Friday, August 08, 2014

Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult provide one-two hard rock punch in Costa Mesa

Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, CA
When: Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Performing before a near-capacity crowd on August 6, Deep Purple includes,
from left, keyboardist Don Airey, guitarist Steve Morse and singer Ian Gillan.
Classic rock comes in all sonic shapes and musical sizes.
Such was definitely the case courtesy of the latest classic rock offering at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, with a rousing and hard-rocking one-two punch delivered by opener Blue Öyster Cult with a follow-up knockout blow delivered by Deep Purple.

To be sure, neither Long Island, NY-spawned BÖC or British hard rock outfit Deep Purple get the credit they rightfully deserve from the establishment. Look no further than Deep Purple being nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in both 2012 and 2013, and getting passed over for the honor despite their long-time eligibility (dating back to 1993). And while  BÖC has been around since the late 1960s, the band can't even get a nomination from the good (bad) folks in Cleveland!

I've seen both bands a number of times over the years and always had a great time, so didn't hesitate to pick up a ticket to catch both bands together. Indeed, I am a critic out of step with many of my peers, eager to celebrate music that blends bona fide virtuoso chops, solid songwriting and a heavy rock sound together. 

BÖC, from left, includes Eric Bloom, Richie Castellano
"Buck Dharma" and (rear) drummer Jules Radino.
BÖC made the most of a fast-paced 45-minute set, performing all of the quintet's hits as well as early material that blended an eclectic brew of folk, psychedelic and progressive rock together. Although many in the crowd (comprised of hardcore, but many casual concertgoers) didn't recognize BÖC's opening cut "The Red and the Black," the opening track immediately impressed with Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser displaying his fiery and expressive lead guitar work and his still-strong vocals. 

The audience really got into the excitement of the night with the next performance, a powerful "Burnin' For You" with full harmonies and a powerful drive filling the night. The momentum only built, with BÖC closing with an epic "Godzilla" (complete with bass and drum solos) before the band brought it all home via the seminal "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."

Dharma had no trouble impressing again, performing lead guitar work and singing the song with the proper air of mystery that has made the original recording so timeless. Richie Castellano has long been the band's secret weapon and added additional guitar firepower and lush keyboards during the set. 

BÖC setlist on Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The Red and the Black / Burnin' For You / Buck's Boogie / Then Came the Last Days of May / Godzilla / (Don't Fear) The Reaper

Made no mistake, despite the ravages of time (notably the death of long-time keyboardist Jon Lord in 2012), Deep Purple still rocks. While long-time singer Ian Gillan's vocals lack the fierce range and power he brought to material he recorded with the band in the '70s and '80s, the 68-year-old Londoner is still a singer able to bring emotional heft to the proceedings and he did that throughout Deep Purple's 90-minute outing at the Pacific on Wednesday night, particularly during the straight-ahead rocker "Into the Fire" and later on "Perfect Strangers."

Extended (but always artful) instrumental incursions were the order of the night for the band, with the opener "Highway Star" boasting masterful work from keyboardist Don Airey and guitarist Steve Morse. Highlights came everywhere, from the infectious metal groove of "Vincent Price" and AC/DC-styled "Hell to Pay" to the avant-garde "Strange Kind of Woman" and audience sing-along "Space Truckin'."

A memorable 7-minute take on "Smoke on the Water," which closed out the band's regular set," was given power by the five musicians on stage as well as artful displays of burning fire projected in the rear and an enthusiastic crowd into the experience.

The night ended just minutes before the venue's 10:30 p.m. curfew with a deep blues version of "Black Night," with Morse playing some heavy blues guitar to further showcase Deep Purple's far-flung attack. And no review of Deep Purple would be complete without crediting founding member Ian Paice, who provided powerful and consistently in-the-pocket drumming all night long.

Deep Purple setlist on Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Highway Star / Into the Fire / Hard Lovin' Man / Strange Kind of Woman / Vincent Price / Contact Lost / Uncommon Man / The Well-Dressed Guitar / Lazy / Hell to Pay / Keyboard Solo / Perfect Strangers / Space Truckin' / Smoke on the Water
Encore: Green Onions (Booker T. & the MG's cover) / Hush / Black Night (Billy Joe Royal cover)

Review and photos: Robert Kinsler

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