Eagle Vision has meticulously issued DEEP PURPLE live videos over recent years covering the variant Mark periods of the band. It's only fitting they unearth the reunion of the MKII-era lineup for "Perfect Strangers Live", a video document showcasing Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, Roger Glover and the late Jon Lord as they reformed in 1984 and blew through what Glover refers to as "great times for DEEP PURPLE."
"Perfect Strangers Live" not only serves as a nice tribute to Jon Lord, it opens and closes the door to a remarkably hopeful and ultimately foiled attempt to recapture old glories in the band. To get to this point in '84 and '85 when this video was captured, the members of what most consider to be the best lineup of DEEP PURPLE needed to mend their fences and push past the differences culminating in the eleven years' division following Ian Gillan and Roger Glover's partings from the group.
History shows that this optimistic reunification of the MKII lineup producing two successful studio albums, "Perfect Strangers" and "The House of Blue Light", would be short-lived once Ian Gillan again left the band momentarily and then Ritchie Blackmore after him. What's special about "Perfect Strangers Live" is that DEEP PURPLE fans get the opportunity to revel in the band's upbeat and footloose temperament while it was still hot.
The set list of this 1985 concert contained five tracks from the "Perfect Strangers" album including the title track, "Knocking On Your Back Door", "Nobody's Home", "A Gypsy's Kiss" and "Under the Gun". The rest is corralled of MKII-era staples such as "Highway Star", "Smoke On the Water", "Lazy", "Child in Time", "Black Night", "Speed King" and "Space Truckin'".
DEEP PURPLE historically has been a band thriving on improvisation, but clearly they made a merry time out of freestyle and goofery in this set while feeling one another out onstage again. Ian Gillan jokes on numerous occasions about singing the songs in other languages but sticks to English the entire time. Ritchie Blackmore noodles through DEEP PURPLE's countless jam moments where you'll find him dipping into Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" movement from the 9th Symphony, "Waltzing Matilda" and excerpts from "Jesus Christ Superstar". He also throws in a quick set of riffs from the MKIII era's "Burn" during "Speed King", being ever the snarky chap. Blackmore's solos range from wired and scorching to downright aloof. When he tears into his solo for "Under the Gun", Blackmore blips all around stage left, then drags his frets across a floor amp to emit a scratchy set of scales.
Jon Lord is no less of a clown, spooling off out-of-nowhere slivers of John Williams' "Jaws" theme, Holst's "The Planets" and even "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". His organ soloing is tight most of the time, completely unruly in others. At one point, Lord is so into keeping things on the fun side he rocks his Hammond back and forth from its mount. You can catch Lord asking Blackmore "What was that?" in the middle of latter's cracking through "Speed King" before both players start dicking around in tandem.
Ian Gillan sidles up to Ritchie Blackmore and tries to scat his wails to the same pitches of Blackmore's guitar pleats. He also plays along with Jon Lord during "Knocking On Your Back Door" as well as cutting Lord off outright in the middle of "Lazy" with a harmonica solo. Watching the shenanigans from his riser is the always-stellar Ian Paice, who appears to be getting a good laugh while keeping the band glued as best he can. Of course, Paice delivers a mondo-long drum solo (a norm for the Eighties), so no one is immune from extemporization in this set.
In some ways, this overt lack of focus and wayward jamming from DEEP PURPPLE 1985 pesters the songs more than accents them, but for the viewer, this is a lot of nonsensical amusement worth viewing. As much as DEEP PURPLE jams and extends their classics to the point they induce sporadic boredom, the "Perfect Strangers" cuts are hammered out mostly straight. The raunchy "Knocking On Your Back Door" is played in a slightly different key, but it comes off strong, as do "Nobody's Home" and "Perfect Strangers".
The most exhilarating element to "Perfect Strangers Live" is watching Ian Gillan hop aboard the congas after screeching like a banshee through the choruses of "Child in Time", flailing away like the old psych days. Gillan stays positioned frequently at the congas when he's not front and center singing. During "Space Truckin'", Gillan seems to be outright possessed by the congas while Ritchie Blackmore gets lost in the static emissions jerked out by his whammy bar.
In the bonus features is a segment called "Tour Documentary", which is really a succession of old news clips from around the world including a Canadian music show and "The Old Grey Whistle Test" from the UK, where Ian Gillan staves off yellow questions about whether or not money was an issue for his coming back to DEEP PURPLE. Roger Glover nets the quotable of the whole video when asked if he considered DEEP PURPLE a heavy metal band: "we're more country and western compared to heavy metal."
As Ian Gillan introduces the brisk and punchy "Speed King" in the concert as "one of the slowest songs DEEP PURPLE ever recorded", one can appreciate how much of a rip he and the band were having at this point in their careers. Their set here is grossly undisciplined but in the interest of their short-lived camaraderie, the silliness and the adlibbing deservedly command the spotlight more than the reunion itself.