Glenn Hughes + The Damn Truth
Wednesday 25th October 2023
Electric Ballroom, Camden, London
The twelfth and final leg of his latest "Glenn Hughes Performs Classic Deep Purple Live” UK tour, the 72 year old former Deep Purple bassist/singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, stopped off in London on Wednesday night, along with his band, comprising Soren Andersen (guitar), Ash Sheehan (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keyboards).
Despite my increasingly mature years, the number of iconic venues I read about in the pages of Sounds as a teenager that I've not hitherto visited is a constant source of amusement for AJ... tonight was no exception, with my first visit to Camden's Electric Ballroom.
Bigger than I expected, yet the place was nigh on packed when we arrived in plenty of time to catch the entire set of special guests, Montreal rockers's The Damn Truth. In Lee-la Baum the band have a singer of some pedigree... imagine a spoonful of Grace with a slice of Janis.. add in a twist of Ruby and mix with some genuine passion and generous portion of modern sass and you have a singer/frontwoman who adds the gloss to a very able band with a decent portfolio of original songs. It's not all about Lee-la though... when the whole band is rocking and playing with so much joy, they are pretty hard to deny.
Also comprising PY Letellier (bass), Dave Traina (drums) and Tom Shemer (guitar), the quartet had also just completed their own six-date UK headline tour, and arrived on stage to the apt strains of Jefferson Airplane's, 'White Rabbit'. They kicked off with their 2021 third studio album, 'Now or Nowhere', opener ‘This Is Who We Are Now', with Derek Smalls lookalike Letellier immediately whirling his bass around the stage, as his similarly looking Frampton like compadre, Sherner, chipped in with a guitar solo that Bromley's finest would have been rightly proud of.
Another outstanding vocal by Baum on ‘Full On You’, was followed by ‘Too Late’, before the slower ‘Lonely’, that saw Lee-la entice the willing crowd into singing and clapping along to this standout from the set. A neat Traina drum solo on the more Pop orientated, ‘Only Love’, was more than equalled by Shemer’s guitar outro on ‘Look Innocent’. Their blistering forty-five minute set was rounded off with ‘Get With You’ plus the Guns N’ Roses guitar vibe and bouncy drums of the jumpin’ ‘Tomorrow’.
Having also just released their brand-new single, 'I Just Gotta Let You Know', from their forthcoming 2024 studio album, I was completely blown away by their energy, musicianship and stagecraft, and can't wait to catch them again.
Long-term readers who've endured any of my previous reviews, may recall that I'm rather partial to a bit of Rush. However, before I discovered the holy trinity, my primary band of choice was Deep Purple... even a bit of Mk1, but especially Mk3. I can remember - in the days before amateur recordings were on YouTube before the end of the gig - when bootlegs were a real, rare, physical thing... at school one day, a suspicious huddle of guys in the corner looking like they were conducting some sort of substance deal, were in fact poring over 'H-Bomb' and 'On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat' (look 'em up) that someone had had the good fortune to pick up. 'Jealous' doesn't begin to cover it.
So a Hughes-fronted Mk3/Mk4 celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the album ‘Burn’, the first of the two Mk3 albums (which wasn't actually released until February 1974, but hey ho) was enticing, to say the least.
So, what did we get? Nine tracks from the 1974/75 Mk3/Mk4 albums ‘Burn’, ‘Stormbringer’ and the oft-reviled, Blackmore-less, ‘Come Taste the Band’, with the additional outlier of the Mk2 favourite ‘Highway Star’ flung in for good measure.
I have to say, prior to the run up to this, I gave the three albums a couple of listens. ‘Burn’ was like a reassuring comfort blanket, and ‘Stormbringer’ came back to me pretty quickly. But I don't think I had listened to ‘CTTB’ for maybe forty years, since discarding it as 'rubbish; not Deep Purple' as an admittedly callow youth. But do you know what... it's great. Still not what you'd regard as a quintessential Purple album perhaps, but with it's greater bluesiness and soulfulness (and the benefit of personal tastes perhaps widening over the years) it's certainly back on my playlist after a disgracefully long hiatus. Just shows what kids know :-)
After blitzing through the eponymous track of (late 74's) ‘Stormbringer’, we got a run of tracks from (early 74's) ‘Burn’ - the first album, of course, to feature Hughes and Coverdale. The bluesier 'Might Just Take Your Life' and 'Sail Away' (which in retrospect are clear markers for where things were going with the band), were followed by an extended 'You Fool No One' and 'Mistreated'.
As with performances of 'You Fool No One' back to ‘Made in Europe’, along with it's gloriously cowbell-ridden drum riff which would be enough, tonight the track was extended to 'showcase' status - a nice throwback to the same Blues guitar break as the ‘MIE’ version (I don't know if that 'is' something or is original Ritchie), keyboard solo, drum solo, a bit of Stormbringer's 'High Ball Shooter'... I think I might have even spotted a fragment of 'Lazy' in there, but I was few wines in by this point. The ‘MIE’ version being the one I know the most, I almost expected the (incongruous, but fun) insert of 'Hava Nagila' at the beginning, but this would probably get the gig shut down for cultural appropriation in this day and age.
I have to say, I've never been sold on the old 'voice of Rock' epithet that Hughes seems to have picked up in more recent years - no disrespect, but I can reel off a quite a list of people I think I'd associate with that title before I got to Glenn - but having said that, his voice seems to be in pretty good nick to me. Indeed, quite a lot of echo in the mix, but he's still hitting those higher notes with power and clarity.
‘Mistreated’. I don't know about this one. Some songs 'belong' to a singer and for me don't... travel. You can say a lot of things about Coverdale, but his voice is (or certainly was) undeniable. In my opinion there are two tracks where this is really evident, and this is one of them. Absolutely nothing wrong with the presentation, but... I don't know; with quite a lot of material to choose from… maybe replace it with something a bit less - Cov-y?
After the slow but undeniable power of ‘Mistreated’ we got two from the (1975, MkIV) ‘Come Taste the Band’ - album opening romper 'Coming Home' and one of Coverdale's more subtle odes to love, 'You Keep on Moving' (at least, I presume the lyrics in this Coverdale/Hughes composition are his... maybe they're Glenn's which might explain it ☺)
Unlike ‘Mistreated’ which, as above, I think is always associated with The Cov, ‘Highway Star’ has been covered so many times by so many people I've almost stopped associating it with Gillan, and is always a joy to hear… as with everything else tonight, a faithful rendition faultlessly presented by some consummate musicians.
And final encore ‘Burn’ - It cost me a quid (being primarily a celebration of the ‘Burn’ album I bet AJ that this would be the opener but he was confident it would retain its regular closing slot - the cheque is in the post) but, whilst I would hesitate to say he saved the best ’til last, it was certainly a very strong closer.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable night. My first exposure (and hopefully not the last) to The Damn Truth, and a great performance from Mr. Hughes and his superb band celebrating a lot of music that was pretty much embedded in my DNA at a very early age.
Stormbringer's 50th next year. Just sayin'