Somewhere in an attic in Cannock, covered in a dust sheet, is a portrait of Glenn Hughes. Despite a career that has spanned five decades, the former Deep Purple bass player/vocalist doesn’t seem to age, his passion for the music and the people as strong as ever and his voice still one of the astonishing in rock.
Now nearing the end of his two year ‘Classic Deep Purple Live’ tour, he still attacks each night with the same energy as he used to back in the halcyon days with the legendary band in the 70’s, the faithful gathered in their droves at Cambridge to witness one of the miracles of our modern age.
Opening with a blistering ‘Stormbringer’, Hughes and band make a real statement, a show of force that paved the way for what was to come. Flanked by longtime guitarist Soren Anderson and keys player Vince DiCola whilst Ash Sheehan (equally impressive as frontman for support band Dead Sea Skulls) beat his drums into submission, Hughes managed the tightrope balance between dominating the stage and giving a fair share of the spotlight to his fellow musicians.
This really was an evening when the music did the talking and the interplaying solos between Anderson and DiCola highlighted the tight but relaxed feel of the ensemble, each smiling as the other lets loose. ‘Might Just Take Your Life’ sounds huge, a massive, propulsive tsunami of sound blowing away everything in its path and ‘Sail Away’ still felt as fresh today as when it was first written over forty years ago.
Standing proudly alongside his bandmates, Hughes is a survivor, beating the demons that took his friend and bandmate Tommy Bolin away, his gratefulness and Zen like calm filling the in between song banter.
Here’s a man who has truly walked to the very edge of the precipice, by some superhuman effort stopped himself from falling into the abyss and is now determined to make every single day count.
Two years on the road has really locked the four together in a well-oiled machine, the various elements meshing together with a perfection that is so very rare. Sheehan’s unflashy kit could shatter bones with its percussive force as the band launch into a run that rolls together ‘You Fool No One’, ‘High Ball Shooter’ and ‘The Mule’, finishing with a breathless drum solo.
Anderson riffs frantically before the fury morphs into some smoldering slow blues, the maelstrom turning into mercury before picking up the pace again with the high stepping rock of ‘You Keep On Moving’, the song raising the bar even further, preceded as it is, by a hilarious tale about his friend David Coverdale.
The relationship with Tommy Bolin and the impact of his passing is obviously a daily influence on the singer and his tribute to the late guitarist is deeply heartfelt. When Anderson goes into the phenomenal solo of ‘Getting’ Tighter’ you can’t but help be struck by the loss of such a talent too and wonder truly just how far Bolin would have gone in the pantheon of six string legends had he lived.
The set finishes with the knockout run of ‘Mistreated’, ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Georgia on My Mind’, all three sounding huge as the night once more highlights how apt the KLF dubbing Hughes ‘The Voice of Rock’ is. By the time that barnstorming versions of ‘Burn’ and ‘Highway Star’ have torn away the last vestiges of resistance there can be little doubt that this tour has kept the legacy alive and that the material is as vital as ever.
Possibly the best shows that Hughes has done in many years, ‘Classic Deep Purple Live’ can rightly claim its place in the list of events of the year. Never content in resting on his laurels, coming next is his next project fronting the Dead Daisies and that alone is cause enough to be excited about the future. Glenn Hughes: the man, the legend and THE voice.
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Photography by Stuart Isteed