Deep Purple are perhaps one of the most celebrated bands ever, especially for their live performances, often with the legendary Made In Japan in mind. It is also true, however, that it would be somewhat limiting to think only of that album when you want to listen to a concert of this band, especially in light of the fact that, unlike other equally or more famous groups, Deep Purple actually released dozens of live shows from all of their career. Of course, one could also be interested in bootlegs here as it is still done with bands like Led Zeppelin, but let's say that, unlike them, in this case curiosity can be widely satisfied by remaining in the areas of the officially published.
Knowing, however, that the list of releases of this kind is very vast, I thought of making a sort of list here including those worthy of note in more or less chronological order, illustrating their content and reasons of interest.
Live At Inglewood 1968
The only proper live release of the so-called Mark I; the lineup which, in addition to Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice and Jon Lord, included Rod Evans on vocals and Nick Simper on bass. Unfortunately, the audio quality is not the best, as the result of a recording made by a single microphone, but, even if for pure historical interest, it is an essential listening. The setlist is obviously based on their first two albums, covers included, and lasts for about 50 minutes, as they played in support of Cream, then on their farewell tour. There is also video, albeit of low quality.
BBC Sessions 1968 - 1970 (2011)
An interesting and enjoyable collection of recordings made for the BBC, with songs ranging from the origins up to In Rock, with some unreleased tracks too. Some songs are actually played live in the studio, but many are just the studio versions, only remixed. The point of interest is the presence of songs such as Hey Bop A Re Bop (an early version of The Painter), It's All Over, Ricochet (early version of Speed King), Jaw Stew, Grabsplatter, as well as interesting versions of songs otherwise rarely played live, like Hard Loving Man.
Concerto For Group And Orchestra 1969
The first officiale release of Mark II with newcomers Ian Gillan and Roger Glover (if we don't count the single Hallelujah), obviously it is something very different from the typical image of the band, despite the fact that over the years it has become a legendary album. Entirely composed by Jon Lord, the Concerto was certainly appreciated by the bandmates, but their lack of interest was evident at that point, especially since their attentions were all towards the then still unreleased In Rock, which certainly was more in line with the Deep Purple image that they wanted to give to the public back then. But, even with all the tension in the band and with the musicians of the orchestra, the result is magnificent, and if you find the most recent 2 CD edition, you can enjoy a handful of songs played by the band alone as a soundcheck: Hush, Wring That Neck and the newly born Child In Time.
Live In Montreux 1969
Less than a month after the Concerto, for unknown reasons, it was decided to record this concert in Montreux. When the tape was found, in fact, no one knew why the recording was made, which was mixed on the spot and therefore not remixable. Mysteries aside, however, it is really interesting to listen to an entire setlist from this particular transitional phase, where songs like Hush, Kentucky Woman and new things, not yet well defined, such as Speed King and Child In Time coexist, obviously along with the long improvisations of Wring That Neck and Mandrake Root. It is also interesting how, from then to 1971, Ian Paice's drums solo was introduced by an instrumental version of Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. The audio quality is not excellent but still enjoyable.
BBC In Concert 1970
Often sold in a double set together with the 1972 one (which we will see later), this is another recording for the BBC, this time however for the radio program "In Concert". In these cases there were usually not just a handful of live tracks to be aired, as it was customary to do in the 1960s (not to mention the cases in which remixed tracks were broadcast), but the band usually played live for about an hour or more. There are in fact many cases of now legendary bands whose recordings for "BBC In Concert" have been going around as bootlegs for decades until their definitive official release. Deep Purple are no exception, and in this 1970 recording they limit themselves to 4 songs, all well known to those who followed their concerts at the time: Speed King, Child In Time, Wring That Neck and Mandrake Root. The performances are rather calm and relaxed if compared to other recordings of that time, but it is still interesting to listen to.
