Veteran rockers Deep Purple have found a way to insure filling up a venue the size of Auckland’s Vector Arena…add another headliner to the bill as the opening act. In this case it’s Journey, the San Francisco band from the 70s/80s who epitomized the term “corporate rock” back in the day. They did their job, and Deep Purple were able to rock once more where they belong, in an arena.
This was the first time that Journey have played in New Zealand and there were plenty of fans on hand to see them. Their cache increased dramatically a few years ago when their song, Don’t Stop Believin’ was used on the final episode of The Sopranos.
I personally have never cared for the band…in fact I loathe them…and their performance tonight only reminded me why.
These days the band consists of founding members Neal Schon (guitar) and Ross Valory (bass) along with long-time keyboard player Jonathan Cain, drummer Deen Castronovo and, replacing Steve Perry, vocalist Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer they found on YouTube back in 2007, singing Journey songs.
Their set began with an exhibition of Neal Schon’s guitar virtuosity…but it was all show and no soul. After his 4-minute guitar wank, Pineda joined the band and they go things going with Rubicon, a lesser-known track from their 1983 album, Frontiers.
The diminutive Arnel Pineda proved to be an energetic front man, leaping from the drum riser and urging the crowd to sing along. Yes, his voice is eerily similar to Steve Perry’s, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was witnessing a glorified karaoke contest. He never seemed to bring anything of his own to the songs and merely replicated what was on the records.
Drummer Deen Castronovo sang one song, Keep On Runnin’, and he too sounded like he was impersonating Perry, just not as well.
But there were plenty of hits for the faithful to sing along to…Lights, Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’, Who’s Crying Now, Wheel In The Sky and, of course, Don’t Stop Believin’.
The sound quality during Journey’s set left something to be desired as well…it was very muddy and boomy…at least where I sat.
Fortunately Deep Purple’s sound man knew what he was doing and they sounded crystal clear.
For those keeping score, the band now consists of original drummer Ian Paice, Mark 2 vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, Don Airey has taken over the keyboards from the late Jon Lord and Steve Morse has filled the shoes once worn by the cantankerous Ritchie Blackmore.
Although this band has been rockin’ in one form or another since 1968 (with a brief hiatus) they still sound like they love to play together. That was evident from the first number, Fireball, the title track from their 1971 album.
They remained in their golden era of the early 70s with Into The Fire and Hard Lovin’ Man, both from 1970’s Deep Purple In Rock album. Gillan added a bit of humour at the end of Hard Lovin’ Man with his tiny gong and much larger mallet. The band also did some of their finest jamming at the end of that tune.
After Maybe I’m A Leo, they launched into one of their best-known tunes, the 1971 single Strange Kind Of Woman…the crowd was on its feet. Although Gillan’s voice isn’t quite what it used to be, he gamely traded licks with guitarist Morse.
Afterwards, Gillan announced, “That was the jazz bit of the set, now it’s time to rock and roll”. They then played the most recent song of the set, 1993’s The Battle Rages On. Morse followed it with a killer solo. He’s definitely a different type of guitar player than Blackmore, a fortunately he doesn’t try to imitate him, even on well-known songs like Smoke On the Water. His playing throughout the night was a joy to listen to.
After Wasted Sunset, Morse let loose with another impressive solo.
And, as was the tradition in the 70s, there were solos all around. Drummer Paice took his during The Mule and Airey got a couple in that got the crowd cheering. Glover waited until the encore for his bass solo.
One thing that was something of a distraction was…and this is going to sound petty…Gillan’s appearance. With short, grey hair, white loafers, dress pants and a vest, he didn’t exactly look the part of “lead singer of Deep Purple”. He also left the front of the stage whenever there were instrumental passages to disappear behind a partition set up behind the drums. I got the feeling he had a comfy chair, a cup of tea and some Tim Tams set up there.
No matter, the band rocked hard and closed their set with a couple from the 1972 classic Machine Head…Space Truckin’ and the inevitable Smoke On The Water…which still sounded fresh after all these years.
They returned for an encore that started with a brief rendition of Booker T & The MG’s Green Onions before launching into a killer version of Hush. After Glover’s bass solo, they closed the night with…Black Night, of course.
The band has a new album due out in April, produced by Bob Ezrin. It’s a shame we didn’t hear anything from it, but still in all, no complaints here, except I would have liked to have heard Highway Star and Woman From Tokyo and Child In Time and Knockin’ At Your Back Door and…….
View a gallery of Deep Purple concert pix, taken by the highly-esteemed Michael Flynn here:
View a gallery of Journey concert pix here:
Journey set list:
- Guitar Solo
- Ask The Lonely
- Only The Young
- Stone In Love
- Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
- Keep On Runnin’
- Open Arms
- Dead Or Alive
- Who’s Crying Now
- Any Way You Want It
- Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
- Wheel In The Sky
- Don’t Stop Believin’
Deep Purple set list:
- Into The Fire
- Hard Lovin’ Man
- Maybe I’m A Leo
- Strange Kind Of Woman
- The Battle Rages On
- Guitar Solo
- Wasted Sunsets
- The Mule
- No One Came
- Keyboard Solo
- Perfect Strangers
- Space Truckin’
- Smoke On The Water
- Green Onions/Hush
- Bass solo/Black Night