When you’ve spent three days at a music festival, it takes a special gig to make you want to go out the next night. Fortunately for me, I was heading to such a gig after three days at Bearded Theory – the arena tour of Journey, Whitesnake and Thunder. That’s what I call a great bill – three great bands with similar fan-bases, all together, so off I went to Sheffield.
First up came Thunder who came on stage to the sounds of ACDC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ (a perfect intro for them really), they put in a superb performance. Kicking off with ‘Dirty love’ they gave us a set packed with their best known songs including ‘Backstreet symphony’, ‘Higher ground’ and ‘Love walked in’. Singer Danny Bowes has always been a superb front-man who excels at getting the crowd involved, and although it’s more of a challenge as an opening act than as a headliner, he does a great job of getting the crowd to sing along, or to make some noise on command, and really gets the crowd warmed up. On paper at least, Thunder are merely the support band for the Journey/Whitesnake co-headliners, but other than having a shorter set than the other bands, this didn’t feel like a support band playing as they put in a performance that set a high standard for the other two bands to try and beat.
Low Life in High Places
River of Pain
The Devil Made Me Do It
Love Walked In
I Love You More Than Rock ‘N’ Roll
Next up came Whitesnake – definitely a big draw for fans tonight judging by the amount of noise they made when David Coverdale came on stage to the sound of The Who’s ‘My generation’ (presumably a bit of humour there from Mr Coverdale about his age). The band kick off with a well known hit – ‘Give me all your love’, from their 1987 album, to really get the crowd fired up. Tonight’s set covers material from a range of albums, with three songs taken from the last two albums, but it’s the ’1987′ album that really makes up a big part of tonight’s set with almost half of the songs taken from that album. A tour like this is going to attract a mix of fans and people who are more fans of another band (in this case Journey), so it makes a lot of sense to bias the set towards the band’s biggest hits rather than newer material that less people might know.
David Coverdale is an excellent frontman – while arena shows by many big bands are or feel scripted and timed down to the nearest second, David Coverdale’s interactions with the crowd are clearly anything but scripted as he laughs and jokes with the crowd and comments about the attributes of Yorkshire women. His sense of humour is apparent and self-deprecating – when a stool is brought out for Doug Aldrich for one song he jokes that as the singer he should have one, especially as he’s 61. His humour and good nature make him such a likeable front-man that the crowd can’t fail to warm to him. He prowls around the stage, does pelvic thrusts with the mic stand, and generally acts like a man half his age. Vocally David Coverdale still sounds great. Admittedly his voice isn’t as good as it was 35 years ago (not really a surprise), but Coverdale at say 75% still sounds great and he’s got a hell of a lot of power in his voice when he lets out the screams. His voice is far better than critics would have you believe, but for times when he might struggle (a few of the high notes), he has the backing vocals from the rest of the band to supplement his voice, and there are enough people singing along to the hits that you can’t help but enjoy it.
Whitesnake isn’t just David Coverdale though, and he’s got a great band who he takes the time to introduce to the crowd. We get a guitar solo from Doug Aldrich, which leads into one from Reb Beach before they have a short guitar duel. Later in the set Tommy Aldridge gives us a drum solo. The band are constantly active through the set with the guitarists and bassist moving around the stage, swapping sides and putting in a show as well as great musical performances. The guitars in particular give Whitesnake a much rockier feel than Journey.
Halfway through the set, David Coverdale tells the crowd he’s worked with a lot of great musicians, some of whom are sadly no longer with them including Jon Lord, Mel Galley and Cozy Powell, and he dedicates ‘Gambler’ to them.
The set ends with two of the band’s biggest hits – ‘Here I go again’ and ‘Still of the night’. I thoroughly enjoyed Whitesnake tonight, and judging by the cheers and applause, so did the audience.
Give Me All Your Love
Ready an’ Willing
Can You Hear the Wind Blow
Don’t Break My Heart Again
Is This Love
Gambler (dedicated to Mel Galley, Cozy … more)
Love Will Set You Free
Steal Your Heart Away
Bad Boys / Children of the Night
Fool for Your Loving
Here I Go Again
Still of the Night
Finally came Journey. Singer Arnel Pineda is the third great frontman of the night (although I’d probably rate him slightly lower than the other two in the frontman stakes but top in the vocal stakes), and leads Journey through a great set. Where Whitesnake were rocky with rough edges, Journey have a much more polished sound, and things feel a lot less spontaneous. Like Whitesnake they’ve got a great back catalogue to pick from, but for me, most of the songs just didn’t stand out from each other sufficiently. It’s strange as I enjoy Journey, and they do everything right, but coming after Whitesnake it just seems to fall slightly flat. I’d be interested to see how it worked with Journey playing before Whitesnake – I suspect it would work better. This isn’t to say that Journey weren’t good – they really were great, but with more ballads and the far more polished sound then it just felt like a slight anticlimax to me after Whitesnake, but that’s just my opinion – the crowd certainly looked to be enjoying it.
Like Whitesnake they’ve tailored the setlist to suit an audience that isn’t exclusively made up of their fans, but the total omission of any songs from their last album (Eclipse) did surprise me. Instead the ‘Escape’ album is heavily featured with four songs from the 1981 album featuring in tonight’s set, as is the ’1983 ‘Frontiers’ album. In fact the vast bulk of the set comes from the albums they released in the ’80s with just four or five songs from the rest of their long career.
The end of the set got the crowd fully fired up and enthusiastic as they ended with ‘Dont stop believing’ – arguably the biggest song they’ve ever had partly thanks to it’s use in Glee, and then closed the night with an encore of ‘Any Way You Want It ‘.
This tour is a fantastic night out – three great bands, all with some great songs, and all for the same price you’d usually pay for one headliner and a mediocre support act at an arena.
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
Ask the Lonely
Only the Young
Stone in Love
Keep on Runnin’
Edge of the Blade
Dead or Alive
Just the Same Way
Wheel in the Sky
Be Good to Yourself
Don’t Stop Believin’
Any Way You Want It