The Deep Purple lineup that frontman Ian Gillan calls the “living, breathing Deep Purple” played a hit-filled set Friday night at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The band, most of them dressed in suits, kicked things off with a searing rendition of “Highway Star,” complete with its crushing organ-riffing and off-kilter guitar stabs, as Gillan lasciviously yowled about his dream woman and fantasy car and Don Airey nailed the songs gothic, ascending organ solo.
Next they jammed a little instrumental “Green Onions” with an image of late keyboardist Jon Lord behind them, before Gillan returned to lead them in a funky take on “Hush” that saw guitarist Steve Morse joining in on its “na-na-na” chorus. And then they ended with a fittingly crushing, resplendent rendition of “Smoke on the Water.” Although Ritchie Blackmore was not onstage, Morse – guitarist for Deep Purple for over 20 years – played a uniquely funky guitar solo in his stead. When they were done, the audience gave them a standing ovation, and Gillan said “Take it easy.”
It was a triumph for the group, which has been eligible for induction since 1993. The band had long been overlooked, though they had been considered in 2013 and 2014 before ultimately getting voted in this year. When the time came, their induction became one of the most contentious in Rock Hall history, rivaling Kiss’ decision not to play in 2014.
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The members of the band who made it in include guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer David Coverdale, singer Rod Evans, singer Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover, singer and bassist Glenn Hughes, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice. The Rock Hall’s decision to overlook several longtime members – guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey – rankled Gillan who called the omissions “very silly” in December. He called the band-member selection “arbitrary.” Later the band announced it would not reunite onstage with founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore for the performance, something Gillan had said in 2014 when he called the notion “unconscionable,” and the guitarist backed out of the ceremony.
Regardless of the controversies, it’s an honor that meant a lot to Ian Paice who told Rolling Stone last year that he expected the band would be inducted at some point. “I do appreciate how difficult it probably was for them to do it with so many lineups, so many different members,” he said. “It’s a minefield, really. I suppose it’s rather nice.”
The evening also saw Metallica’s Lars Ulrich induct the group with a passionate speech. And then Deep Purple reciprocated by explaining just what the induction meant to them.
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