Saturday August 18th 1990 was the last time I saw Whitesnake in concert when they headlined that year’s Monsters of Rock at Donnington Park. Steve Vai was the highlight for me that day but his tenure with Whitesnake finished soon after that performance when David Coverdale split up the band in 1991. This past Monday was the second time I have seen Whitesnake, with about 75,000 less people this time round.
As we lined up in the rain it was interesting looking round at the people who had come to see Whitesnake. Back in 1990 as a sixteen year old I was one of the youngest in attendance, and 21 years on, and from appearances alone, it looked like I was still one of the youngest amongst the throng of ageing rock fans waiting to see Whitesnake over 2 decades later.
The support band were called The Union of whom one of the founding members is Luke Morley, the ex Lead Guitarist of Thunder, who co-incidentally were the opening band of the 1990 Monsters of Rock. We only caught the last 2 songs of their set and it sounded pretty reasonable. You can download an EP, consisting of 3 songs from the debut album, for free here.
When David Coverdale, and 5 different band members to when I last saw them, came out and started to play, it was evident that this was a louder gig than I had ever been to. Almost every concert I have ever been to has been in big arenas and open air stadiums – that or the gigs in smaller venues weren’t to see acts who ever played loud. It was loud in a good way, I mean this was Whitesnake, a balls out heavy rock band who have been flying the flag for British rock bands for 35 years – it’s a crime not to listen to Whitesnake loud.
When I looked at previous gigs on the tour I noticed that Whitesnake very rarely deviate from the setlist so I was able to get a good idea of what I would be seeing, and it was pretty much the same as the gig CD I’d made to get me in the mood. The full setlist was as follows:
Give Me All Your Love
Love Ain’t No Stranger
Is This Love
Steal Your Heart Away
Love Will Set You Free
My Evil Ways
Fare Thee Well
Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City
Fool For Your Lovin’
Here I Go Again
Still Of The Night
Soldier of Fortune
We Wish You Well
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Whitesnake, and especially David Coverdale, were absolutely brilliant. At almost 61 years of age Coverdale commanded the stage with the swagger of someone half his age. Though a little raspier than years previous, Coverdale’s voice was superb – hitting high notes, melodies and trademark shrieking choruses with ease. The personality of Mr Coverdale is something that adds almost as much to a Whitesnake performance as the music itself, as he charmed the ladies and made hero worshippers of the men, myself included. It’s clear that Russell Brand bases his whole character on David Coverdale, and why not, there’s no greater role model in British rock.
Coverdale’s latest group of co-members consists of:
Doug Aldrich – Guitar
Reb Beach – Guitar
Michael Devin – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums
Brian Ruedy – Keyboards
They all played well together, and while not in the same league as Steve Vai (then who is?), Aldrich and Beach did a great job playing those Whitesnake tunes we know so well. The guitar duel between the two was very good, though possibly went on a bit too long without offering more variety. It was Beach who seemed to be more in the style of Steve Vai with some intricate finger work and he obviously loved what he was doing as hinted at by the mischievous grin that would often appear.
One of the complaints about the Whitesnake performance from 1990 was the long drum solo performed by Tommy Aldridge. However it was a drum solo from current drummer Brian Tichy that provided one of the highlights for Monday night’s gig. When not going through a succession of about 20 drumsticks, all being bounced off a drum out into the darkness, Tichy actually discarded all drumsticks and continued his drum solo using his hands. It was quite reminiscent of Animal from the Muppets, but with slightly more composure and a lot more rhythm. I’d choose guitars over drums every time, but on Monday it was the drum solo that shone the brightest.
Of the new album the title track Forevermore was my favourite and this came across really well live, but the real treat came later when original band member Bernie Marsden joined them on stage to play guitar on the on of the tracks he co-wrote with David Coverdale – Here I Go Again. It was epic, and the crowd were on their feet as the Whitesnake anthem was blasted out by band members past and present. You could clearly see that Coverdale loved being on stage with Marsden again, and though seemingly a little overwhelmed at first, Marsden soon got into the groove and showed his guitar playing prowess to the adoring fans that filled the Apollo.
I was expecting the night to end with Still Of The Night but we were treated to David Coverdale signing a cover of Deep Purple’s Soldier of Fortune. Well, I say a cover but that this is a song that Coverdale wrote and sung with Ritchie Blackmore whilst a member of Deep Purple himself! As the CD of We Wish You Well played over the PA the band took their bows as we cheered them on, and thanked them for a great night of rock music.
My ears were still ringing over 24 hours later and as I look forward to seeing Bon Jovi at Hyde Park on Saturday I’m actually still basking in the aftermath of Monday night’s gig, which has given Jon and the boys a very hard act to follow. I now need to make sure I don’t leave it another 21 years until I see them again, in fact the friend that I went with has agreed that we must see them again when they tour next, and I recommend you do the same.