A Saturday night in Glasgow with three of the best rock acts on the planet? Sounded like a great plan to me. This tour had been a ‘must see’ for most discerning rock fans since it was announced and the build up in the weeks prior to the opening night in Glasgow had added to the eager anticipation.
Joining Journey and Whitesnake on this jaunt were none other than Thunder who were given the task of opening proceedings. It’s a brave band that put Thunder on before them as they always have been one of the most entertaining live acts in rock. With the band now only getting together occasionally for the odd Christmas gig you would forgive them for being a bit rusty at the start of this tour, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Kicking things off with ‘Dirty Love’ the guys were on top form from the word go. Danny Bowes has lost none of his vocal power or range over the years and, as always, played the ‘cheeky chappie’ role perfectly.
As Luke Morley cranked out the staccato opening to ‘Back Street Symphony’ the crowd responded with a huge roar. The guitar work of Luke and Ben Matthews was as solid as ever and proved to be a highlight throughout the set.
It wasn’t all full on rock though as Luke took to the acoustic guitar for the first time of the night to play the intro to ‘Low Life In High Places’. It made a reappearance a couple of songs later as the band played one of my songs of the evening in the shape of ‘Love Walked In’, one of the best rock ballads ever committed to vinyl ( or CD depending on your age!).
The guys then rounded off a triumphant set with a rocking version of ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which had the now capacity crowd bouncing and clapping along. It has been 16 years since I last witnessed Thunder live, god I’ve missed them, hurry back guys.
It would take a special act to follow Thunder’s performance, so who better than the mighty Whitesnake. Again it has been a good while since I have seen Mr Coverdale and co live and to be honest reading some reports of vocal issues on the last tour I was unsure of what to expect. I needn’t have worried though as the tales of Coverdale’s demise proved to be a bit premature.
During the band’s opening track, ‘Give Me All Your Love’, it was evident that whilst he may not have quite the range he once had, letting the rest of the band catch the high notes, he is far from a spent force. One thing that hasn’t diminished is David’s stage presence and showmanship and he played the crowd like the pro he undoubtedly is.
The set was well balanced between the big crowd pleasing hits, ‘Fool For Your Loving’ and ‘Here I Go Again’, and older tracks including ‘ Ready an’ Willing’ and ‘Gambler’, the latter dedicated by Coverdale to lost comrades, Cozy Powell, Mel Galley and Jon Lord. They also brought things up to date with a great version of ‘Forevermore’ featuring some excellent guitar work from Doug Aldrich.
The only negative points of the night were the inclusion of an extended guitar dual between Doug and Reb Beach and a drum solo from Tommy Aldridge, which were a bit much in a set only lasting 75 minutes. I am splitting hairs here though as this was a fantastic set and it was heartening to see David Coverdale looking and sounding great. With a final blast of ‘Still Of The Night’ the band left the stage to huge cheers and to the strains of ‘We Wish You Well’, accompanied with images of the aforementioned ‘lost comrades’ projected onto the backdrop, providing a touching finale.
That then left the stage clear for Journey to carry on the momentum of the night and put the icing on the rocking cake, however this fell a bit short. What was strange though was the band played a blinder yet a proportion of the crowd just didn’t respond in kind with bums firmly glued to seats. I had heard a pre-tour interview with Neal Schon in which he had said he wasn’t keen on a three band bill as by the time you get to the third act the audience tend to be a bit ‘rocked out’ and tonight I could see his point.
As I said though, it was no fault of the band who constructed a set laden with classics and one that focused on the heavier side of the band’s output. The familiar keyboard opening to ‘Separate Ways’ heralded the band’s arrival on stage. Arnel Pineda burst onto the stage and once again proved what a find he was, coping perfectly with all the vocals whilst running around the stage with a huge grin plastered on his face. He still looks like he can’t quite believe his luck!
‘Ask The Lonely’ was up next and this was followed by ‘Only The Young’ which had the crowd dancing along. Things then got heavier with Neal Schon left on stage himself to crank out the opening riff to ‘Stone In Love’, another highlight of my night, which was one of many tracks featured from the ‘Escape’ album. There was still room for the big ballads though with both ‘Open Arms’ and ‘Faithfully’ getting arms swaying and the odd lighter in the air.
Only one song could round things off though and as the closing bars of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ were ringing out, confetti cannons strafed the audience for added effect. The band returned for a rousing version of ‘Anyway You Want It’ which finally shook some life into the sitting contingent and finally gave Journey the send-off they richly deserved.
So, one gig, three great bands and excellent value for money. Couple this with a near capacity crowd and it proves beyond doubt that old rockers never die, but after 4 hours of live classic rock they do need a bit of a sit down!
Review by David Wilson
Photos by Steve Perks
Gig review (Manchester, 23 May 2013)
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