Live in Stockholm - Scandinavian Night 1970
Released with the title Scandinavian Night in 1988 with a tracklist rearranged to accommodate the limits of vinyl, and reprinted over the years as Live In Stockholm with the songs in the right order, it is undoubtedly one of the most important Deep Purple's live releases. Two hours long, with endless and incredibly creative improvisations, all in top form, what more could you want? Without a doubt the best representation of this still transitory phase but probably the most devastating in terms of thunderous and unrestrained performances. I recommend the 2014 edition, with the addition of the 25 minutes of Doing Their Thing on DVD. If you want just one more live album besides Made In Japan, consider this.
Live In Long Beach 1971
For years this has been around as a bootleg, and only recently it has been released officially, with a sound cleaned up as much as possible. Supporting the Faces and therefore with a setlist reduced to about an hour and a quarter, this live is decidedly important as the only one dated 1971. The setlist includes only four tracks, three of which are well known and without huge changes, but with the important addition of a Strange Kind Of Woman that was already being expanded at the time by the amusing voice-guitar duel by Gillan and Blackmore, who seem to have decidedly more fun here than they will do later, when this section eventually becomes more formulaic, as already will be in Made In Japan. Here there is more freedom, less organization, and there lies the beauty of it. The sound mix tends to give too much space to Gillan's voice, which often covers the instruments (especially in Child In Time), but if you can accept this aspect, you can enjoy an excellent live release.
BBC In Concert 1972
Often sold with the 1970 concert we talked about earlier, despite the multiple live releases from 1972 this has a handful of reasons that make it worthy of attention. First of all, the audio quality is excellent, although perhaps the drums are a bit low in volume, and back then Deep Purple were here in the midst of the promotion of the then brand new Machine Head, which is why they played Never Before and Maybe I'm A Leo, something very rare. In fact, these songs will be left out of the setlists shortly thereafter, bringing back the then momentarily excluded Child In Time and The Mule, with Ian Paice's solo, in their place. It must be said that these pieces, as well as Highway Star and Smoke On The Water, albeit to a lesser extent, limp a little, being new, and would have needed many more live performances to perfect them, something that in fact never happened. So, a slightly different concert and therefore worthy of attention.
Live in Copenhagen 1972
A live perhaps a little redundant since it is a bit of subdued performance and that the only difference from the others from 1972 (if we exclude improvisations) is Fireball played as an encore. The real reason I mention it is the presence of the excellent video, albeit in black and white. So, if you want some advice, avoid the CD version and get the DVD, which also contains half an hour from a concert in New York in 1973.
Made In Japan - Live In Japan 1972
There isn't much to say that has not already been said on this legendary live release, except that the double CD edition is highly recommended as it adds three encores taken from various nights (Speed King, Black Night and Lucille, although relegating only three songs to the second disc instead of better dividing everything, it always seemed like a strange choice to me). If you want more, there is also Live in Japan, which collects most of the three evenings recorded on that Japanese tour on three CDs. For obvious reasons of space there are songs excluded from every evening, but many of them are actually in Made In Japan, in fact reducing the repetitions as much as possible. What is certain is that Live in Japan is purely for completists, as the setlist repeats itself almost the same for all three concerts, and the only differences lie in the performances.
Live In London 1974
Let's move on to Mark III with the entrance of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, on tour in support of Burn. The setlist is typical for the period, and we will find it re-proposed in great part also in the following live releases, but this performance in particular is among the most solid and best recorded of this period. We find a handful of songs from Burn and just a couple of older things, where however the vocal style of the two newcomers makes us regret Gillan's performances a bit. It is certain, however, that in front of performances such as Burn, Mistreated and You Fool No One there is very little to complain about. Highly recommended.
California Jam 1974
Again a somewhat redundant live release, being the setlist here identical to the previous one and in a much lower audio quality. What makes the California Jam concert essential is the video, the only complete one of this lineup. If you can look over the audio mixing problems you can enjoy an excellent concert with Ritchie Blackmore angrier than usual (I suggest you to look online for the reason why) which eventually destroys a couple of guitars, gets angry with a cameraman and makes one of his Marshall amps explode, to then throw it all into the audience.
