Deep Purple – Atlantic City, June 2011
Tropicana Casino, Atlantic City, NJ – 11 June 2011
For the fourth time since 2004, Purple’s US tour included a stop at this US gambling destination. I’ve seen all four shows, and was lucky enough to meet the band after the show in 2005. Nice guys, all around, as we all know.
I’m not a fan, however, of rock acts at casino showrooms. Venues designed for Michel Buble or Vic Damone don’t always lend themselves acoustically to rock acts and unfortunately the stop at the Trop was no different. The showroom seats about 3500 to 4000 people, and it seemed pretty full last night. It was hard to tell how many were gambling comps but looking at the crowd, I wouldn’t guess there were that many. Ages ranged from about 12 or 13 to us greybeards. The “orchestra” was set up on risers behind the group with a conductor podium right at mid center stage. After a brief orchestral overture, the guys wandered out almost nonchalantly and kicked off with Highway Star.
Set list: Highway Star ~ Hard Lovin’ Man ~ Maybe I’m a Leo ~ Strange Kind Of Woman ~ Rapture Of The Deep ~ Woman From Tokyo ~ Contact Lost – Brief Steve Morse Solo ~ When A Blind Man Cries ~ The Well-Dressed Guitar ~ Knocking At Your Back Door ~ Lazy ~ No One Came ~ Don Airey Solo ~ Perfect Strangers ~ Space Truckin’~ Smoke On The Water.
Encores: Green Onions (!) ~ Hush~Black Night. The show lasted a full two hours.
The crowd was attentive and appreciative, but fairly reserved. However, the room just doesn’t lend itself to standing in the aisle and whooping up and down – the seats are narrow, close together, and there’s really no place to stand up and shout, if you know what I mean. Gillan spent almost no time between songs with any patter with the audience-which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your outlook. Roger seemed to be having a good time, and Paicey did his usual top-notch job. Don had a small Hammond (conspicuously, NOT Jon’s old warhorse), an electric piano and a synth of some sort. Steve switched guitars after nearly every song and was playing through just two small speaker boxes. A far cry from banks of Marshall stacks!
My only negative about the show was the orchestra. To tell the truth, it seemed pointless. They ‘played along’ with nearly every song, but the audio mix was horrible – only Roger’s bass came through distinctly. Very few of the vocals were understandable at all (luckily, some of us knew ALL the words) and Steve’s guitar was hopelessly muddled. Nothing the orchestra did really added to the show – it was a ‘greatest hits’ show with the audio quality of a 20 year old cassette tape that had been left out in the sun too long. It was disconcerting as well to see trombone players and a guy with a french horn with headphones on. Just didn’t work. I think it could have been much more unique if the orchestra was given actual scoring to play either as intros or cadenzas for some songs, rather than just ‘strumming’ along like a rhythm guitar. I actually saw one of the percussionists tapping a bongo.
The highlight may have been during Hush when a young lady who’d probably had a few too many free cocktails slithered up on stage, and put big Ian into a bear hug. He boogied with her for a minute or two and then gently walked her back to her friends and tried to help her off the stage – but she was not having any of it. Finally a stage hand came over and very politely manuvered her off stage. All in all, it was perhaps the most calm and charming ‘stage eviction’ I’ve ever seen, and considering Ian’s past run-ins with event security, quite humorous.