The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world






20TH MAY 2013



Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, looks like any of thousands of similar Arena’s across the world, slightly out of the way and slightly down at heel, but tonight it’s heaving with a huge throng of excited concert goers – who tonight, maybe for one of the last times, will get to see three great names in Rock. In fact if you think of the names we are getting to see tonight it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a bill like this again.



Talking to a few people before the show the interesting thing is that so many are here primarily to see one of the three bands- there’s those that haven’t seen the illusive Journey before, who until recent years never made it across the pond; there’s also a surprising large contingent here for Thunder (who to me were the British band of the eighties I wished had done, and should have done bigger things overseas); and of course the Whitesnake faithful.



Starting early Thunder draws a huge crowd (probably three quarters of the total by the time they take stage). Anticipating a great night to see so many in so early is a great sign, though Yorkshire folk traditionally like to get value for money. It’s been almost twenty years since I last saw Thunder and since then they’ve split, reformed and split again, now venturing out seemingly only for opportunities like this and festivals. 



THUNDER SETLIST: Dirty Love | Backstreet Symphony | Higher Ground | Low Life in High Places | River of Pain | The Devil Made Me Do It | Love Walked In | I Love You More Than Rock 'N' Roll



Sauntering onstage to the strains of AC’DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ it’s like seeing old friends again and the crowd warms to them immediately. But opening with their most recognisable and loved song is surely a mistake? I hear myself whispering as they break into ‘Dirty Love’ as Morley caresses his flying V and Ben strides across the stage still looking the rock star despite the grey mane. In fact it turns out to be a stroke of genius as the crowd is immediately singing along and waving their arms on command. You forget over the years how well Danny Bowes controlled the stage and he’s lost nothing but the hair in the passing of years.



‘Backstreet Symphony’ keeps up the pace: the title track from the first album was always one of those larger than life songs, but it’s hard to believe it’s is 23 years old this year.



For such a space the Motorpoint Arena sounds good, up in the stands in fact the sound is amazing and Bowes vocals sit beautifully in the mix. By the time Thunder break into ‘Higher Ground’ the crowd is already clapping to the acoustic intro, it’s another old song and one with some great harmonies, most apparent of all though is that Danny's voice seems to have lost nothing at all since the eighties.


Keeping with the bankers ‘Low Life is High Places’ is another built for singing along to and gives Danny the opportunity to play with the crowd, sighing when the floor’s vocals don’t quite come up to scratch, its part of the warmth and humour that has always made Thunder a must-see band. This version of ‘Low Life’ is built on a beautiful acoustic intro and turns into a real epic.



Thunder ends the set as they began it with plenty of energy, it’s a quality set that for me at the end of the night will remain the unexpected high point, so make sure you get there early! ‘River of Pain’; ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ follow but the biggest roar of the night comes for the classic soaring ballad ‘Love Walked In’ which has to be one of Thunder’s most enduring songs and tonight that memorable guitar solo just soars away, threatening to take the roof with it. Harry stands up to whip up the crowd, but there really has been no need – they’ve been there all along!


The wonderfully understated riff of ‘I Love You More than Rock and Roll’ closes proceedings: perhaps the finest moment from the reformed Thunder, still has all that trademark swagger and when Danny cries out ‘Everybody scream’, everybody of course does. ‘This is our last one then were going down the pub’ Danny tells us, and you believe him, God bless Thunder and all who sail on her, there rae some in Sheffield, myself included who have already had their money’s worth and we’re only one course in! If you want to see a band on absolute fire – get there early!


WHITESNAKESETLIST: Give Me All Your Love | Ready an' Willing | Can You Hear the Wind Blow | Don't Break My Heart Again | Is This Love | Gambler | Love Will Set You Free | Guitar Duel | Steal Your Heart Away | Drum Solo by Tommy Aldridge | Forevermore | Best Years | Bad Boys / Children of the Night | Fool for Your Loving | Here I Go Again | Still of the Night | We Wish You Well (outro)



Even on opener ‘Give Me All Your Love’ David’s voice, if we’re being honest sounds a little patchy, though part of that may be the mix which seems to have lost something since Thunder, with the guitars sitting a little high and the bass and drums struggling slightly, it is something that gets better as we go.



The inclusion of the rarely played ‘Ready and Willing’ is more than a nice surprise for the audience a lot of whom look like they probably saw the band prior to that 1987 transformation and it seems to do the trick getting everyone’s attention before ‘Can you hear the wind blow’ from 2008’s ‘Good To Be Bad’ is a song that’s been in the set-list a while now and definitely one of the better songs from Whitesnake’s impressive golden years but for most it’s all eyes on Tommy Aldridge’s flailing mass of grey hair as the band launches into the classic ‘Don't break my Heart Again’ that really kick-starts the gig and it’s also the song where you get a glimpse of how Whitesnake has adapted quite beautifully to augment Coverdale’s lead vocal which at times seems to struggle; but smothered in some simply wonderful backing vocals from Aldrich and Beech the songs barely lose any impetus; and a good portion of the crowd seems to either not notice or care.



For a man who has one of the best on most distinctive voices in rock it’s understandable that as the years pass you lose a little but this is the first tour I’ve really appreciated the great work the rest of the ‘team’ do in making the songs work. ‘It’s great to be in Yorkshire’ proclaims Coverdale before half singing a bar of Rod Stewart’s ‘You’re in my Heart’



In a nice touch there’s a slight pause as ‘The Gambler’ (another live rarity these days) is dedicated to fallen comrades Mel Galley, Cozy Powell and Jon Lord, the applause is as intense as it’s been all night. And with that we’re into the meat of the evening replete with the Beech and Aldrich ‘Guitar Duel’ and the ‘Drum Solo’ grafted to ‘Steal your Heart Away’



It’s a fun night and the crowd is getting into it, and David appears happy that there are still some ‘marvellous breasts in Yorkshire’ before commenting that some of the crowd artwork is surely not him but ‘Shirley Temple, or maybe her father Norman Temple’.   



