Deep Purple Returns to Montreux Jazz Festival with Iconic Performance

by Patria
Deep Purple Montreux Jazz Festival

Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ remains one of rock’s most iconic tracks, famously inspired by a fire at Montreux Jazz Festival’s Casino venue during a Frank Zappa concert on December 4, 1971.

The band was in Montreux to record their album, later released in 1972 as Machine Head, using The Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio. Forced out of their hotel by the smoke, the apocalyptic scenes they witnessed that day inspired the legendary track.

Last night, at the 58th edition of Montreux Jazz Festival, Deep Purple returned for their 10th show in Montreux. This time, they performed on the festival’s brand-new Lake Stage, set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Geneva.

The band kicked off their set with the electrifying ‘Highway Star,’ featuring extended, classically inspired guitar and organ solos. They continued with other classics, including ‘Space Truckin’,’ ‘Anya,’ and ‘Into the Fire,’ along with tracks from their forthcoming album, =1.

As the iconic riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’ began, the stage’s backdrop was lifted, revealing a shimmering Lake Geneva enveloped in smoke. Frontman Ian Gillan encouraged the 5,000-strong crowd to join in on the chorus, and their voices grew louder with each repetition until the powerful combination of guitars and drums crashed in.

Earlier in the festival, the band hosted an exclusive Q&A session, sharing memories of the 1971 fire and stories behind their most famous track. Bassist Roger Glover recounted the harrowing night: “It burned all afternoon, all evening, all through the night. We looked at it the next morning and there it was, gone. It was frightening. The following morning, I woke up with those words on my lips and said them to an empty room. I then realized I said, ‘Smoke on the Water?’ No idea what it meant. I mentioned it to Ian [Gillan], and he said, ‘Yeah, sounds like a drug song; we better not do that.'”

Glover also recalled recording the ‘Smoke on the Water’ riff in Montreux: “Our roadies kept the doors shut because the police were trying to stop us, as we were keeping the entire town of Montreux awake.”

He shared a memorable encounter with Luciano Pavarotti: “We worked with Luciano Pavarotti a couple of times, and once he said, ‘I’ve heard you sing ‘Smoke on the Water’ six times, and I’m very jealous because every time it’s different. If I changed one detail of the original interpretations of any of my famous arias, they’d crucify me.'”

The Montreux Jazz Festival continues until July 20, featuring an eclectic lineup across various genres and eras of music, including The National, RAYE, Massive Attack, Tems, Duran Duran, Janelle Monáe, Sting, Kraftwerk, Lenny Kravitz, and many more.

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