DVD Review: Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers

DVD Review Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A

Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers 2013
None of the members of the Mark II version of Deep Purple could put their fingers on the exact reason why they decided to reunite in 1984, except to say that the timing was right. 

Whenever the question was posed to any of them in the various TV interviews stitched together for the period tour documentary included as bonus footage and providing historical context for the new live DVD "Perfect Strangers," vague, incomplete and stammering answers cautiously escaped their mouths as if they didn't fully understand it either. There was something mystical at work.

Money wasn't the issue. One of the more contentious pieces in the piece, which seems to follow Purple from stop to stop, finds an irritated Ian Gillan bristling at the mere suggestion that a big pile of sweaty cash would entice them to reform when the idea was posited by two TV show hosts clearly angling for an admission that financial remuneration, and lots of it, was what brought them back together after all these years. Gillan said they'd had plenty of lucrative offers to do it since 1973, when the classic lineup simply couldn't bear to continue as they were then configured - his implication being that they would have done it a hell of a lot sooner if that was the only issue holding things up.

There was no explanation for it, aside from the fact that all the planets had aligned for Gillan, Roger Glover, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice and Jon Lord. And certainly none was needed when the magically reunified Mark II crew embarked on a massively successful tour in support of the platinum-selling comeback album, Perfect Strangers, that included this searing, and somewhat mischievous, performance of newer material and older classics Purple gave in Melbourne, Australia one night in '84.

The camera certainly doesn't lie, and neither does the roaring sound and sharp imagery of "Perfect Strangers," filmed smartly and with purpose to conscientiously capture not only the technically brilliant musicianship Purple's always been famous for, but also the explosiveness and wild-eyed euphoria of a group that had plenty of fire left in its belly and was as cohesive as ever.

Firing on all cylinders, Purple slams through a careening version of "Highway Star," riding high-voltage riffs, before getting caught in the wash of the bluesy spin cycle that is "Nobody's Home." With lust in their hearts and a wolfish demeanor, they revel in the surging testosterone of "Knocking at Your Back Door," a song of "low morals," as a devilish Gillian describes it. 

Haunting and mesmerizing, "Child in Time" is dark and beautifully rendered, punctuated by the magnificent, and barely human, screams of Gillan, clad in black leather pants and full of charismatic machismo. Building drama slowly, until the song becomes an exploding star, Purple also smolders in "Gypsy's Kiss," and expands "Perfect Strangers" into something even more exotic and cinematic in scope than on record. Everywhere else, however, the quickened pace of these songs is breathtaking, and the extended jams are furious and full of substantive, agile movements. No noodling is allowed.

The ramshackle, cosmic-hippie grooves of "Space Truckin'" rumble and shake; then suddenly, Purple falls down the rabbit hole of that dizzying chorus and burns up on re-entry. Unexpectedly playful, Gillan and Blackmore break ranks during a brawny, combustible "Strange Kind of Woman" and briefly segue into "Jesus Christ Superstar." And when Purple plows into the anti-war sentiment of "Under the Gun" with righteous intensity, Blackmore's crazed soloing and Hendrix-like showmanship, so gripping here, grows even wilder, with the guitar wizard laying his instrument over an amp and having his noisy, distorted way with it.

Directed for optimum action, with superbly written liner notes, "Perfect Strangers" is the concert film Deep Purple had to release, if for no other reason than to remind everyone that the MK2 lineup had few, if any, equals in a live setting. Nobody plays hard rock with this kind of passion and hunger, not to mention their virtuosity and indebtedness to classical music, just for money. http://www.eagle-rock.com/

- Peter Lindblad

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