Author Unknown (story and photos submitted by Tim & Teri Martin)

Deep Purple hit the Lakeland Civic Center full force on February 6, playing before a sold out crowd of over 10,000 fans and again proved that they are the heaviest of the heavy metal bands, both visually and audially. Still employing such trademark effects as dry ice smoke, imaginative lighting, high energy stage antics and nearly unbearable amplification, they played for almost two hours, sucking every ounce of energy not only from themselves but from the audience as well.

This tour, which has taken them from sold-out dates in Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia and back to the United States and will take them back across the waters to England, has given the band the opportunity to introduce their new lead guitarist, Tommy Bolin. Bolin replaced the controversial Ritchie Blackmore last August and has shown that he is indeed a welcome addition to the Purple, both musically and personally.

He has played with such diverse groups as the James Gang and jazzman Billy Cobham, and has brought to the group a new realm musically. Though admitting that he was not familiar with their music prior to joining the group, he stated that he believed it was now “a much funkier band.” Indeed, their new album, Come Taste the Band, shows that Deep Purple is heading in a different, more melodic direction with the addition of Bolin, who wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on the album. Onstage and off, it is apparent that there is a mutual respect for each other. As Bolin puts it, “We show each other off a lot more.”

Bolin himself is a paradox. Visually he fits into the Deep Purple image easily, sporting long wavy brown hair that is unevenly blotched with blond (to which he added a touch of green and red coloring), heavy eye makeup, a large gold hoop earring and large floppy hat. Yet personally he is different. He is a pensive, polite, very likable clown who is especially enjoying the recent deluge of publicity he has received, largely due to the success of his first solo album, Teaser.

The music he sets forth on this album is what makes him a paradox. Of course, there are several rockers, including the soon-to-be-released single, “The Grind,” but in addition, there is a melody called “Dreamer” which is reminiscent of Elton John, a Led Zeppelin-type number called “Wild Dogs,” a couple of funky, jazz-oriented tunes and even one with a Latin syncopation, all of which were written, played (guitar, piano and synthesizer) and sung by Bolin, as well as co-produced. His guitar work ranges from smooth and melodic to funky and soulful, and his voice is as versatile as his songwriting.

Bassist Glenn Hughes, who collaborated with Bolin on several songs on Come Taste the Band, is obviously pleased with the addition of Bolin to Deep Purple. Hughes, who himself joined the band only a couple of years ago after a stint with a group called Trapeze, said that he and Blackmore were good friends but admitted that he would rather play with Bolin, “about a hundred million times more. I didn’t like playing that thump, thump, thump” which was Blackmore’s trademark. He added that the type of music which Bolin has brought to the band was much more in his direction.

In between clowning with Bolin and making several great quotes such as “What’s good for me is good for you, and what’s good for you is good for me!” Hughes got serious for a moment when asked about the incident in Indonesia where roadie Patsy Collins was killed in a freak accident at their hotel and the fact that Rolling Stone intimated that it may not have been an accident. “We told them what to write, but that thing about him being killed was bullshit. I was the last one to see him. I was with him 30 seconds before he fell down the (elevator) shaft, and there was no one else around. He was really drunk.”

Hughes also talked about his own upcoming solo outing, stating that he presently is working on an album which he will record after this tour. The music on it will be “very personal music, very soulful,” and is being done in collaboration with Bolin and David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood, though Hughes has written all the songs himself.

So after two quiet days and two eventful nights in Lakeland (the band was kicked out of the Ramada Inn Thursday night after having a party), a rather damp and totally exhausted Purple departed immediately to catch a plane to Miami to do a Saturday night concert, again with Nazareth and Thee Image and thousands of fans. They have a busy tour and recording schedule ahead of them, and all seem to be enjoying it.

Deep Purple’s future success and musical expansion could depend largely on Tommy Bolin’s talents, which are many. His association with them and his solo efforts can only help sustain them. Bit it is doubtful that Tommy Bolin’s success depends on Deep Purple. Their name is affording him two luxuries necessary to boost a solo career — publicity and money. Whether or not he chooses to stay with Deep Purple does not seem important. He is a multi-talented musician whose time is coming, and we will hear a lot more about him in the future.

ARCHIVES NOTE: Concert World was a free music guide based in Jupiter, Florida.