits, so it had been a while in any case, and as another fan (hello Sue) said backstage “it’s something you just feel you should do once.”
The set is more or less as the rest of this European tour, and the first third really steamed along for me, with a particularly down and dirty version of Hard Lovin’ Man which I properly enjoyed, and an edgy Bloodsucker too. After this blitz of opening songs, Ian apologised to the sold out crowd. “I’m sorry, that’s all the jazz we know!”
The show lost focus and pace for me a little around Uncommon Man, not a track I felt worked properly live (I’d much rather have the album opener myself), and Hell To Pay still sounds somewhat forced as a song. Which just left Vincent Price as the third of the current album cuts to save the day, which it did.
Ian Gillan coped well and was back to his rambling and often lengthy song introductions which always amaze and amuse in equal measure, while the band overall were a lot looser than when I last saw them, with plenty of little moments of them having fun musically and doodling around which always mark the group out and make life interesting. Perhaps they were not worrying about curfews for once (they didn’t come on until around 10pm) so could please themselves.
Nice version of Lazy and after Don’s keyboard break the group took the set to a conclusion starting with Perfect Strangers, which was good to hear after the rather under-rehearsed version we got from Blackmore just a few weeks back, a tight and powerful Space Truckin’ and – a Frank Zappa instrumental, which took them a little while to get started (Dweezil and Steve sort of taught each other the riff for a couple of minutes, while a roadie wheeled the music on a stand for Don to follow). “A poignant moment for us” was all Ian Gillan had to say, and it was. In my head was the recollection too that it was the fourth anniversary of Jon Lord’s death.
The encores of Hush and Black Night seemed to go on forever, with Ian Paice and Roger Glover slogging it out for ages, and while some of the trendier members of the audience had long since called it a day, the rest of the Montreux faithful would have been happy for it to go on even longer.
I think this is the first time I’ve been to a rock show with the whole thing relayed via two screens at the side of the stage, a slightly unsettling experience, and I assume the gig will be issued on DVD at some stage as part of what seems to be a full blwon industry which has grown up around the Jazz Festival judging from the large shop in the venue.
But overall it was just great to be back in front of that unique and mostly wonderful racket which is Deep Purple on stage, and we’re glad we made the effort. What our bank manager will say next week is less clear!
It’s 7.00am in the morning as I type this, and I’m not the only one who couldn’t sleep much – a bunch of lads are strolling down the lake front yelling the Smoke lyrics out at the top of their voices… Looks like that restaurant owner was absolutely right, so we’re off up to the Grand Hote-e-el after breakfast.