Glenn Hughes Performs Classic Deep Purple
Monday 15th October
Electric Ballroom, Camden, London
Glenn Hughes brought some Californian Sun to Camden's Electric Ballroom on a miserable evening in good old London town last Monday night. The final gig of his nine date Glenn Hughes Performs Classic Deep Purple Live UK tour, saw the former bassist and singer, known to millions as the Voice of Rock, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and the current front man for Rock super group Black Country Communion, perform a dynamic, turn-back-the-clocks, two-hour live extravaganza homage to his tenure in MK 3 and MK 4 incarnations of Deep Purple - one of music history's most seminal and influential Rock and Roll groups.
An added bonus on the night was Laurence Jones as support, who we not only saw smash London's The Borderline nine months ago, but we also had the pleasure of interviewing Laurence beforehand. Once labelled as “the future of the Blues”, the 25 year old prodigy's latest album 'The Truth' was released in March and he’s toured with Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the legendary Johnny Winter and many more. Over the past five years, Laurence has come into his own, and with his new album, he has now developed his own creative skin by writing and performing songs that are distinctive to his unique sound and identity plus he was hailed by Planet Rock Radio as one to watch.
Despite obviously being a much shorter set to when he headlined The Borderline, Laurence had in fact added to his trusty ranks on the night, with backing singers Tizzy and Christina joining ex-King King keyboard player Bennett Holland plus his ten year musical engine room partnership of Phil Wilson (Ash's brother) on drums and Greg Smith on bass. Jones once again opened with 'What Would You Do?' one of the stand-outs from the new album - the additional dimension of Bennett's keys immediately adding depth with Laurence throwing in his first guitar solo on the night for good measure. Wilson and Smith's opener on Laurence's favourite track from the album - 'Gone Away' - with its palpable Stevie Ray Vaughan/Jimi Hendrix influence, saw Jones stepping back and connecting this time with a much larger audience on this ballad, thanks to a tremendous rockin' chord guitar solo.
And talking of Jimi - if the former hadn't already warmed Laurence to those seeing him for the very first time - then his next two tracks most certainly did. Wilson's intro on Jones's Dylan staple 'All Along The Watchtower', lead to another unbelievable execution of a classic that I will never get tired of seeing, but even that was bettered by 'Thunder In The Sky', the title track from his 2012 album. Holland's hammond intro ultimately seeing Jones blowing away those Gary Moore Blues with one of the first numbers Laurence ever wrote, an eleven minute monster which at one stage saw the pine-stripe suited and booted Jones crouching on the stage, in front of his Orange Amps stack, straining every sinew to get that last perfect note out of his guitar. "London let me hear you say yeah" demanded Laurence as the band belted out 'What's It Gonna Be', the title track from his 2015 album, before another "London put your hands in the air", as Jones's audience duly surrendered, even throwing in a few "hey" "hey's", on the appropriately named 'Live It Up' - taken from his 'Take Me High' album. And if the crowd did need any encouraging, Jones asked "Have you all had a good time?" as he simultaneously pointed towards his merch stand at the back of the Ballroom, before he finished his fab set with his latest single and his Creedence Clearwater Revival cover of 'Fortunate Son'. Indeed there were more than a few fortunate sons (and daughters) in the Electric Ballroom tonight who had witnessed Laurence for the first time and, no doubt, on this evidence they would be back for more!
Just ten month's ago we were walking towards the Hammersmith Apollo with our 2017 WRC Best Reviewed CD award tucked under our arm to present it to Black Country Communion. After that awesome gig, a picture of a beaming Glenn Hughes, clutching said award, was posted on social media. Turn the clock back even further to October 2016 and the release of Hughes's brilliant album 'Resonate', plus gigs we saw supporting said album at London's Islington Assembly Hall three months later and at a very wet Ramblin' Man Fair in July 2017, and all this totally reinforced the fact that the 66 year old's zest for life and Rock is still undiminished. Indeed those bass guitar pinkies and that incredible voice are still willing, despite some of his contemporaries falling by the wayside. However, to Hughes's credit, it's a case, most importantly and understandably, of quality rather than quantity, hence this project to take Classic Deep Purple Live on a World tour, which unbelievably began back in September last year in Sydney!
