Deep Purple, ‘Live at the NEC': DVD Review
In 2002, Deep Purple's keyboardist, Jon Lord, announced his retirement from the band he helped form. On Sept. 14 of that year, he played his final concert. That show was filmed to document a closing of a chapter on the band's long history.
Deep Purple Live at the NEC was originally available only on the 2008 DVD box, Around the World Live, but is now sold separately.
Recorded in Birmingham, England, the nearly two-hour concert marks the end of what would have been Deep Purple Mk. VII, and the start of Mk. VIII, since both Lord, and his replacement, Don Airey, performed onstage. About halfway through the set, after a solo by Airey, the lights dim and Lord takes his place behind the keys for "Perfect Strangers," and he remains there for the rest of the concert.
The DVD kicks off with a storming version of "Fireball" and continues with some of the band's best-known tracks, including "Woman From Tokyo," "Space Truckin'," and, of course, "Smoke on the Water."
The audio and video are great throughout, emphasizing just how powerful the band still is after all these years. Even though guitarist Steve Morse is often dismissed by fans hoping for Ritchie Blackmore's return, he's a fundamental part of the performance here. The rest of the group -- including drummer Ian Paice, bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan -- while showing some age, manage to rock with almost as much force as they did 30 years earlier.
"There's a genetic problem here, because we do expect people to mature," Gillan notes in the disc's bonus interview. "At the same time, the rebel is still beating fiercely in my heart, but I have to articulate it in a different way. We're not on the rock and roll highway anymore. We're taking the scenic route now, and it's unbelievably exciting. The joy of playing music has never been purer than it is now."
It's a fitting summation of Deep Purple at the crossroads. Live at the NEC captures a bittersweet moment as they bid farewell to Lord, who died almost 10 years to the day after his performance here.
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