This run of shows must be one of the most hotly anticipated of 2015. A double header of Def Leppard and Whitesnake with Black Star Riders along as support, it promised an evening of classic rock heaven.
Horrendous traffic (2.5 hours to complete a 45 minute journey!) meant that Black Star Riders were in full flow when I finally entered the Hydro. This was my fifth live encounter with the guys this year and proved to be as stellar as the rest of the shows, in fact if you didn’t know better you would have marked them out as headliners.
Only catching half of a 30 minute set isn’t great but with the guys on top of their game it was enough to satisfy. Ricky Warwick was making good use of the ramp leading from the stage into the centre of the arena, whipping up a Glasgow crowd which needed little encouragement.
He was joined on the ramp by Damon Johnson to introduce the final song of the set ‘Whisky In The Jar’, Ricky on acoustic guitar and Damon on electric for one of the night’s highlights. The Hydro crowd were asked to sing along and responded with gusto as the guys rounded off a short but sweet set. Black Star Riders live featured heavily in my end of year ‘best of’ list and on tonight’s showing my choice was completely justified.
Had the ‘Best of’ list been getting composed this week a top slot would have been held for Whitesnake. I last saw Coverdale and co. a couple of years back on a similar bill supporting Journey and that night ‘Snake stole the show. Perhaps someone should have tipped off Def Leppard to this fact as Whitesnake did exactly the same tonight.
Having released the Purple album this year it was no surprise that the set was littered with Deep Purple Mark 3 classics. Any set that kicks off with ‘Burn’ can only be a good thing in my book and the guys absolutely nailed it. Coverdale was in fine voice, he may not have the silky voice of yesteryear but he is far from a spent force and he is still one of the best showmen in the business.
This latest incarnation of Whitesnake sees a few changes from their last outing with the departure of Doug Aldrich the most noticeable but Coverdale has always had a keen eye for talent and the band were as tight as a duck’s rear end.
The hits and the Purple classics kept coming with ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Give Me All Your Love Tonight’ and ‘Gypsy’ keeping the Hydro at fever pitch. The highlight for me though was the pairing of ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ which then led into ‘Mistreated’ both of which were stunning. One Purple classic which was a very welcome set addition was ‘You Fool No One’, one of my personal favourites.
David Coverdale was in his element, he very rarely strayed from the centre of the crowd and played up to his star billing to the full. He got the crowd on side at an early stage by lamenting the loss of the old Glasgow Apollo which always strikes a chord with a crowd of a certain age who tend to go misty eyed at the mere mention of that hallowed hall.
The guys closed the set with the three big Whitesnake classics namely ‘Fool For Your Loving’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Still Of The Night’ which had the capacity crowd on their feet right to the top of the arena. This was a polished and highly entertaining performance from one of rock’s most enduring bands and one of rock’s most enigmatic frontmen. If that had been the end of the show I think most people would have left satisfied that they had got their money’s worth.
That, however, was not the end and we still had the pride of Sheffield to come, Def Leppard. I last saw Leppard exactly 4 years ago in the SECC next door to the Hydro with Steel Panther and Motley Crue in tow and that night Joe and the guys struggled to impress after such strong supports. Unfortunately they didn’t learn their lessons on that tour and suffered the same fate tonight.
Don’t get me wrong, the hall was filled to capacity and a lot of the crowd were happy to dance along with the hits. Tonight though we were treated to a very safe performance with little spark and what seemed like minimum effort, the Vegas ‘lounge lizard’ Leppard if you like. Following the previous passion filled support slots the band appeared to be going through the well polished motions.
The set was a mix of crowd pleasers and a couple of new numbers from the recently released ‘Def Leppard’ album. It was a new song ‘Let’s Go’ which opened proceedings and it was accompanied with a great light show, they had one of the biggest lighting rigs I have seen for a long time, and video projections both onstage and on screens flanking either side.
This then led into ‘Animal’ much to the crowd’s delight which was then followed by ‘Undefeated’. By this time though the band had lost my interest. Joe Elliot, unlike David Coverdale, is not the most engaging of frontmen and what interaction there was came across as well rehearsed and scripted. Phil Collen was bare chested and oiled up which was a bit much on a freezing night in Glasgow!
The hits continued with ‘Rocket’ and ‘Hysteria’ coming out as the best of the bunch. The guys moved into overdrive, songwise at least, at the end of the set with ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ rounding things off before the guys returned for ‘Rock Of Ages’ and ‘Photograph’. With songs of that calibre Leppard should have left the stage triumphant but for me they fell way short in delivery. An impressive light show could not make up for a lack of stage presence and audience engagement.
Luckily Black Star Riders and Whitesnake more than made up for the car journey from hell we had to endure. I know on a good night Def Leppard can deliver the goods but it would appear that the Vegas residences have led the band down a very safe and choreographed path. Tonight was Leppard by numbers. ‘Rocket’, I think they have lost the ability to do so…
Review by David Wilson
Photos by Steve Goudie
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