Glenn Hughes + Stone Broken
Saturday 21st January
Islington Assembly Hall, London
"This tour is all about Rock and what it means to us all, including my band, and to my fans and friends. Let's get 2017 going with a killer night for Rock lovers, movers and shakers. I'm in. Let's go! See you down the front!" Well we were duly down the front at London's Islington Assembly Hall last Saturday night to see Glenn Hughes, the legendary British Rock singer and bassist play the second night off his UK tour following Sheffield the night before. In an official statement before the tour, Hughes had also promised to dip in not only into his latest album 'Resonate' - one of the albums of 2016 - if not the album of 2016 in my opinion - plus also of course his trademark back catalogue with Trapeze, Deep Purple and Rock supergroup Black Country Communion - who he has been in the studio in LA recording a new album with recently. Anticipation was therefore very high amongst the Hughes faithful gathered at a not completely sold out venue - the question was would Glenn deliver?
The bonus ball of the evening was finally getting to see Hard Rock band Stone Broken who were recently voted as runners-up in the ‘Best New Band’ category of the annual Planet Rock Awards 2016. Fittingly, hailing from the Black Country with Rich Moss on vocals/guitar, Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals - their short set, with the exception of impressive newbie 'Just A Memory' from their hotly awaited second album - was taken from their first album 'All In Time'. They describe themselves as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses and that certainly came across in their opening number, and their very first single, 'Stay All Night' - for mine think Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - with some great guitar work from the smiling Davis and Moss belying his Walsall accent. It literally got 'Better' - another track from 'AIT' - consolidating their huge arena Rock sound much to the pleasure of the guy in the Stone Broken t-shirt in front of me! The slower intro to 'Be There' led into an inevitable huge riff - the impressive vocals of Moss and guitar work from Davis very reminiscent of Nickelback when they rock. Sandwiched in between 'Wait For You', which had a similar formula, and the heavier 'This Life', was the aforementioned 'JAM' - testament to the undoubted fact that they will not suffer second album syndrome! And finally, if you were looking for a glorious headbanger, then the second single off the album 'Not Your Enemy' did them proud. Suffice to say it's only January and we already we have a contender for 'Best Support' or 'One's To Watch' in our 2017 WRC Awards!
Time for the main event. For mine, concerns about the loss of Doug Aldrich to Dead Daisies had already been answered by Søren Andersen's guitar work on 'Resonate'. Although, in contrast, my disappointment at the loss of Lachy Doley on keyboards, following his masterful performance on 'Resonate', was harder to take. The reason why? Most probably down to the release of his new Lachy Doley Group CD. Anyway, as they made their way on to the stage, the constants in the band were Hughes and drummer Pontus Engborg with Jay Boe replacing Doley. Cue my favourite track from 'Resonate' - 'Flow' - with its stand out guitar/organ riff and an immediate opportunity for Glenn to open his tonsils - although a common theme throughout 'Resonate' is the unexpected direction that some tracks take - on this occasion the delicate mid-section harmony that builds into an awesome combination of another Andersen solo complemented by the amazing 'purplesque' keys of Boe - well played sir! Hughes' enthusiasm and emotion was already palpable as he reached back 35 years to his collaboration with Pat Travers Band guitarist Pat Thrall and 'Muscle And Blood' - the 65 year old proving that the body and that incredible voice are still willing despite some of his contemporaries falling by the wayside. It was then time to go back even further to 1975 and Mk IV, for some Deep Purple and 'Gettin' Tighter' - Hughes vocals not only giving Coverdale a run for his money but also showcasing his very cool pounding bass with great drum work from Engborg plus the manic organ of Boe. The rocking 'Stumble & Go' from 'Resonate' had a definite Stones feel about it before Trapeze's 'Medusa' proceeded to beguile - Hughes' hypnotic vocals complemented by a fusion that accentuated every sinew of his band on this classic. Hughes' banter about his runny nose and his historic use of mad marching powder preceded the familiar opening hard riff of 'Can't Stop The Flood' - written by Glenn in the desert - and off of his 2001 album 'Building The Machine' - this kept the set list well and truly alive in an oasis of quality Rock music.
And then it was time for communion - Black Country Communion. Despite his undoubted pedigree, the only time I had seen Hughes live before was with the highly impressive Black Country Communion - which unfortunately ended acrimoniously - although to be fair, Hughes did tell those assembled not to believe everything they read in the media! With love in the air, who were we to argue, as the guys are indeed getting back to together - and if you needed proof that BCC were the nearest thing in recent years that we have had to Zeppelin, then the punchy 'One Last Soul' from their 2010 debut album was more than proof. Bring it on. From one awesome band to another and Deep Purple's 'You Keep On Moving' - Hughes' 'shiver down your spine' vocals, particularly his acapella outro, putting his own personal stamp on another Mk IV nugget. And if Glenn wanted to feel the love - then this was no more evident than we he broke the news of his mother's current illness - the audience genuinely touched by their joint decision that the show must go on. Step forward 'My Town' which continued to carry 'Resonate's' torch with Pontus Enborg's pounding drum opening and a to die for driving guitar riff and solo from Andersen - the perfect vehicle for Hughes to flit between a soft and hard vocal. And just to reinforce Black Country Communion's undoubted quality - their masterpiece 'Black Country' was delivered in such style by Hughes, Andersen and Engborg - that not only can't the new album come soon enough but neither can a BCC tour as well! Brilliant. The funky but hard rockin' title track from his 2005 release 'Soul Mover' rounded off his setlist, before Hughes and his band returned for a well deserved encore featuring 'Resonate's' opening single 'Heavy' - an 'in yer face' intro blending the driving guitar of Anderson, the keyboards of Boe and Engborg's drums (Red Hot Chilli Peppers Chad Smith on the album) before Hughes lets rip with his trademark vocals. Naturally, it had to be Deep Purple's 'Burn' to wrap up proceedings on a night where the crowd had not only witnessed a Rock icon doing what he does best but had also warmed to Hughes himself and loved every bloody minute of it. And there's no doubt in my mind that the same feeling was fully reciprocated by the great man himself.