An Indy evening in August with Edgar Winter, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple.


In a recent interview with Mojo magazine, esteemed songwriter and musician Jimmy Webb recalled the way Otis Redding flat stole the show at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

Webb explained that Redding had been a professional musician virtually his entire life, whereas so many of the other acts were flower-power dilettantes unfamiliar with stagecraft and the necessary dynamic of performance art.

Otis knew what worked, and he delivered. The others learned, or perished as working musicians.

Edgar Winter, Vincent Furnier (a.k.a. Alice Cooper) and the members of Deep Purple (even current virtuoso guitarist Steve Morse, then all of 13 years old) all were playing and performing in some capacity in 1967.

A half-century later, we had the pleasure of seeing them play at the open air Klipsch Center, formerly Deer Creek, located north of Indianapolis. Rest assured: they have learned.

This reviewer in California might as well have been writing about the show we saw in Indiana on August 30, although Deep Purple omitted “The Surprising” from its Indy set, and played only “Time for Bedlam” from the band’s inFinite album, released earlier this year.

Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Edgar Winter Group electrify Greek Theatre crowd, by Robert Kinsler (Orange County Register)

Three distinct brands of classic rock were on display Sunday night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. American blues rocker Edgar Winter, shock rocker Alice Cooper and British heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple all came to the venue armed with their biggest hits delivered via crowd-pleasing, fast-moving sets.

Deep Purple has been the tour’s headliner, in the midst of what the group acknowledges probably is its final jaunt. Three-fifths of Purple’s classic lineup (Ian Gillen, Roger Glover and Ian Paice) remains in place, and summer’s set list is built to please the legacy/heritage rock crowd, which makes even more sense in a venue where the “craft” beers cost $16.

Instrumentally, Deep Purple retains the swagger necessary to give solid readings to hit songs like “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water,” even if lead singer Gillen’s voice is diminished, and sole founding member Paice’s drumming can be a tad sluggish at times.

As a fan of 45 years, I have a minor complaint to register.

The current aggregation of Deep Purple has been together since 2003, producing four excellent albums of original material, the last two of which are simply outstanding.

I’d gladly pay double an already high price to hear this lineup play an entire set derived solely from their time as a unit. Admittedly, I’d be the only person in the Klipsch Center, but it would be a great seat, indeed.

The late Johnny Winter was a renowned, spellbinding blues guitarist. His younger brother Edgar is a dazzling multi-instrumentalist, switching from keyboards to saxophone to drums, and capable of playing jazz, funk, blues and straightforward rock and roll.

Winters’ opening set compressed all of these considerable talents into a mere five songs lasting 45 minutes, which isn’t enough. The most recent of these songs was released around 1972.

That’s the rock/show biz, which brings me to Alice Cooper.

He has (and has not) been doing the same stage show since the first time I saw him in 1976. The guillotines, blow-up dolls, macabre embellishments and shtick is unchanged; significantly, Alice’s music always has evolved. He might remain a teenager lyrically, but instrumentally, his cast of younger musicians shred, staying nicely up to date in terms of backing metal.

I’ve long maintained that Alice Cooper is the last vaudevillian standing. Know that I didn’t coin the comparison; Groucho did.

When guys like Groucho Marx would come to the show, he always called me, he says, ‘You’re the last hope for vaudeville.’ And he would bring Jack Benny and George Burns and Mae West. And people like that would come to the show, because it was vaudeville to them. They said, ‘Ah, remember 1923? The Great Floyd used to do that! Remember? Of course, he would have doves come out of his sleeves when he —’ And this was nothing new to these guys. They would, you know, Groucho would come to the show and he’d see it, and he’d go, ‘Ah, rawr rawr rawr.’ You know, he’d insult everybody there. ‘Excuse me, I got to go insult the maitre d’.’ You know, that kind of thing. We were best of friends, Groucho and I were. But they saw it as vaudeville, and actually that’s what it is. It’s rock ‘n’ roll vaudeville.”

In June we saw U2 at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville. I never thought the time would come for me to say this, and yet here it is: My monstrous outdoor venue concert-going career may be over. Both shows were fun, and I have no regrets … but those $16 beers.