With David now sporting a black shirt he reappears for a couple of newer numbers and to convey a marriage proposal for two of the crowd – Heidi and Jonathan who get ‘Forevermore’ dedicated to them. Then we get to what most have been waiting for the break-neck, hit laden, charge of the closing few numbers which start with ‘Bad Boys / Children of the Night’ (dedicated to bad Yorkshire girls) and the evergreen ‘Fool for Your Loving’.
The audience is either completely transfixed, or slightly subdued but it’s noticeable tonight how much more lively the reaction was to Thunder than either of tonight’s two co-headliners. No matter what though, there’s few in the crowd who aren’t loving this and after a ‘Make some f***ing noise Sheffield’ it’s all high energy again as Reb Beech solos fron the front of the stage to close 'Fool for your Loving’



‘Here I go Again’ is perhaps our highlight with an almost spoken intro that leads into a massive build into an almost group lead vocal. It’s noticeable that there’s no scream from David before the solo, but the arrangement is wonderful.  



Ending with ‘Still of the Night’ Coverdale sound s a little like Alice Cooper while the band takes the refrain, it’s far more bombast than substance, but that was always the point of the song that epitomises the big haired music of the eighties. And after the bows it’s nice to see Brain Devlin stay on stage to take photos of crowd. Whitesnake still rock and David’s home County still loves him.



JOURNEY SETLIST: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) | Ask the Lonely | Only the Young | Guitar Solo (Featuring God Save The Queen) | Stone in Love | Keep on Runnin'(Deen Castronovo on lead vocals) | Edge of the Blade | Lights | Open Arms | Dead or Alive | Just the Same Way | Wheel in the Sky (extended guitar into) | Be Good to Yourself | Faithfully | Don't Stop Believin' | Any Way You Want It 



It’s noticeable that a few of the crowd has already left before Journey takes the stage, but that turns out to be a huge mistake. There are few bands with as solid a catalogue as Journey but the infuriating thing for me is that their set-lists rarely play to all their strengths and for a band with such great recent releases they ignore the Arnel Pineda releases completely. It’s almost as if they don’t see the point in trying to get audiences to buy into the new material. Presumably they believe fans will buy it and that most only come to hear the Greatest Hits, it’s a strange position to take.



Minor gripes aside, Journey is one of the best live hard rock bands you’ll see and from the off it’s clear that Journey is very much a band built around Neil Schon first and foremost, and the long term members next, with Pineda kept very much in his place. Schon soloing to open the show as the rest of the band appears seems to underline that.
‘Separate Ways’ is a classic opener and Pineda is in fine voice striding the stage that is backed with series of six large video screens and adorned with a huge black scarab. While his short hair makes him less distinct than his once flowing mane did, Pineda looks suitably rock tonight, which fits the high energy guitar-driven set.



With an elevated drum riser for Castronovo and elevated keyboards for Cain, the main stage is there to prowl for Ross Valory and Neal Schon, while Pineda takes his trademark jumps and microphone tosses on cue. Tonight though, for us at least is really all about that man on guitar and Schon gives a master class replete in sunglasses as the back screens fire up with flames and Schon weaves ‘God saves the Queen’ into his solo much to the delight of the crowd.


With a set packed at both ends with hits if there was one thing you could take issue with, it’s that stodgy middle-section of a set unchanged since they played Australia and Asia earlier in the year. With early classics like ‘Only the Young’ and ‘Stone in Love’ as well as the Castronovo –led ‘Keep on Runnin’’ It’s the tracks ‘Edge of the Blade’; ‘Dead or Alive’ and ‘Just the Same Way’ that fail to ignite the crowd.  In fact after ‘Open Arms’, with it’s beautiful keyboard intro from Cain, and a song obviously a lot came to hear, there are a few that make their way out as Sheffield is invited to rock by Pineda, and the band breaks into ‘Dead or Alive’ from the Escape album.  



After and inauspicious ‘Just the Same Way’ from the album ‘Evolution’ which perhaps sees the biggest exodus so far the band pulls out all the stops with a rollercoaster ride that starts with Schon’s eastern-flavoured solo to kick off the evergreen ‘Wheel in the sky’ and finally there is dancing in the aisles! ‘Be Good to Yourself’ keeps the momentum, with its huge backing vocals and one of my favourite guitar solos ever, before we hit the beautiful ballad ‘Faithfully’ which lights a few candles and draws a few tears in the crowd. One thing you notice about UK crowds is that thankfully there are less people with eyes glued to their camera phones than there are simply enjoying the music than you see down-under!


The inevitable and indispensable ‘Don't Stop Believing’ brings out the confetti cannons and dancing in the aisles but the trick of playing ‘Any Way You Want It’ as a closer backfires somewhat as the floor clears having heard the big one, and many are now content to head off to their cars. For anyone that hasn’t seen Journey though, it really is a master-class and for my money Pineda has always been as good as his predecessor.  



All in all if you are looking for a complete concert experience this Spring this is the show to see, three of Rocks finest bands, all on form and all over here! If it wasn’t for the Arena’s less than comfortable seating and the amount of time it took to get a drink it would have been the perfect evening.




by Mark Diggins