By Steve Case (story and photos submitted by Tim & Teri Martin)

HONOLULU – In their first concert appearance since youthful Tommy Bolin replaced Ritchie Blackmore as lead guitarist, Deep Purple won over their Nov. 8 audience in Hawaii with a fusion of their hard-rock standards and new material from their just-released Warner Bros. LP, Come Taste the Band.

Bolin, formerly with the James Gang, made few mistakes in his debut, and succeeded in not only filling Blackmore’s shoes, but also pumping new vitality into a band that, after eight years and 10 albums, was getting rather stale.

Deep Purple’s set consisted of 14 songs, but only five — “Burn,” “Stormbringer,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Lazy” and “Highway Star” — were familiar hits. “I really wouldn’t want to see any more than that,” keyboard player Jon Lord, one of Purple’s founding members, said following the concert. “In fact, I’d rather see less. It’s very hard for Tommy to play someone else’s licks.”

The bulk of the set — eight songs — was culled from Come Taste the Band, Deep Purple’s first album without Blackmore. Featured were “You Keep on Moving” (the single), “Lady Luck,” “This Time Around” (a Stevie Wonder soundalike), and “Owed to G,” an instrumental. Instead of limiting themselves to powerhouse rockers, Chapter Four of Purple has expanded it’s repertoire to include more melodic, slower pieces.

Lord felt the “set hung pretty well together. It’s bloody difficult to play after a seven-month layoff. By the time we play America in January, it will be the best Deep Purple ever.”

Lord, reportedly stunned when Blackmore left, found playing with Bolin “a little easier than I thought it would be after playing seven years with Ritchie. It’s a slightly less-structured band now, and I prefer it that way.”

Bolin felt he performed well in his debut. “I enjoyed myself, but it’s odd to play other people’s tunes. It’s got to be done, though, because people come to hear the old tunes.

“I really love this band. I never saw Deep Purple live, so I am comparing it to a completely new group. For a first gig, I think it went great. I was very loose, but by the time we head for the States I’m sure everything will be very together. We’re playing dates in the Far East just to feel each other out.”

When Deep Purple called him about joining, Bolin was reluctant “because English bands like to slam and I like to play funk. When we started playing, I was really amazed. I started showing them some of my stuff, and it’s great how they accepted me. Some members told me that if I hadn’t worked out, they would have called it quits. They don’t have to work another day in their lives. One of them just learned he’s a millionaire. They really don’t have to go out on tour, but they’re excited about the new band and the new tunes.”

The members of Deep Purple are now allowed, according to Bolin, “a freedom they weren’t allowed with Ritchie. The more I hear about Ritchie, the more I hear they were in a bad situation. Glenn Hughes wasn’t even allowed on Ritchie’s side of the stage.”

Bolin, who co-wrote seven of the nine tunes on the new album, feels the LP “is much more sophisticated than what Purple had done before. I laid down the skeleton structures and brought their playing out. They’re all brilliant players.”

Lord acknowledged that “if Ritchie hadn’t left, we would have called it a day, because nobody was creating anymore. We were successful, so we were getting lazy. Tommy has brought out of us things that had done dormant.”

“It’s an ideal situation for me,” Bolin says, “because I can get my cookies off playing rock while taking them in a new direction. I’m not replacing anyone. I’m joining a new band.”