The sound of the Californian radio airwaves intro no doubt made the Cannock born Los Angeles based Hughes feel at home as he made his way onto the Electric Ballroom stage. "Thank you so much" as the crowd welcomed the flowing red hair, sideburns and shades of Hughes with rapturous applause. Joining Glenn on lead vocals and bass guitar, were new drummer for the project Fernando Escobedo plus the 'Resonate' tour duo of Soren Anderson (guitar) and Jesper Bo Hansen (keyboards). Opening with the title track of 1974 album 'Stormbringer', not only saw Hughes go straight for the jugular with 'that' incredible voice, but impressive mid-section solos from Anderson and then from Bo Hansen, duly endorsed Jesper's undoubted Hammond dexterity to my "Lord is God" Deep Purple buddy standing next to me. And to further rub it in, Bo Hansen's pounding keys on 'Might Just Take Your Life' were on the verge of extracting the Michael, although, not to be outdone, flat capped new boy Fernando was well and truly keeping up with the, ahem, Paice on this gem from 1974's 'Burn'. "Are you ready?" enquired Hughes as he launched into another extraordinary vocal on 'Sail Away' - again from the aforementioned 'Burn' - with its familiar infectious riff and beat.
Hughes's enthusiasm and emotion was already palpable. "It's good to be home. I want to thank you all for coming and standing by this old dude" was clearly sincere, as was his introduction to late Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin. Cue 'Getting Tighter', a track that Hughes co-wrote with Bolin and also sang lead vocals on 1975's appropriately named 'Come Taste The Band' album - its fourteen minute execution not only left us licking our lips but was also a fitting tribute to Bolin, who Glenn described as one of the greatest guitarists of his generation in the mid-seventies". After 'Getting Tighter' it was now "getting hotter" added Hughes. "How are you feeling?" as Glenn proceeded to tell another anecdote about another track he co-wrote on 'Come Taste The Band' with David Coverdale - namely 'You Keep On Moving' - on which they shared lead vocals on the album. No need though for Coverdale tonight as Hughes's opening bass solo, complemented by outstanding solos from Bo Hansen and Anderson respectively, kept us moving including a sing-along chorus, before Hughes rounded off an exceptional vocal with an a cappella. Eat your heart out David!
Despite still feeling "damn hot" Hughes "Could still feel the love in the room" as Bo Hansen's awesome keyboard solo including a snippet of Mikis Theodorakis 'Zorba The Greek' plus inevitable shouts of "Oi" saw Glenn demand "Let's take this home" before the hand-clapping led us to the brilliant 'You Fool No One' which included a guitar solo, Blues outro, the first bars to 'High Ball Shooter' and a drum solo from Escobedo! Hughes's sermon from the heart that "Rock music is not dead' was well appreciated by his troops, particularly as he added that he intends in future to concentrate more on gigs than album work. Although just to ram the message well and truly home, Anderson's meandering intro eventually resulted in perhaps the most famous Rock riff of all time, that took us to that Lake Geneva shoreline and the classic 'Smoke On The Water'. And if we needed further proof of Hughes's vocal dexterity (which we didn't), his outro on a cover of Hoagy Carmichael's 'Georgia On My Mind' - perhaps not everyone's cup of tea - was true to the version à la Deep Purple, Mk IV and brought the set to a close.
With some more Deep Purple big hitters waiting in the wings, the band deservedly returned for their encore, Hughes's welcome "I know where your live and your midddle names" of course more a message of peace and love rather than war. It's fair to say that Anderson's opening riff on 'Burn' runs 'Smoke On The Water' a very close second classically speaking, but for mine this was the stand-out so far on the night - the musical components of this title track coming together perfectly in all its glory. In fact this performance of 'Burn' was on a par with Black Country Communion's take at High Voltage just over seven year's ago so just imagine our surprise as Glenn welcomed his BCC brother Joe Bonamassa on to the stage for his last two numbers 'Mistreated' and 'Highway Star'.
To cries of "Hey", Joe rocked back and forth with his guitar in his GB jacket and baseball cap as the starstruck crowd joined in with "I've been mistreated". Well not this time as we were well and truly treated to the outstanding combination of Hughes's vocal and Bonamassa's virtuosos guitar work on this thirteen minute spectacular. Soren returned to the stage as Glenn handed over his bass guitar and duly grabbed a mic before Fernando's thumping intro for 'Highway Star' saw another Jesper solo before Hughes joined his guitar trio striding in unison towards the front of the stage. With his new found freedom, Glenn leapt around the stage with mic in hand as Joe and Soren finished the set with some amazing guitar harmonies. Wow! "London, thank you so much" Hughes cried out at he left the stage, once again to rapturous applause. As Staffordshire's finest so eloquently put on the night: "Stand up for Rock music. It's not going anywhere. It's in this room. It's living, breathing, feeling it, sweating it. Seeing it, talking it, playing it and forever hold its peace." On tonight's evidence Glenn, thanks for practicing what you preach and for keeping Rock music very much alive and arse-kicking!