Live In Paris 1975
There are several interesting releases from this period, even if all drawn from the last three concerts of this lineup. First the short, albeit excellent, Made In Europe, then MK III: The Final Concerts and finally the operation, still in progress, of publishing the three concerts individually. The first to see the light was the last, the one in Paris, while the one in Graz has recently come out and the one in Saarbrucken is still unreleased. In support of Stormbringer, the setlist now includes a handful of new tracks such as the title track, Gypsy and Lady Double Dealer, and on this latest Paris date there is also the surprise of a clearly improvised on the spot Highway Star, in which Blackmore decides to extend his solo out of all proportion. Since this was Blackmore's last concert with Deep Purple in the 70s (and it seems he announced it to the band just before playing that evening), he plays with a charge and a transport that has rarely reached certain levels. In my opinion, this is one of the essential live shows together with Made In Japan and the Live in Stockholm from 1970.
Live In Long Beach 1976
With Blackmore out, the remaining members decide to call in Tommy Bolin, a talented guitarist who, due to his big drug problems, has never really brought out the best in Deep Purple. The most famous live release is the Budokan one, of which there is also half an hour of video; pity it is quite disastrous since Bolin that evening had his left hand numb "for some reason" This Long Beach concert instead is on a completely different level, with beautiful improvisations and excellent interpretations of the new songs from the enjoyable Come Taste The Band. A live release recommended as a curiosity, but not an essential one.
Perfect Strangers Live 1984
The result of one of the first great reunions in the history of rock music, with a very strong album released, the reborn Mark II returned to the stages in 1984. Unfortunately many things have changed: Ian Gillan has a very tired voice on alternate days after screaming for a full year with Black Sabbath, Blackmore is in the midst of his noise and a-melodic phase from which he will only definitively come out in the 90s and Paice, after a period in Whitesnake, seems to have been degraded to the role of drum machine for most of the time. Despite this, however, Perfect Strangers is one of the best Deep Purple albums, and the support tour showed that they still had some fire left. This concert in particular is among the first of the tour and, in my opinion, is up there with the best, and it is also supported by an excellent video. The setlist is well balanced between the old and the new, and much of the new actually doesn't sound bad at all.
Nobody's Perfect 1988
The disagreements between Blackmore and Gillan were not slow to resurface, and in fact the support tour to The House Of Blue Light is remembered as very tense and certainly not happy. The same can be said about the only live output taken from that tour, battered by cuts and terribly hasty and discontinuous. It is certain, however, that what is there is not as terrible as one might think from the premises. Indeed the opposite I would say, as after the long tour of 84/85 the band is decidedly more experienced, Blackmore seems to be a little more disciplined and Gillan infinitely more vocally stable. Curious is the decision to put a version of Hush re-recorded in the studio at the time at the end of the album, as well as inexplicable is the exclusion of The Unwritten Law and Paice's solo in it, but otherwise we find excellent versions of the new 80s songs, which often exceed their studio counterparts. Needless to say, the double CD version is recommended as the vinyl, cassette and single CD editions are characterized by large cuts in the tracklist.
Live in Stuttgart 1993
After Gillan's abandon, Joe Lynn Turner's entry for the controversial Slaves And Master and related supporting tour (of which there are no official live releases), Gillan is brought back against the will of Blackmore, and The Battle Rages On sees the light. Technically the most common live release taken from the support tour would be Come Hell Or High Water, which in its CD version collects tracks from the concerts in Stuttgart and Birmingham, while in its video version it focuses only on Birmingham. The problem is that the CD has an incomplete tracklist, while the video, albeit highly recommended, shows a constantly enraged Blackmore, engaged in entering and exiting the stage continuously (famous is the midway entry in Highway Star and the beer thrown against the camera operator). The only positive side of that live lies in the spectacular performances of Jon Lord, perhaps inspired by the need to make up for the guitarist's shortcomings. The Stuttgart show however is certainly among the best live recordings of post-reunion Deep Purple , full of interesting improvisations and excellent performances, as in the remarkable extended version of Anya.
