Deep Purple make history performing Smoke On The Water on Lake Geneva

British rock band Deep Purple performed the hit track Smoke On The Water on the brand new stage built over Lake Geneva at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

As the globally renowned riff for the song played to the 5,000-strong crowd, a curtain at the back of the stage dropped to reveal the Swiss lake glistening and cloaked in smoke as frontman Ian Gillan instructed the crowd to take over singing duties on the hook.

The hit rock song was inspired by the Montreux Casino fire in December 1971 during a Frank Zappa concert, where the band were forced out of their rooms by the smoke which inspired the track on their 1972 album Machine Head.

Music – Gillan Joins Black Sabbath – 1983
Ian Gillan, singer with the rock band Deep Purple (PA)

The opening lyrics read: “We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline.”

Alongside Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple is often referred to as part of the “unholy trinity” of British hard rock.

The band returned to the 58th edition of Montreux Jazz Festival to headline the brand new Lake Stage – opening the gig with the track Highway Star before other classics, including Space Truckin, Anya and Into The Fire.

It marked their 10th show at the festival.

Earlier in the day, the band hosted a question and answer panel where they discussed their memories of the 1971 fire and shared anecdotes behind the famous track.

“It burned all afternoon, all evening, all through the night,” said bassist Roger Glover.

Ivor Novello Awards 2019 – London
Members of the band Deep Purple, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover (left to right) with the International Achievement Award during the 2019 Ivor Novello Songwriting Awards at Grosvenor House in London (Ian West/PA)

“We went and looked at it the next morning and there it was, gone. It was a frightening thing.

“The following morning, I was in my room alone and I woke up with those words on my lips, and I said them out to an empty room. And then I kind of really woke up and I said ‘what did I just say? 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 said their fans were “keeping the doors shut” as they recorded the riff for Smoke On The Water as “the police were trying to get in to stop us because we were keeping the entire town of Montreux awake”.

The 78-year-old added that the group once got praise from Italian opera singer 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.”

Montreux Jazz Festival continues until July 20, with a line-up featuring Raye, Tems, Duran Duran, Janelle Monae, Sting, and Lenny Kravitz.

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