Deep Purple are no strangers to performing with an orchestra. They were, of course, the very first rock/metal band to do so with their seminal 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra' in 1969 and it's now become commonplace for those who seek to elevate their established music onto a higher plane of symphonic grandeur... with varying degrees of success. From rock to extreme metal bands, everyone's had a go, so it's kind of refreshing that the pioneers of said fusion returned to such a concept in 2011 (as they have done over the years) with a show at the Arena di Verona, a 30 AD Roman amphitheatre, alongside the full symphonic might of the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt. And three years on, the concert finally sees the light of day with an impressive DVD release.
Accompanied by an 8 page, informative booklet, with text written by Malcolm Dome in May this year, the show's placed neatly in context by various quotes from keyboardist Don Airey, who has nothing but fond recollections about the show and its positive after-effects on the band's collective impetus, leading up to the recording of their new studio album, 'Now What?', two years on. It's kind of beneficial reading this booklet before watching the DVD as it helps provide a more acute appreciation of just what Deep Purple have achieved here. It's no mean feat. To forge a perfect blend between orchestra and band should never be taken for granted, although such is the congruous nature of the music from this show, it's easy to forget just how much skill is involved in achieving syphmo-rock inherence. The blend of symphonic majesty and rock prowess is a fully organic one at this Verona show, and the evidence is here to be seen/heard.
Visually, it's rather spectacular. The band are all on the same level; there's no drum riser for Ian Paice, for example. The orchestra tower above them on tiered seating and then, behind both musical factions are the impressively lit walls of the amphitheatre. And these layers of visual grandiosity are reflected within the music itself as classic after classic is dressed up in symphonic vigour. Both orchestra and Purple members play their collective hearts out in what's a full-on emotive experience. In particular, Ian Gillan's voice sounds amazing at both the low and high end, and Steve Morse's many solo spots are tonally and affectively radiant. And audiophiles will be pleased to discover that 3 different sound options are selectable - Dolby Digital Stereo; Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound.
Unfortunately, there are no bonus features to speak of. The inclusion of two encore tracks, 'Hush' and 'Black Night', both only selectable from a separate 'Encore Tracks' menu, do not constitute a bonus feature; in fact, more a mild annoyance that they aren't included contiguously after the main set. Interviews with band members would have been a nice inclusion, be they contemporary to the show or retrospective reflections of today. At least, as already mentioned, Airey's thoughts are included in text form. However, these are very minor criticisms for what is, essentially, a great little package.
LIVE IN VERONA
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Oct 2014
1) Overture; 2) Highway Star; 3) Hard Lovin' Man; 4) Maybe I'm a Leo; 5) Strange Kind of Woman; 6) Rapture of the Deep; 7) Woman From Tokyo; 8) Contact Lost; 9) When a Blind Man Cries; 10) The Well Dressed Guitar; 11) Knocking at Your Back Door; 12) Lazy; 13) No One Came; 14) Don Airey Solo; 15) Perfect Strangers; 16) Space Truckin'; 17) Smoke on the Water; 18) Hush; 19) Black Night
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"The blend of symphonic majesty and rock prowess is a fully organic one at this Verona show..."