It was a classic opening Wednesday night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. As the lights went down, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor blared from the PA. At the climax of of the toccata, the organ held the final chord, the drums kicked in and Deep Purple launched into a raucous "Highway Star." The band members don't quite look the same -- organist Jon Lord and singer Ian Gillan have added a few pounds, while bassist Roger Glover has shorn his locks -- but the sound was virtually unchanged. It was as if Deep Purple had never departed.
Certainly, it was hard to tell that the band broke up seven years ago based on the confidence it invested in "Space Truckin'," "Woman From Tokyo," "Smoke on the Water" or any other of their decade-old classics. The playing has, if anything, improved, with Lord's classical excesses tastefully toned down while guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's solos were more fluid and incisive than they have been in years. Granted, the band's recent material barely lived up to its back catalogue, with only "Perfect Strangers" managing to arouse the audience. But overall, this reunion seemed proof that, with a little effort, the past can indeed be recaptured.