Live At The Olympia 1996
Blackmore is out, Satriani is in to finish the tour and then all is left to Steve Morse. From here on the list of live releases is endless, both audio and video, but I will try to limit myself to what I consider at least essential. From the Purpendicular tour we have this interesting concert at the Olympia in Paris which, although Gillan is not in top form, is particularly interesting both for the new songs added and for the unexpected repechage (most likely in reaction to the veto imposed previously by Blackmore, see Pictures Of Home, When A Blind Man Cries, No One Came and Maybe I'm A Leo). To top it off, there are a couple of tracks that have been otherwise very rarely played (Rosa's Cantina and The Purpendicular Waltz) and the addition of a brass section in a handful of tracks. A highly recommended concert. If you want more from this year I recommend Montreux 1996, of which there is also a video.
Total Abandon 1999
Supporting Abandon, an excellent audio and video concert recorded in Australia. A great opportunity to listen to a handful of new songs, a new version of Bloodsucker, Ian Gillan definitely in better shape than the previous live, and Steve Morse who has definitively integrated into the formation. The flagship of every live of the period that goes from post-Blackmore up until Jon Lord will eventually leave the band, is undoubtedly When A Blind Man Cries, in an extended and even more intense version of the original one, and here is no exception.
Live In Newcastle 2001
Recently released (although part of the series of "official bootlegs" released back in the day), it is a live which, although with a setlist similar to the previous one, sees the presence of a jewel like Fools, the return of Woman From Tokyo and the presence, again, of a brass section in some tracks. A little curiosity, more for hardcore fans, but noteworthy.
Live At The NEC 2002
Another excellent video and audio concert, noteworthy for the passing of the baton from Jon Lord to Don Airey. Don in fact plays for most of the concert, while Lord surprisingly enters in Perfect Strangers, and the two end the concert together. An exciting moment not to be missed.
Live in Verona 2011
A leap forward of almost ten years (as I don't think there are essential live shows in that period, apart from perhaps the live in Montreux in 2007, interesting only for the presence of songs from Rapture Of The Deep), and here we are in 2011. There are two live releases from this interesting tour with the orchestra: this one from Verona, released in 2014, and that from Montreux, which was released shortly after the end of the tour. If both, available both audio and video, are equally excellent in terms of performance (even if poor Gillan obviously begins to feel age), the Verona concert can obviously boast a much more suggestive location, which is why the choice falls on the latter. Whether it was a good or bad idea to add the orchestra to the songs in question is not for me to say, it is certainly an opportunity to see a concert a little different from the usual, as well as to enjoy the entry into the setlist of pearls like Hard Loving Man.
...To The Rising Sun in Tokyo 2014
Second part of a couple of releases designed to testify the support tour to Now What?!, The first volume of which is From The Setting Sun, recorded and filmed in 2013 at the Wacken festival. To The Rising Sun, on the other hand, is taken from the concert at the Budokan in 2014 and, in my opinion, it is a much more solid and interesting concert, not least for the fact that since it is not a festival the setlist is complete here. The usual balance between excellent new songs and the usual classics make a beautiful concert to see and hear. If you really want to listen to a 2013 concert, before jumping on From The Setting Sun try the Live In Rome released this year.
The Infinite Live Recordings Vol. 1 2017
A strange release, not very well promoted and taken from their performance at the Hellfest in 2017, on the support tour to Infinite. Most likely one of the most powerful live in recent years, also thanks to the production of Bob Ezrin. The band is in top form, and the new tracks work great. Bloodsucker and Fireball return to an incendiary setlist that seems to "sit" only at the end, with the now usual encore section that, perhaps, would not hurt too much to change after fifteen years.