Whitesnake Concert at Hard Rock Live Proves Arena Rock Ain't Dead Yet

Concert Review

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click to enlarge Whitesnake Concert at Hard Rock Live Proves Arena Rock Ain't Dead Yet
Scott Sandberg
David Coverdale has thrown strong hints that the current Whitesnake tour could be the “last of the big rock shows” and if that ends up indeed being the case, he and the ‘Snake are going out strong. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert   here

In front of a packed house at Hard Rock Live last night, Coverdale began the evening with a smoldering version of “Burn,” the title track from the classic 1974 Deep Purple album of the same name. From there, the setlist moved forward nearly a decade into the ‘80s for a pair of cuts from the Whitesnake album Slide It In, including a blistering take of the title track that found the familiar smooth sheen of the album version replaced instead by a ragged thrash driven by the thundering drums of veteran ‘Snake drummer Tommy Aldridge and the strong pairing of guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra.

All four members of the Whitesnake “choir,” as Coverdale has referred to them — Beach, Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Michele Luppi, built a wall of vocal support which surrounded Coverdale’s own strong vocals on “Slide It In.” And even when they weren’t near a microphone, the band members could still be seen singing along with the audience members, while another moment found Coverdale reaching into the crowd to trade a fist bump with a fan in the front row. The enthusiasm on both sides of the room was impossible to miss.

There certainly was plenty to be happy about if you were a fan of Coverdale’s work with both Whitesnake and Deep Purple. The current tour puts a spotlight on The Purple Album, the latest release from Whitesnake, which as Coverdale told the crowd, “pays tribute to the time I was the singer with Deep Purple, before most of you were born.” He added, “Before I was fucking born, to be honest with you.”

Even if he was fudging a bit on that last detail, the addition of the Deep Purple material was a welcome one and he paid plenty of homage to his former Purple bandmates for taking a chance on a “young singer” and further dedicated “You Keep On Moving," a track which Coverdale wrote with "soul brother," Glenn Hughes, to late Purple keyboardist Jon Lord. Appropriately, just as he had shared vocals on the recorded original with Hughes, he split the lead vocals on that one with bassist Michael Devin, who also traded lines with Coverdale again later in the set on another Purple classic, “You Fool No One.”

The guitar solo leading into “Mistreated” gave both Beach and Hoekstra ample room to leave a few extra riffs on the stage, while the drum solo that Aldridge laid out midway through “You Fool No One” was equally intense, with the drummer eventually jettisoning his sticks into the audience to play the bulk of the remaining moments of the solo with his hands. Arena rock lives on, as the trio of Beach, Hoekstra and Aldridge proved.

Anyone who might have been concerned that Coverdale might neglect the period of MTV-fueled fame that came with the release of 1987’s Whitesnake (most often referred to as "The 1987 Album”) had no reason to worry — the last four songs of the evening came from that very album, the expected “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again” (with album track “Bad Boys” wedged in between the two) along with the encore of “Still of the Night” found Coverdale sharing the vocals almost equally with the enthusiastic crowd. (And on “Here I Go Again,” Coverdale went for — and nailed — many of the classic screams.)

It was awfully close to hard rock perfection — a nice overview of Coverdale’s career condensed into a tight 90-minute set. Will there be an encore presentation of the “rock stuff” from Coverdale? One can hope so.
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