The lush organ strains were the sounds that drove me to delight and madness as Deep Purple opened with Hush---it is a better choice for an opening than Fireball and even makes Highway Star pale in comparison. Jon Lord's organ dominates the proceedings right from the beginning to, and that, again, is what makes Deep Purple worth watching today.
Particularly exciting to me was the fact that Purple were playing at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC: a small cozy location with decent acoustics and a great view. The last time I saw them, it was at the Sunrise Theatre in Ft. Lauderdale, FL when Steve Morse had just been drafted to replace Ritchie Blackmore. At that time, I thought Morse did an adequate job but I wasn't entirely blown away. I wasn't familiar with the new songs they performed then and Morse wasn't very comfortable playing the old stuff.
Watching them again, I can definitely say two things have changed: Morse is at home with regard to the newer stuff, and he's caught up with magnificent Purple history. The guitar solos in Highway Star, for example, couldn't have been better. Newer tunes like Cascades: I'm not Your Lover, Ted the Mechanic, Rosa's Cantina, and the Aviator (the solos in this one are simply beautiful), were performed quite well.
However, almost everyone, including me, had come to see them thrash out their great classics, which are some of the greatest songs ever recorded. And they did. Morse is highly at ease playing the classic Purple tunes in his own inimitable style. While there are too many Deep Purple classics that can be possibly performed in a span of two hours, the band did not disappoint and their set included Fireball, Pictures of Home, Black Night, No One Came, Smoke on the Water, a soulful rendition of When a Blind Man Cries, Speed King, and Perfect Strangers. The best crowd responses were to Smoke on the Water and Highway Star.
The band appeared to be having a great deal of fun on stage and put on an entertaining show. There is an added enjoyment from watching the band clown around on stage. Gillan's voice was as great as ever, and as I was telling people at the show who were curious as to whether he could pull off the old classics, he has made a remarkable comeback in terms of vocal strength and range. Ian Paice's drumming and Roger Glover's bass were tight and complemented each other well.
The opening band was a three-piece band called Shine. Their set was fairly aggressive and provided a decent warm-up for Purple. They had some catchy riffs at times, but the mix didn't serve them well.
The Purple songs I missed the most included Soon Forgotten, Child in Time, Lazy, and Space Truckin'. The best parts of the show, which indicated to me the greatness inherent in Purple today, were the guitar/keyboard duets between Morse and Lord. They were executed with the same energy found in the live albums with Blackmore on guitar, and it seems as though age has simply improved Lord's playing.
In terms of raw energy, I've yet to see a concert that matches this one. Deep Purple are on tour in North America and if I were you, I'd be sure to check them out.