Deep Purple, Electric Mary @ Brisbane Convention Centre (27/04/2010)

Despite countless line up changes, break ups, label troubles and management problems across their forty-plus year existence, Deep Purple are undeniably rock n’ roll legends. Returning to Australian shores for the first time since co-headlining with fellow British rock legends Status Quo, tonight promises to be an evening full of stone cold, hard rock classics.

Opening the show is Melbourne’s Electric Mary, and throughout their thirty minute set it becomes more and more frustrating to think that the five-piece aren’t the biggest name in Australian rock music. They seem to have all the appropriate boxes ticked; killer songs, fantastic musicianship, a captivating frontman and the classic dirty rock image – but also managing to sound fresh and new, without having to rip off artists from the past. A possible reason to why they’re not huge is that they’re too rock n’ roll sounding for the likes of Triple J and Nova, but are too new for Triple M – if the band had been around in the 70’s they would no doubt be a mainstay on the station.

It’s a true shame that they get a fairly subdued reaction from the slowly filling Convention Centre, because Electric Mary absolutely rock hard, with tonight’s support slot being a testament to their skills of easily challenging the night’s headline act. The swagger of songs such as One In A Million and Let Me Out are unbelievably addictive, with molten guitar riffs, powerhouse drumming and bluesy vocal’s smothering the tracks. With any luck 2010 might just be the year that Electric Mary starts to get the recognition that they truly deserve.

Opening with the timeless Highway Star, Deep Purple take to the stage in front of completely full Convention Centre crowd. Lead by frontman Ian Gillan, and backed by a blindingly bright light show, the band show no sign of slowing down despite advancing age, and fire on all cylinders from start to finish.

It’s no secret that Gillan has lost a sizeable amount vocal power over the years, with his voice struggling throughout the show to hit his once famous high-notes – but it’s pretty unfair to compare his singing ability today to his amazing performance on the seminal Made In Japan live record; after all it was recorded almost four decades ago. What is somewhat bizarre is the fact that Gillian forgets the lyrics to more than one song during the set, none more obvious than the botched middle section from Space Truckin

Along with the set’s ‘classics’, the five-piece delve into their immensely deep (no pun intended) back catalogue, with rarities such as Wasted Sunsets, originally on their 1984 reunion album Perfect Strangers, and the muscular riffing of the hugely underrated The Battle Rages On.

Guitarist Steve Morse is easily the star of the show tonight though. Oft-criticised for over-playing Ritchie Blackmore ’s original guitar parts, the American axeman perfectly dances between soulful licks, blistering shred and straight ahead blues soloing. The delicate, yet rousing, Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming is definitely Morse’s calling card, with the soaring outro section segueing into the neo-classical fury of instrumental piece Well Dressed Guitar.

Meanwhile, in the engine room, bassist Roger Glover and drum hero, and only founding band member still in the group, Ian Paice are as tight as ever, moving between the metronomic pace of Speed King and the groove and looseness of Strange Kind Of Woman.

With the hugely extended Black Night bringing tonight’s proceedings to a close, it’s plain to see that Deep Purple still have the goods to deliver a powerful show worthy of a band a quarter of their age.