Following the demise of his most recent band project (California Breed) in early 2015, which in turn followed the split of Black Country Communion, veteran rock legend Glenn Hughes has decided to revert to performing under his own name again. This appears to be a wise move, as he can recruit players as needed rather than become dependent on their availability, as was the case when drummer Jason Bonham unexpectedly quit California Breed on the eve of that band’s tour. That forced Hughes and his young hotshot guitarist Andrew Watt to recruit another drummer hastily, in order to fulfil the dates already pencilled in (including high-profile opening slots on Slash’s European tour of 2014). Feeling somewhat let down, the former Deep Purple man opted to draw the curtain on that project upon completion of that tour and took some time out to contemplate his next move.
Having made the decision to fly solo once again, he set about contacting his old comrades and quickly restored drummer Pontus Engborg to the kit. However, his regular guitarist Søren Andersen had committed to another project and was unavailable, so Hughes called up another of his old friends for the lead guitar slot, a certain Douglas Aldrich. The former Whitesnake axeman had been performing with the Las Vegas show ‘Raiding The Rock Vault’ for about a year, and was a popular performer with his image being projected onto huge billboards advertising the show. He took a leave of absence from the show in order to play this tour, which started out in South America and following a short break, resumed in Europe and finally the UK.
The band format this time was as a trio; no keyboard player, just guitar, bass and drums. Not to mention those pyrotechnic vocals! Coming out to the strains of ‘America: What Time Is Love?’ by the KLF (a song Hughes appeared on over 20 years ago, and credits with giving him the impetus to put his demons behind him once and for all). The trio opened with ‘Stormbringer’ and although this track was written for five, the three did a rollickin’ version with guitar substituting for the keyboard ‘twiddly bits’ on the original, and a lot of interplay between Glenn Hughes and Doug Aldrich, something that occurred frequently through this set. An early treat came when Hughes performed ‘First Step Of Love’ from the classic Hughes/Thrall album; prefacing the song he candidly admitted that he didn’t remember anything of the 1980s! This rendition was somewhat harder than the record, with thunderous drumming, heavy guitar and even heavier bass – there was a lot less of the funk this time, and much more of the rock.
A surprise came mid-set, when the trio performed a cover of Whitesnake’s ‘Good To Be Bad’. This track was of course co-written by Doug Aldrich with David Coverdale, and it was at the request of the guitarist that it be put into the set. I thought this was a very generous gesture from Hughes as he has plenty of his own material to pick from, and I’d be interested to see what his (and Doug’s!) old colleague made of that cover. Another cover was of Trapeze’s ‘Touch My Life’ complete with touching dedication to the late Mel Galley, who wrote that song back in the 1970s.
Much of the set was given over to crowd-pleasing covers, including a drawn-out ‘Mistreated’ featuring Doug Aldrich, a hard-hitting rendition of ‘Sail Away’ which was done in the 1974 style, as opposed to the interpretation Whitesnake have given it in 2015! A couple of Black Country Communion songs made the set (‘One Last Soul’ and ‘Black Country’) before the inevitable closer, ‘Burn’.
This was the heaviest live performance I’ve seen Glenn Hughes give, he has some heavy artillery behind him of course but his own bass playing was a joy to behold, in particular during the many periods of interplay between himself and Doug Aldrich. There’s more space for the guitarist in this setup than he had in Whitesnake as part of a six-piece, dual-guitar line-up and he is clearly relishing that opportunity to stretch out more. Hughes pledged to devote the next few years to touring, as he has issued a lot of recorded material in recent years and stated a desire to get out there and play more. He already has a 2016 US tour lined up and with festival dates already coming in, 2016 looks to be another busy year for the Cannock man.
Support was from up and coming blueser Jared James Nichols; he also plays as part of a trio with just bassist Erik Sandin and drummer Dennis Holm for company. It was the drummer’s birthday this night, something the frontman made sure we all celebrated (!) and the trio warmed up the crowd nicely with some fiery power blues, very much steeped in a 1970s tradition. He even threw in a couple of covers: ‘Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo’ (originally by Rick Derringer) and ended with Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’. Playing without a plectrum, his is the sort of guitar music that’s felt and not just heard.
Many (including myself) were unfamiliar with him before this set, but he rapidly won over the crowd and is definitely one to watch in years to come.