In the past two weeks, as latter-day celebrity Beirut fans like Anthony Bourdain and Liza Minelli have hightailed it out of the Middle East or canceled appearances (in Minelli's case as a kind of international goodwill gesture), one group of long-time Lebanon hands has hung on doggedly: Deep Purple boldly and repeatedly refused to cancel its appearance at the Baalbeck Festival. "The band has never canceled a show and has no intention of doing so," Deep Purple said in a statement a week ago. "If the festival promoter decides to cancel the show as a result of the current conflicts, Deep Purple will vow to reschedule in the near future."
Sadly, a band willing to brave smoke on the water was stopped by smoke over Baalbeck, which has since become another target. I'd look for them to keep that rescheduling promise, however. Deep Purple to my knowledge has been playing Lebanon since at least the early 1990s, a time when that trip was still considered somewhat intrepid. Back then, Deep Purple and the legendary Samantha Fox were the only acts broad-minded or career-challenged enough to make Beirut a stop on the tour, but make it they did. In the Hariri era the pickings got easier and the celebrity namechecks moved up the C- and into the B+ and A- lists: Shirley Bassey, Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, Roger Waters, Mariah Carey (post-crackup!), Fiddy… All gone now. The summer celebrities have flown the nest, but bank on this: Deep Purple shall return, river-deep and mountain-high.