Deep Purple are no strangers to performing with an orchestra. Their legendary late keyboardist, Jon Lord, was a master at fusing rock and classical music in particular. In 2011, the band, now featuring the great Don Airey on keyboards, took to the stage at the Arena di Verona, A Roman amphitheater from 30 AD. Backed by the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt, the group delivered a powerful set of Deep Purple classics. The show was filmed, and makes up the Blu-ray Deep Purple With Orchestra -- Live in Verona.
The amphitheater makes for a spectacular setting, particularly as the sun goes down and the lights shine upon its ancient walls. After an orchestral overture including several famous Purple riffs, the band takes to the stage, opening with a ferocious "Highway Star." The orchestra doubles the riff and drummer Ian Paice is all groove on this Machine Head classic. While Ian Gillan may not have quite the vocal range he used to, he still pushes his voice here and on several other tracks to its upper limits, which are still higher than many singers.
A driving "Hard Lovin' Man" follows. With its menacing riff, the song is a natural for the orchestral treatment. Guitarist Steve Morse gives a fine, harmonized guitar lead on this strong, if lesser known, track. It's not all vintage tracks, however, as the band gives an excellent reading of the then new "Rapture Of The Deep." The orchestra fills out the sound on this vital latter day number, which has a Middle Eastern vibe to it.
While on some songs the orchestra is not as noticeable, when they do add to the songs, such as during an excellent "Knocking At Your Back Door," it really enhances the sound. Some tracks, such as "Smoke On The Water," don't need any embellishment, but the orchestra adds brief accents, reminding the listener they are there and changing the song in a slight, yet meaningful way.
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 and looks great, though it is hard to make this setting look bad. Audio Options include LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 96k.
After all these years, Deep Purple still delivers live. Combining the band's brilliant musicianship with that of an orchestra in a wonderful setting is a no-brainer and makes Deep Purple With Orchestra -- Live in Verona a big winner.