DVD Review: Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers Live

A classic show from the reunion of the Mk II lineup.
  |   Comments

While every band seems to reunite these days, the 1984 reunion of Deep Purple's famed Mk II lineup was a major event in the music world. Rock and roll still dominated the charts and, after 11 years apart, fans welcomed the "Smoke On The Water" lineup of the band with open arms. During their time apart, Deep Purple briefly continued on with David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes handling vocals, singer Ian Gillan had a solo career along with a stint in Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore had great success with Rainbow. Still, Mk II's chemistry was undeniable and, after 11 years and some soul searching, the band managed to heal old wounds to release a new album and tour behind it.

The album, Perfect Strangers, was a blockbuster for the band, going platinum and spawning two legitimate Purple classics in "Perfect Strangers" and "Knocking At Your Back Door." Still, live concerts are where the band built its reputation and the Perfect Strangers tour was no exception. Sadly, very little footage of the band's reunion has ever been made available, until now. The tour began in Australia and the band had the cameras rolling, resulting in the DVD Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers Live.

The band comes out to a smoke-filled, but otherwise sparse, stage and delivers a blistering "Highway Star" to open the proceedings. Any fan that had doubts Deep Purple had lost anything to time would be quickly silenced, as the song was as ferocious as it was in the early 1970s. Gillan is in fine voice and does his best to double Blackmore's leads in this powerful opener. They next move into a groove-oriented "Nobody's Home," one of five songs featured from Perfect Strangers. Gillan offers a gritty vocal while Blackmore and keyboardist Jon Lord showcase some great musical interplay.

Gillan is a commanding presence in a heavy, confident "Perfect Strangers." Its menacing riff makes it a great live track. Lord and bassist Roger Glover are illuminated in red light during the intro to "Knocking At Your Back Door," another new song that translates really well to the live setting. Blackmore shows off some tasty slide playing on the track.

There are plenty of classic songs in the set as well. Gillan's voice defies time on the bridge of a driving "Strange Kind Of Woman," with an emotive solo from Blackmore while the pair is nothing short of stunning on "Child In Time." Lord's keyboard solo leads in to a funky "Space Truckin'" while an electrifying 'Speed King" finds Blackmore and Lord quoting everything from the band's "Burn" riff to "Jingle Bells" during an extended solo section. The show closes, of course, with "Smoke On The Water." Gillan offers a sinister laugh before perhaps the most recognizable guitar riff of all time kicks in. Everyone in the audience knows it is coming and they still go nuts - a fitting end to a fantastic show.

The DVD's picture quality is quite good for its age and, thankfully, its original 4:3 aspect ratio has been preserved. Audio options include DTS Digital Surround Sound, Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo. A tour documentary with some great behind-the-scenes footage is included as a bonus feature.

All good things must come to an end and, for Mk II, that came after their next album, The House of Blue Light. A final reunion attempt ended when Blackmore quit the band in 1993, never to return. Perfect Strangers Live is free of any acrimony. The band was riding high on a successful album and tour, appeared to be getting along and having fun on stage, and delivering killer concerts, as this must-own DVD demonstrates.