Coverdale and Hughes Bring Their Bands to Tokyo

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IMG_4030Just before being selected for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, David Coverdale with Whitesnake and Glenn Hughes with Doug Aldrich visited Tokyo for a couple of shows in November and December. Deep Purple is in a bit of a renaissance right now, thanks to the selection and the continued touring of Coverdale, Hughes and a newer version of Deep Purple (Mark VIII? It’s like the Rocky sequels – I’ve lost count!), and a return to the rock stage of Ritchie Blackmore himself scheduled for 2016. It would be interesting to see how these old warhorses would fare singing Deep Purple material more than 40 years later.

To say the shows were different would be an understatement. Coverdale can still move tickets, selling more than 4,500 of the 5,00o seat Tokyo International Forum for the November show. The place is cavernous, however, and better suited to orchestras than rock concerts and the sound in the upper level (where I was unfortunately seated, even in the front row) was thin and quiet. The hall was so large, it was even hard to hear the crowd during the numerous sing-alongs (“Give Me All Your Love” and “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”). Sitting downstairs in front of the speakers might have created a better sound, but there were other issues as well.

IMG_4033In case you weren’t paying attention, Aldrich left Whitesnake just before Coverdale decided to cover himself singing Deep Purple songs for the Purple album. He went and joined Hughes while Coverdale’s search for a new guitarist pulled Joel Hoekstra out of Night Ranger. This was my 4th time seeing Hoekstra (in 4 different bands), and I’m still not a big fan. His playing is technically accurate and he plays the part, but it just feels uninspired – or maybe I was just too far away to feel it. Meanwhile, Coverdale sings less and less of the songs, especially the hits, saving his voice for an appropriate scream or a song he really enjoys.

The set list was an even mix of Deep Purple and Whitesnake tunes, although I was disappointed that they didn’t include any songs from the two more recent albums they did with Aldrich on guitar. The middle of the set was slow and drawn out to the point that you could be forgiven for not remembering you were at a hard rock concert. As he has done for a while now, Coverdale allowed everyone in the band a solo, including a harmonica solo by bassist Michael Devin. Reb Beach and Hoekstra had their solos back-to-back, which showed nicely the differences in their playing and drummer Tommy Aldridge had a nice solo as well. And then they cranked it up for the finale with 4 strong Whitesnake songs to end the show. Still we couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed leaving the theater.

12366303_931328110254706_8570159265132813273_nGlenn Hughes, on the other hand, played to a sold-out smaller theater in December, Shimokitazawa Garden, which holds only about 600 people. These smaller venues, though, when they’re full, give off a lot of energy. Hughes is travelling with a smaller crew these days. It’s just him, Aldrich and drummer Pontus Engborg, who is just one big goofy dude. They like playing together, though, with Aldrich giving as much time in the spotlight to Hughes as he’ll take. It’s good to see this, after his last band, California Breed, fell apart earlier this year.

Age may be slowing him down, Hughes is in the middle of two knee surgeries before continuing to tour in 2016 – but it is definitely NOT affecting his voice. He can still hit all the notes, and he needs them. The band is playing a Hughes career retrospective, with songs from Deep Purple, Trapeze and his solo career all mixed in. He even included the haunting “First Step of Love” from his collaboration with Pat Thrall back in 1982.

There are no theatrics, just plenty of bluesy rock. Hughes and Aldrich leave room for improvisation as well. There are a couple of Aldrich solos, and some back-and-forth playing between the two guitarists (well, Hughes does the best he can with a bass, which is pretty damn impressive). Mostly they just let the songs do the talking. There were even a couple of surprises.

Just before playing Mistreated”, one of three Deep Purple songs they both played, along with “Stormbringer” and “Burn”, Hughes mentions his good friend David Coverdale, and reminisces about the brotherhood that was Deep Purple. It was a touching12310411_931328193588031_8690841864358265384_n tribute, and he will definitely enjoy getting the band back together for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The other surprise was – a Whitesnake song! After missing the Aldrich era songs at the show in November, Hughes allows him to play “Good to Be Bad” here, singing the lyrics originally meant for Coverdale with gusto.

Although slowed by a hobbled knee (Aldrich and Engborg saved their solos for the second half of the show when he was really hurting), Hughes clearly has plenty left in the tank. And one can’t help but wonder what “Mistreated” or “Burn” might sound like with him reunited with Coverdale, Blackmore, and Ian Paice onstage at the Hall of Fame induction. It’s too bad the selection committee couldn’t get their head out of their ass to induct them before we lost the amazing Jon Lord.

Set lists

WhitesnakeTokyo International Forum, Nov. 2, 2015

Burn (Deep Purple)
Stormbringer (Deep Purple)
Love Ain’t No Stranger
The Gypsy
(Deep Purple)
Give Me All Your Love
You Keep on Moving
(Deep Purple)
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
(Deep Purple)
You Fool No One (Deep Purple)
Soldier of Fortune (Deep Purple)
Is This Love
Fool For Your Loving
Here I Go Again
Still of the Night
Bad Boys

Glenn HughesShimokitazawa Garden, Dec. 7, 2015

Stormbringer (Deep Purple)
Way Back to the Bone
Touch My Life (Trapeze)
First Step of Love (Hughes/Thrall)
Sail Away (Deep Purple)
Good To Be Bad (Whitesnake)
Mistreated (Deep Purple)
Can’t Stop the Flood
Soul Mover
(Deep Purple)

Whitesnake website / Whitesnake Facebook / David Coverdale Twitter

Glenn Hughes website / Glenn Hughes Facebook / Glenn Hughes Twitter

Albums by all the bands and musicians mentioned above are available through this Amazon link or the banner link on the Decibel Geek homepage!

Written by: Dave Glynn
PHOTO CREDITS: Dave Glynn, Masahiro Kawakami

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