Def Leppard + Whitesnake + Black Star Riders
Friday 18th December 2015
Wembley Arena, London
At this time of year when 'Fairytale Of New York' is churned out once again - the Ugly Ducking fairytale in reverse springs to mind given Black Star Riders reinvented themselves from Thin Lizzy. This point is hammered home as Lizzy legend Scott Gorham makes his way on to the Wembley stage just before 7 to a half empty arena. With a restricted forty minute set, literally 'All Hell Breaks Loose' as BSR hit the ground running with the classy title track from their very first album - with Gorham's guitar already in overdrive. Ricky Warwick then asks "Are You Ready?" and of course the arena starts to rock as those unique Lizzy guitar harmonies ring around the auditorium. It's then back to the title track of their second album 'The Killer Instinct' which again has those distinct Lizzy chords with guitarist Damon Johnson showing that he's just not there to make up the numbers. We then see-saw back to 'Jailbreak' - Warwick's vocals as usual are spot-on for my all-time favourite Lizzy track. Brilliant. 'Bound For Glory' was followed by the opening Celtic drum intro from the excellent Jimmy DeGrasso on 'Kingdom Of The Lost' also from 'AHBL' - a latter day 'Black Rose'. However the stand-out BSR track of the night was 'Finest Hour' from 'TKI' - not forgetting new recruit Robert Crane on bass (who replaced Marco Mendoza) completing a formidable BSR unit. The guys finished with 'Whisky In The Jar' and to be pefectly honest we could have quite easily gone home happy after that opener. Black Star Riders might still have a bit of an identity problem but who cares when they produce music of this quality.
Whitesnake opened the set with a thundering re-worked version of the classic 1975 Deep Purple track ‘Burn’. Whitesnake featured a new line-up with Michele Luppi making his debut for the Snakes on keyboards. The new version of ‘Burn’ lost none of the original song’s energy and was suited to the twin lead guitars of Hoeksta and Beach whilst Luppi’s keyboards added that extra dimension. Whilst the concert was to promote the new ‘Purple Album’ I was delighted that with no time wasted, Whitesnake launched into ‘Bad Boys’ written little over a decade after ‘Burn’ and from the brilliant 1987 album and followed this with ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’. Both of these songs were fantastically executed and retained authenticity with the original versions despite the band’s new line-up. Back to the ‘Purple Album’ and Whitesnake treated us to ‘The Gypsy’. Originally from Deep Purple’s ‘Stormbringer’ album, this too had received an updated touch but lost nothing in transition to 2015. As a Blackmore fanatic and loving the original version of this song, I felt this was a very credible version and performed extremely well.
The next song was again from the 1987 Whitesnake album, 'Give Me All Your Love' and this was followed by 'Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City'. The following three songs, however, were from the Purple album, with 'Mistreated' the next. Personally I didn’t think the “Snaked-up” version of this song with twin guitars worked and needed the Coverdale/Blackmore bluesy collaboration. 'You Fool No-One', however, more than made up for it though with this culminating in a stunning Tommy Aldridge drum solo before Reb Beach exchanged his electric guitar for an acoustic one for the 'Stormbringer' classic 'Soldier Of Fortune'. The last four songs of the night were Whitesnake belters; ‘Is This Love’, Fool For Your Loving’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Still Of The Night’. All of these were big songs and they nailed each of these. ‘Still Of The Night’ rounded off the evening to much applause from the audience before Whitesnake left the stage to a recorded “We wish you well.” Some criticism had been made of Coverdale’s voice not being what it was, however, despite his 64 years Coverdale proved he still could still belt out a tune and keep a capacity crowd happily entertained. Having bought the ‘Purple Album’ I had some reservations on what to expect. Nevertheless, a very enjoyable performance. Thoroughly enjoyed it so well done Whitesnake.
Def Leppard strolled into London's Wembley Arena heavily armed with their hits from the 80's and early 90's. Kicking off with 'Lets Go', 'Animal', 'Undefeated', 'Dangerous' and 'Love Bites' made the opening twenty minutes feel like one. Bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen hold a tight ship at the bottom end, while Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell (ex-Whitesnake/Dio) dual guitar attack compliment each other perfectly. Lead singer Joe Elliot delivers the hard rocking songs and ballads with ease aided by all the band's players contributing impressive harmonies. Phil Collen who plays shirtless with a six-pack at 57 years of age - certainly had the ladies around us 'wide-eyed'. Ending with 'Pour Some Sugar With Me' and encoring with 'Rock Of Ages' and 'Photograph' you got what you paid for!