Universal Amphitheater, 08/30/98

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Deep Purple is one of those bands that simply can't get any better. They've been making some of the best hard rock music in the business since the early 70s (I'm intentionally skipping some of their very early stuff) and they continue to make some of the best hard rock music today. The band's live show has always been a strong companion to their highly successful studio albums (hence, the band's many live recordings) and this evening at the Universal Amphitheater was no different. Despite the fact that it was the last evening of the tour (or perhaps because of it) Deep Purple gave the sold-out crowd that evening exactly what they had come for: A solid dose of rock'n'roll that left the many ears a buzzin'.

Starting the show with a track from their latest album ("Abandon" on CMC International Records), Deep Purple played a nicely balanced selection of songs from their very early days ("Hush" "Smoke on the Water") to tunes from their latest CMC Recordings with Steve Morse on guitar ("Any Fule Kno That" "Almost Human"). As always, the band was dead on, the bass of Roger Glover, the keyboards of Jon Lord and the drums of Ian Paice banging out a perfect combination of heavy metal and blues. Then, of course, there's vocalist Ian Gillan, a man we consider to be perhaps the greatest singer in hard rock. Gillan can belt out the tunes like a banshee, giving each Deep Purple song a soulful depth that most other bands simply dream of.

Guitarist Steve Morse, still being put to the test by longtime Purple fans (he replaced original Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore two or three years ago) showed that he was no slacker when it came to playing the old tunes and simply rallied when playing the new ones. Morse knows when to leave well enough alone and when to add his own two cents and the fans at the Amphitheater that evening appreciated it and were won over by him.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Deep Purple show, however, was the band's graciousness. Sure, all rock'n'roll bands thank their audience between songs but these guys really mean it. There's a humility to this band that is completely out of proportion to their impressive stature in the hard rock world. Once again, this humble attitude made them even more endearing to the fans.

In the middle slot that evening was Emerson Lake and Palmer. Because of the terrific lineup that evening, the Universal Amphitheater was full from the first moment of the show to the last so all three bands got to play to a full house. And even though Greg Lake and Carl Palmer gave tremendous performances, both musically and showmanship-wise, the real star that evening was keyboardist Keith Emerson. Emerson is a consummate showman, playing with a technical perfection that is nothing short of awesome and with a flair that is flamboyant and explosive. To put it simply: He's a rock'n'roll star. The Emerson Lake and Palmer set would have been a joy to see if it had just been a simple performance; however, it was stupendous thanks to Keith Emerson.

First up that evening was DREAM THEATER, another band renowned for their technical perfection. The crowd ate the band's set up, a number of the fans there to see Dream Theater in particular. However, whether it was because it was the last night of the tour or because their difficult music style is so demanding, the band lacked the charisma that made the ELP and Deep Purple shows so engaging. Regardless, it was a performance of fresh, rich progressive rock that was well-received by the audience.

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Copyright 1998 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:16 -0400.