Deep Purple performed on this day in 1994 at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, Mexico.
This concert is notable in Deep Purple’s history for two reasons. First of all, before this concert the band had never before played in Mexico. Perhaps even more critically, this concert serves as a huge turning point in Deep Purple’s history as the first gig guitarist Steve Morse played with the band. As of this writing in 2020, he has been with the band for twenty-six years, half of their entire fifty-two years life span.
After Ritchie Blackmore’s mid-tour departure in November 1993, the band carried on for a while with Joe Satriani. Satriani allowed Purple to successfully finish the Battle Rages On Tour, but had commitments of his own he had to honor. Thus, he did not join the band for any further work. Thus, for the second time in less than twelve months, Deep Purple had to find a new guitarist.
Steve Morse is at first look an unusual choice for Deep Purple, as a guitarist completely outside the hard rock world, and an American to boot. However, if From Here to Infinite is to be believed, the band chose him unanimously as their next guitarist. To investigate, they sent Roger Glover ahead to scout him out in the summer of 1994. It was at this time that Glover and Morse posed together for a photo that would later be joined with an image of the remaining three members of the band as a promotional image, despite the fact that they had not yet met. The first photo I could find of the five of them together can be found here, but I’m too broke to afford to license it to this blog!
Morse, for his part, has admitted how uncertain he was about this new gig. To test the waters, the group only committed to a few dates to see how they fit together. None of them needed to worry, however; a jam session prior to the concert made clear that they were a perfect fit for one another.
This jam session would have taken place very soon prior to that first concert. Ian Gillan, in his autobiography, makes reference to a three-day turnaround and only a couple of rehearsals. Morse has stated elsewhere he arrived with only a day to go, and that there was only a single jam session and a rehearsal. Either way, it was a very short turnaround time. He had been performing with his own band playing an entirely different repertoire just six days before the Deep Purple gig, according to an analysis of his tour dates.
The concert included a typical setlist of the previous tour, drawing from their then-most recent album The Battle Rages On. Such songs as the title track and “Anya” were included. The rest of the lineup was mostly songs from the 70s, including “Child in Time”.
A recording of the show is extant and is in circulation online. Despite the short turnaround time and his very different music background, Morse hits the ground running. Ian Gillan makes reference at one point during the night to the “sensational Steve Morse,” setting the tone for a far warmer frontman/guitarist relationship than previously seen onstage in Purple.
As of this writing, this concert is the only one Deep Purple has performed at the Palacio de las Deportas in Mexico City. This arena can seat as many as 26,000 according to Wikipedia. The arena’s construction utilized designs by three architects: Félix Candela, Enrique Castañeda Tamborel and Antonio Peyri. It was built originally for the 1968 Summer Olympics, incidentally the first Olympics held in Latin America. During the Olympics, it held the basketball and volleyball games.
While it was built primarily for sports, the Palacio de los Deportes’ first event was actually a musical one. Namely, this was a performance of Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century. Here are some other concerts which have taken place at the venue over the years.
The arena still appears to be in operation today.
Ian Gillan claimed later that Steve Morse’s presence was instrumental to their healing after the band’s difficult split with Ritchie Blackmore. The group returned to the studio not too long after the concert to record Purpendicular; they released the album in February 1996.
Steve Morse has, as of this writing, recorded a total of seven albums with Deep Purple during his twenty-five year tenure, most recently Whoosh! His guitar work has pushed the band to new heights and in new directions. In turn, this has showcased the talents of the five other musicians who have been in Purple at his side, challenging them to go in new directions with their music.
Just as importantly, since that first gig, Morse has played hundreds of shows with Deep Purple. Whether playing old favorites with fabulous new twists or bringing songs he has penned to the stage, he is a joy to listen to.
I have listened to my fair share of these concerts on YouTube to get my Deep Purple fix, and can say confidently that I have yet to be let down by his playing. As music-lovers everywhere, we are truly fortunate that Morse joined Deep Purple.
Thank you, Steve Morse, and happy anniversary with Purple!
- Deep Purple: From Here to Infinite. Directed by Craig Hooper, appearances by Don Airey, Bob Ezrin, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Steve Morse, Ian Paice, Joe Satriani, Jon Lord (archive footage), and Rick Wakeman, Coolhead Productions, 2017.
- Steve Morse from this interview
- Edit on 2020-09-07: Added more information. Updated formatting. Optimized for new site.
- Edit on 2020-11-20: Updated formatting. Fixed small grammar issues.