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Deep Purple / Brian May with Kerry Ellis Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 14, 2014    
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Deep Purple / Brian May with Kerry Ellis - Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux (Switzerland) - 19th July 2013

Montreux is a quiet, picturesque Swiss town on the banks of Lake Geneva, yet is inextricably linked with two of the biggest and most important names in Rock history in the last forty years. Deep Purple immortalised the town in the lyrics on 'Smoke On The Water', whilst Freddie Mercury lived in Montreux and Queen recorded here in their own studio, built on the site of the original Casino destroyed in that famous fire.

So a Friday night with Purple headlining and Brian May opening the show always did have the potential for something special. Add to that the fact that this, the forty seventh Montreux Jazz Festival is the first since founder 'Funky Claude' Nobbs passed away at the age of 81 in a skiing accident, and also the first since founding Purple member Jon Lord was lost to us, then anticipation and emotion were certainly running high.

Brian May has been performing with Kerry Ellis for a couple of years now, probably best known for her stage performances in West End Musicals. Starting acoustically they run through several tunes including their own rendition of 'Born Free' and Kansas' 'Dust In the Wind'. As is soon pointed out though, the thing that really gets a crowd going is an old Queen tune, to which we get a stirring duet of 'Somebody to Love'. Kerry's voice is strong and pitch perfect, but Brian shows he is no slouch on the vocals either, matching her and providing some great harmonies. It's not long though before Brian admits he doesn't like to stay unplugged for too long and the famed electric guitar makes an appearance. Guitar solo commences, then we get a Beatles cover in 'Something' and some more Queen with 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' and an acoustic take on 'Tie Your Mother Down' which works far better than you'd think. It's stamp your feet and clap time for 'We Will Rock You', leaving us with a set pretty much spot on in balancing Queen and other songs to highlight Kerry's great voice whilst paying great homage to Brian's past.

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With a combined age of 324 there's not many that can match Purple for experience. They do seem to have a genuine affinity with Montreux, with some of their earliest live recordings with Ian Gillan made back to 1969. Starting this show right up to date the intro to 'Uncommon Man' comes over the PA until the band launch into 'Fireball'. 'Into The Fire' and 'Hard Lovin Man' follow before we get the first full track from new album 'Now What?' with 'Vincent Price'. With haunting melodies and the stage bathed in green light, Gillan seems to revel in hamming up the horror movie theme – acting out the vocals rather than just singing.

Steve Morse takes centre stage with an emotional 'Contact Lost' and guitar solo before meandering into my personal favourite from 'Now What?', the laid back 'All The Time In The World'. Despite one of Gillan's clever and sophisticated lyrics, the tunes just flows effortlessly, before Morse turns things on their head again with the outstanding instrumental 'Well Dressed Guitar'. 'The Mule ' follows, including Ian Paice's solo, before 'Lazy' is dedicated to Claude Nobbs, who often joined the band onstage to trade harmonica licks with Gillan.

Hits and solos intermingle as in any Purple show until the set ends as expected with 'Smoke...', with full audience participation in almost karaoke style. Unbeknownst to those inside the Auditorium, the song was screened in the parks outside the venue and a well-timed firework display meant that once again there really was 'Smoke On The Water'.

Encores 'Hush' and 'Black Night' finish off an exceptional evening. The four new tracks slotted in the set like they had been around for years, but the overriding impression was simply of how at ease the band were. There was no one standout track or performance, Purple excelled in the most understated way. It was just a performance where everything slotted together. No band has a right to be this good and make it all look so simple. But after over forty years of practice out on the road, here's a group of musicians who are still deliver and are still at their peak.

Ian Parry

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