It's not fair to call Deep Purple a "one hit wonder" band, but having not been around when they were in their prime and really only know a song or two, to me and those of my generation who are unfamiliar with their music, they definitely are. I grew up playing guitar and like almost everyone who begins playing at a young age, the riff behind "Smoke on the Water" is a must-learn. But besides that, they're music is mostly foreign to me.
The current Deep Purple is a shell of the original band. Most of the members are now replacements of the originals. It's quite funny to watch them play live now, more than 40 years after they got their start. The band consists of a bunch of old guys. Lead singer Ian Gillian reminds me of geezer I met at the pool while visiting my grandparents at the retirement community Leisure World in Arizona. On stage, he wears an odd collared polo shirt that makes him look like he just rode over in a golf cart after playing 18 holes. When he opens his mouth to sing, he looks like he's about to keel over from giving a too physical impression of Iron Maiden – only he's completely serious. Gillian looks the way I imagine my old man doing a bad hair band impression.
Because the original members of the band had strong ties to Montreux, Switzerland, they decided to record this concert there. But what doesn't seem right is that they're performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I understand that they might be heavily influenced by jazz, but it sure doesn't come through in their music. “Butt rock” couldn't be farther from jazz.
And why is it that almost all rock bands at one time or another feel it necessary to be accompanied by an orchestra? From extremely melodic bands like Yes, I can see it fitting. But why Deep Purple? Why Metallica? The riff-driven, heavily distorted music doesn't lend itself well to orchestral accompaniment. The only times that the orchestra proves to be a worthy addition to this concert is when they're without the band or functioning as the supporting back-up music to sweet guitar or keyboard solo. Aside from that, they add nothing to the show.
The one shining moment from this concert comes as the youngest member in the band (Steve Morse, 56) plays a David Gilmour-ish (Pink Floyd) guitar solo with the orchestra supplying the background music. Morse was brought into the band in '94, taking over the role temporarily held by legendary guitarist Joe Satriani. Being a fan of Satriani, I can attest to Morse being a worthy candidate for replacing him. The only problem with Morse is that he's not given enough time on stage to prove his worth. He's bogged down by the rest of the band members who are trying to pretend like they're still in their prime.
The 18-song setlist goes as follows: "Deep Purple Overture/Highway Star," "Hard Lovin' Man," "Maybe I'm a Leo," "Strange Kind of Woman," "Rapture of the Deep," "Woman from Tokyo," "Contact Lost," "When a Blind Man Cried," "The Well Dressed Guitar," "Knocking at Your Back Door," "Lazy," "No One Came," "Don Airey Solo," "Perfect Strangers," "Space Truckin'," "Smoke on the Water," "Hush" and "Black Night."
Presumably, true Deep Purple fans will enjoy seeing their beloved rock band take the stage again, but those unfamiliar with the band will watch it and wonder if it's a joke. All but two of the songs are unfamiliar and hearing a nearly 70-year-old frontman singing and screaming in falsetto isn't exactly what we expect to see on stage. Unfortunately, this is another, “for the fans only” concert Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Live at Montreux 2011' arrives on a BD-50 in a standard single-disc blue keepcase. Inserted in the case is a four-page booklet with photos from the show and an essay about Deep Purple by writer Max Bell. Behind the booklet and disc, visible through the transparent blue case, two images – the official image from the festival and the image on the bass of Ian Paice's drum kit. Upon inserting the disc, the only thing that plays before the menu is an unskippable vanity reel for Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has given 'Live at Montreux 2011' a mild 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 live transfer presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Had the contrast not been blown out, this would have been a fantastic demo-worthy concert Blu-ray, but as is it's painful.
I've never seen how much bad contrast can destroy a Blu-ray video quality until now. The contrast level is so far to the right that all blacks are white grays and anything bright is detail-less. Gillian's white polo shirt has no texture whatsoever. You can't even tell where to mid-chest buttons end and begin. All of the white keys on Don Airey's keyboard blend into one long white mass. Not a single white key is individually visible. Instead, the keyboard appears to consist of one lone white board any many smaller black keys.
This poor contrast eats away all details that lie within bright spotlight – which consists of the majority of the stage. Pores, individual hairs and all textures are chewed up by the overpowering bright lights. The contrast also causes the mood fog to be brighter than it should, giving almost every camera shot a fuzzy haze that overall softens the picture quality.
While concerts are typically very colorful musical experiences, again, the contrast tears the vibrancy right out of the colored lights. Everything seems to be washed out. Noise is never a factor, although banding shows up on a few occasions.
It's a shame when Blu-rays don't have equally matching video and audio qualities. Had the video mirrored the same high quality as the audio, this Blu-ray would be noteworthy. Coming from Eagle Rock Entertainment, as always, the same three listening options are available: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, LPCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. The Dolby Digital and LPCM tracks are just fine, but the Master Audio track is easily the best of the three.
From the symphonic opening by the Neue Philharmonie from Frankfurt, Germany, it's immediately obvious that this is going to be a fully immersive experience. The band is perfectly balanced with the orchestra, neither of their audio is lost and they never overpower one another. The individual instruments within the band are perfectly balanced too. You can always shift your attention to a single instrument and hear it clearly.
Volume is always perfectly balanced, never too soft nor too loud. The dynamic range is fairly constant, which is to be expected when listening to music. All channels are constantly in use and are well utilized. Occasionally, you're hear random guitar squeals pop up in different channels around the room. Where the band leaves gaps in the audio, the orchestra is there to fill them in, leaving not a single bit of the space in silence.
Although the special feature interviews are accessible individually, once you start one, they all play out continuously.
Considered to be a classic rock band, I sure wasn't very impressed by Deep Purple live. Listening to mostly classic rock radio stations when my iPod is not plugged in, I thought I'd know more of their tracks, but only knew two from the Blu-ray - "Hush" and "Smoke on the Water." The majority of their repetitious music is "butt rock," and with Gillian's vocals sounding like an Iron Maiden impression, it sure doesn't help. While the audio quality fantastically fills all the channels with full, well balanced clear and crisp sound, the blown out video destroys the integrity of the Blu-ray. Detail, clarity and blacks are washed away, making this a Blu-ray strictly for the fans.