Live in Stuttgart 1993 is one of the Deep Purple archive re-releases. It was originally part of the 4 concert Live in Europe release that captured Ritchie Blackmore’s final concerts as a member of the band on their 25th anniversary tour. The band had begun working on their new album, when the record company wanted to sack Joe Lynn Turner and bring back Ian Gillan for the anniversary. Blackmore didn’t agree and it took a quarter of a million dollars to get him to buy in. But it didn’t last long. The album they released, The Battle Rages On, is an excellent contribution to their catalog in my opinion. But the differences of opinion were just too big. Blackmore decided he’d had enough.
This concert is near the end of the string performed with Ritchie, and he is in fine form (for the most part). This is yet another excellent concert release. The set list for this 25th anniversary tour for the Mach II line up is different, and that isn’t just because of the new material. They removed a few old standards, like Strange Kind of Woman, and inserted a few other songs including the questionable choice of Anyone’s Daughter. Surely they could have found a better song than this country-ish song to represent the Fireball album (which Gillan loved and Blackmore didn’t). This is probably evidence of the shift in control that Blackmore noticed and didn’t quite appreciate. Some songs are just moved, like Black Night shifting to the 2nd song instead of being part of the encore.
The highlights of this concert include the new material, particularly Anya with some extended solos by the temperamental guitarist. Space Trucking was also transformed into a pretty good medley of songs. The turmoil in the band produces a great show as Blackmore feeds off of the negative energy.
The low lights would be that nothing was included from the Mach I line up. It would have been great to hear a short version of Hard Road (Wring that Neck) for Mandrake Root or instance. Nothing from House of Blue Light makes the cut either. Ian’s between song banter is centered on a big soccer match (I think) going on that night. There are few song introductions like on Come Hell or High Water, now released as Live in Birmingham (with Ritchie not coming on stage until the camera man gets far away). The bigger issues are that Gillan’s voice sounds harsh at times and you can’t really hear the bass often (I no longer have a stereo system so that may be the problem). At times Gillan forgets lyrics which is one of those things that probably drove Ritchie crazy.
Highway Star opens the concert, as usual. It is good, but Blackmore’s first solo is not up to his usual standards. The second is better as he seems to be warming up. After Black Night they play Talkin’ About Love one of the new songs. Oddly the guitar mostly drops out on the 2nd half of each verse. But it still has an interesting interplay between Lord’s organ and Ritchie’s guitar. After some nonsensical ramblings by Ian they rip into Twist in the Tale from the new album. The rendition of Perfect Strangers is solid, and lacks the echo effects on Ian’s voice that was common in the 80’s concerts. His voice does sound better on as the concert goes on, and this is one in which he sounds particularly good. (If I remember correctly, this was one of the riffs Ritchie had been working on for Rainbow that found a good home on the first reunion album.)
What follows is a different version of The Mule than you’ve probably heard. There are no vocals on this shortened version. Its solo bears some resemblance to Difficult to Cure at points. It does not culminate in a drum solo like on so many other old concert CDs. It does move into Difficult to Cure though. This sets the stage for Lord’s classical-filled solo that also has some funk to it. It is an interesting solo but seems to lack cohesion. Next is Knocking at Your Back Door with a short bass solo by Roger at the beginning. Jon and Ritchie trade solos after the second and third verses. Again Ian’s voice holds up well in a song that has some demanding parts.
The shift to Anyone’s Daughter just sounds strange in light of the songs that came before it. And those that follow it. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me. It does connect with the previous song in terms of theme: sexual immorality (thankfully not many of their songs touch this subject). The bright point, I guess, is the lack of distortion on Ritchie’s guitar. He plays it fairly clean for the song.
They enter the “anti-war” section (according to Ian’s comments in Birmingham) with Child in Time, the new song Anya in which Ritchie has his best solo for the concert, and The Battle Rages On. Too bad they didn’t have time to squeeze in Under the Gun as well. But this is a very good portion of the concert.
Then they dig back to one of the old standards with Lazy. This is different than usual because this time it features Ian’s drum solo. It is fast paced and led by one of Blackmore’s signature solos. After the song Ritchie plays part of what will become Hall of the Mountain King on the next Rainbow album. It is a a glimpse of what is to come for him, sounding like a throwback to the Dio days with a medieval feel. It was the direction he wanted to go musically and the rest of the band wasn’t interested. This sets up the Space Truckin’ medley which included Woman from Tokyo and Paint It Black. Paint it Black didn’t sound as good as Woman from Tokyo. The real problem was Gillan’s vocals. At times they were indecipherable. It just didn’t work. In the Birmingham show it was part of the Smoke on the Water medley. Here Smoke on the Water is the final song. This medley ends the regular part of the show.
The encore starts with Speed King. It is a good rendition of the song the a the riff from Burn thrown in for good measure. Technically, Hush is a song from the Mach I unit but they did a new version in the 80’s. This is the 2nd song of the encore, and has the most forgotten lyrics, with Gillan making the best of a bad situation. They close with the song most fans have been waiting for, Smoke on the Water. It starts with a mellow solo based on the famous riff before letting loose. At one point Gillan is really off, and makes note of how horrible that sounded.
This concert shows a few things:
- Blackmore still had the skills that made him famous. Overall his playing is great, and his creativity stills shines through. At times he did settle for speed, but there are still plenty of pieces that demonstrate his skill.
- Gillan’s skills, on the other hand, were in decline already. The voice goes faster than the fingers and Gillan’s range was decreasing. Some of this was age, and some from not taking care of his voice.
I hate to beat a dead horse, but Deep Purple was better with Blackmore without Gillan than with Gillan and without Blackmore. They lost the creative spark of the band. Things were less tense, most definitely, but also less exciting. This concert makes the end of an era, essentially the end of my favorite band. Some of the material with Steve Morse is good, but it just isn’t the same. Ritchie would only do one more rock album before falling completely under the spell of Candice and medieval folk music. But Blackmore finally found happiness as he and has been with her and played with her for nearly 20 years which is the longest he’s ever done that. This concert is an appropriate ending because it reveals some of why the Mach II lineup could not coexist.
This is another great concert from Deep Purple. With the “newer” material it does deserve to be in any fan’s collection. That new material is great material with some exceptional solos.