PHOTOS + REVIEW — Deep Purple at Mahaffey Theater St. Pete, FLA 2023

Deep Purple w/ The Marshall Tucker Band • February 20, 2023 • Mahaffey Theater — St. Petersburg, FL • Photos by Randy Cook —


Deep Purple | February 20, 2023 | Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, FL

Formed in 1968, Deep Purple have long been considered among the forefathers of the heavy metal that I have grown up with and come to love, including its evolution to today’s modern metal. They put on one hell of a performance before my eyes and a very nearly sold out crowd in St. Petersburg, FL. This was my first time seeing either Deep Purple or their opening act, The Marshall Tucker Band and with a combined one hundred and six years of musical history between the two bands, I knew going into the show that this was going to be a night of music to my ears.
Entering their seventh decade in the rock world, you can imagine the band has gone through some lineup changes over the years, with their longest tenured lineup of twenty years changing last year when Steve Morse retired and Simon McBride took the reins as lead axe man. It is easy to say that some of the previous members include some definitive royalty across the rock & roll family tree, boasting the likes of Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner and Joe Satriani. “Deep Purple, together with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, have been referred to as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-seventies”. They were listed in the 1975 Guinness Book of World Records as “the globe’s loudest band” for a 1972 concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide.”

Once my friend Joe and I arrived at the venue and breezed through security, as I do with every show I attend I took in the demographics of the crowd and as expected it was more of an older audience. I did notice a few younger faces in the crowd. Honestly, I was expecting at least a few more younger attendees as Deep Purple has a couple of songs included in the Rock Band video game series, which usually helps to broaden the audience to a younger generation. The best way I can describe the crowd gathered for the show was I do not think anyone got carded buying brinks at the bar this evening.

Reading up on the opening act, I learned that “The “Marshall Tucker” in the band’s name does not refer to a band member, but rather a blind piano tuner from Columbia, South Carolina. While the band was discussing possible band names one evening in an old warehouse they had rented for rehearsal space, someone noticed that the warehouse’s door key had the name “Marshall Tucker” inscribed on it, and suggested they call themselves “The Marshall Tucker Band,” not realizing it referred to an actual person. Later it came to light that Marshall Tucker, the blind piano tuner, had tuned a piano in that rented space before the band and his name was inscribed on the key. Music historian Joel Whitburn erroneously attributes “Marshall Tucker” to the owner of the band’s rehearsal hall in his book Top Pop Singles, 1955-2002. Marshall Tucker died on January 20, 2023, at the age of 99.”

I surprised myself by recognizing more music from The Marshall Tucker Band than I expected. I knew they would play several radio staples that I have heard over the decades, but I always find myself amazed when I say to myself “I did not know they played this song!” Their hit “Can’t You See” was and remains a song that if I come across while flipping the radio dial I always stop on and listen to until its conclusion but to see and hear this classic song live was the special moment for me in their set. Combined with a triple lead guitar attack, founding member and lead vocalist Doug Gray led us through a musical journey that the crowd did not want to end. Gray said just prior to their last song of the evening that their band was “…here to get you loosened up — music is supposed to make you feel good…” before receiving a standing ovation at the end of their set. The night was already off to a great start.

As the lights went out the crowd gave an enthusiastic cheer for the main event and the band launched into their opening song “Highway Star.” Within the first few notes, fans were up and out of their seats walking down memory lane with cherished tunes from their (and my) younger days. After my three songs behind the lens and checking my camera with the venue staff, I made my way to my seat during ‘Nothing at All’ and settled in to sit back and enjoy this musical journey. Watching the crowd rock out I had a thought that made me laugh to myself a couple of different times. After the show, I shared with Joe how those in attendance this evening, and every night along the tour, that these were the ‘metalheads’ of yesteryear, how these were the rebellious kids who cranked up their music and had their parents say “turn down that darn rock music!!!” It just made me laugh how this comes full circle to every generation and here were the pioneers that paved the way and influenced my generation. True to form, there was no way to share this tidbit with Joe during the songs as the volume was definitely cranked up to TEN!

I love how it was such a simple stage layout, no gimmicks or anything, just a drum set and plenty of room for guitarist Simon McBride and bassist Roger Glover to roam. Lead singer Ian Gillan was masterful throughout the entire set in his facial expressions as he belted out these legendary tunes and showed us fans his full emotion he puts into his vocal delivery. There was a video display behind drummer (and the only remaining original member) Ian Paice and keyboardist Don Airey that displayed psychedelic images and swirls that mesmerized my mind in tune with the tunes being played and literally pulled me in as part of the show.

As the set list progressed through the night, Ian certainly welcomed the fans to sing along, but in no way needed us to carry the tunes as he still has an amazing vocal range. In fact, for his intro to ‘Space Truckin’’ he held the “e” in “Space” for so long, even I was gasping for breath waiting for that note to conclude – we in the crowd recognized and roared our approval as the band tore into one of their most recognizable hits. Once the famous intro riff to “Smoke on the Water” hit our ears there was not a single person still seated that I could tell from my vantage point. Again that funny thought of “turn that rock music down” brought a smile to my lips as there were many horns raised and fists were in the air throughout the entire crowd. Their setlist covered six of their twenty two studio albums and featured an extended keyboard solo leading into ‘Lazy’ which was part of my mesmerized journey mentioned previously.

My friend Sima who also attended the show said afterward “…guitarist Simon McBride played Ritchie Blackmore’s parts to a T, adding his own flair and modern sound which may have some Richie Blackmore fans’ heads spinning.” Sima also added …” we could not stop talking about how amazing the legendary Don Airey was on keyboards. That is the same guy that brought us the intro to Mr. Crowley and the masterpiece that is Revelation (Mother Earth) off of (Ozzy Osbourne’s solo debut release) Blizzard of Oz…”. I would say that I am 100 percent in agreement with both of Sima’s statements as there was more than once when I was fixated on Don Airey working his magic over the keys and we had incredible views on the video screen above and behind the band of his hands dancing over those keys. Which in turn brought many people up and out of their seats and dancing to the rhythm. When a band has that long of a musical history to pull from, it was apparent that every song played was someone’s favorite.

One funny thing to note after the show concluded, I saw two couples who met up in the lobby after the show and one of the men pulled out his earplugs, not realizing they were still in. Upon seeing his hearing protection, one of the women said something like “I sure could have used those in there!” and as I can attest, I was glad to have brought mine. The sound crew need props for how great the quality was for both bands. That is one of my favorite reasons for this venue as the acoustics are out of this world awesome every show I have ever seen here.

I saw nothing but smiling faces as we were leaving the venue. The consensus between myself and Joe on the drive home and after conversing with Sima the next day was that it was a phenomenal show and how I should not have waited all this time to finally see these living legends live. While this was the next to last American show on this tour and the band heads overseas with international dates starting in March, I highly recommend to anyone who has not seen these legends live to see them before at some point inevitably concluding their touring career. However, after the raw energy I witnessed at the show I attended, I think that touring conclusion is a long way off as Deep Purple absolutely kicked-ass live! \m/

Deep Purple set list February 20, 2023, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, FL.
Highway Star
Pictures of Home
No Need to Shout
Nothing at All
Uncommon Man
When a Blind Man Cries
Keyboard Solo
Perfect Strangers
Space Truckin’
Smoke on the Water
Hush (Joe South cover)
Bass Solo
Black Night

Deep Purple Live Review by: Randy Cook

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