To be honest I was never a fan of the David Coverdale/Glenn Hughes era of Deep Purple back in the day but my blinkered youthful naivety from well over thirty five years ago has been changed by this recent DVD release from ear@MUSIC. The previous line up with Ian Gillan at the vocal helm always ticked the right boxes but the bluesier tones from Coverdale backed by the banshee screams of Hughes never seemed to gel but their headlining set from the California Jam on April 6th 1974 shows that onstage, they were a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Add to that the jaw dropping drumming from Ian Paice, the over the top assault on the Hammond organ from Jon Lord and the six string heroics from Ritchie Blackmore, it is an almost a perfect gig. An estimated attendance of two hundred and fifty thousand were treated to a ninety minute set of Purple classics with a rampant ‘Burn’ kicking proceedings off with a rainbow backdrop which may have given Ritchie the inspiration for the one he used a few years later when he formed Rainbow. David owns the song, belting it out with gusto and holding long notes for the refrain of “Burn” but the higher notes hit by Glenn draw huge audience cheers. Ritchie actually smiles before ripping into his solo with Jon dishing out some gbh on his keys.
The pace is brought down by the heavy blues of ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ which sounds like it could of been the catalyst for ‘Lie Down’ by Whitesnake. Glenn once again provides glass shattering backing vocals. The heavy dynamics of ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’ sees Ian covering every inch of his kit with Ritchie peeling off a seemingly effortless solo. The big hitters arrive with a gargantuan ‘Mistreated’ as the camera annoyingly is behind Ritchie during his intro solo. David’s tour de force lead vocal and facial expressions see him lost in the song. Ritchie’s solo precedes Ian driving the song to a shattering close with a shared Glenn/David emotional outro vocal. An early showing of ‘Smoke On The Water’ follows a poignant spoken intro from Jon introducing David and Glenn to the audience. A few teasing licks from Ritchie lead to the crowd going wild when he hits that main riff. The verses are shared but there is an annoying, seemingly improvised Glenn vocal near the end before David takes over to bellow the finish.
‘You Fool No One’ and ‘The Mule’ are introduced as “Two songs in one” as the instrumental wizardry of the band is put to the test. A breathtaking lengthy keys intro is followed by Ritchie dishing out some lengthy warp speed runs up the neck of his Strat, climaxing in a sumptuous blues midsection. A masterclass drum solo from Ian highlights why he is revered by so many. His snare work is a joy to behold. A marathon pounding of ‘Space Truckin’ closes their set. The hard hitting opening verses give way to more individual solo spots. A “How does he do that?” keyboard passage is the calm before the storm for Ritchie’s antics. He had been arguing all day with the festival organisers about their set starting as the sun went down which resulted in his caravan being forcibly opened after he had locked himself in. Tensions were high as he started playing his Strat against the edge of the stage which he drops into the photo pit.
A second Strat is played with his feet and against his thigh as he begins to smash it against one of the onstage cameras whilst it is still filming. The remains are thrown into the crowd to fight over as a third meets the same fate after a controlled explosion of his monitors looks to have been miscalculated judging by the fire produced. The song ends and the band take their bows only after three speaker cabs are also thrown into the photo pit by Ritchie.
Set list :-
Might Just Take Your Life.
Lay Down, Stay Down.
Smoke On The Water.
You Fool No One.
Deep Purple band line up :-
David Coverdale – Lead vocals.
Glenn Hughes – Bass guitar/backing vocals.
Jon Lord – Keyboards.
Ian Paice – Drums.
Ritchie Blackmore – Lead guitar.