Coupled with the additional task of England vs Ireland at Wembley Stadium, tonight’s initial travel fears were subsided and after a relatively short queue, the stage was set. Opening band THUNDER are one of the most consistent live bands out there having got back together recently for a second time and tonight they did not disappoint either. Singer Danny Bowes worked the crowd consistently and proved that his vocals are, as always, top notch. Luck Morley and Ben Matthews on guitars were in fighting spirit backing with powerhouse “Harry” James on drums, clearly having fun and with an opener in ‘Dirty Love’, there was no reason not to. The crowd were with the band all the way clapping and singing along and the hits kept on flowing with tunes such as ‘Low Life in High Places’, ‘Higher Ground’, ‘River of Pain’ and their emotive ballad ‘Love Walks In’. Thunder truly are a genuine touch of British class which was furthermore solidified this evening.
Co-headliners WHITESNAKE emerged fresh and excited “here’s a song for ya” proclaimed Mr Coverdale. Whitesnake are celebrating 35 years in the business this year, quite an accomplishment and ‘Give Me All Your Love’ starts things off. It was bloody annoying to have camera phones thrust in front of your face constantly from then onwards, I mean seriously, wouldn’t you prefer to watch a band rather than watch through your camera phone, I just don’t get it? Whitesnake then moved rather early into guitar solo number one, guitar solo number two, guitar solo “duel” and even a harmonica solo (provided by the bassist), then they took out the slide guitar and boogied into ‘Steal Your Heart Away’. Earlier in their set the band paid tribute to Jon Lord, Cozy Powell and Mel Gally with the track ‘Gambler’, which I thought was a nice touch, then more of the hits began to surface with the likes of ’Is This Love’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and of course ‘Fool For Your Loving’. A thank you from them to us came in the form of ‘Forevermore’ before eventually closing with ‘Still of the Night’. Coverdale has clearly still got it, although he is wisely spacing the live set to rest his voice, after all this is one of the later shows on the tour. Nice to see them, I was if I am honest not sure about the length of the guitar duel/solos in regards overall set momentum but the later thunderous drum solo from Tommy Aldridge was pretty good. It’s good to hear the band still giving it large with such a long history behind them. At numerous points in the show I did fear Doug Aldrich would run out of guitar picks by the end of the set, the amount he was throwing away and that Rob Beach (Winger) would fall off the amp cabinet he was jumping onto, we certainly do all “wish you well”, Whitesnake did the business and the crowd did (as Coverdale’s shirt backprint stated) make some f@#kin’ noise!
Now I know it was meant to be a co-headliner, but I was stroking my chin a bit when JOURNEY came on stage with ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’ and you were immediately hit by the enormity of this band and the occasion, forget the recent resurgence based on one song, this band can really play. Journey had the massive light and backdrop stage show and lightshow which is basically what you expect at big arena shows, although to be fair Whitesnake were more subtle about it. Other Journey sing-a-longs come pouring out, such as ‘Anyway You Want It’, ‘Only the Young’ and the softer ‘Lights’. I was at times transfixed by the combination of Arnel Pineda’s vocals and Neil Schon’s guitar work. It has been said a lot before, as much as I really admire Steve Perry, Arnel is a fine singer in his own right with an uncanny similar tone to the aforementioned Perry and I have an affinity for the guitar tone that Schon produces. Bringing to the forefront each band members multi talents, drummer Dean Castronovo takes up the vocals on the meatier ‘Keep On Running’ before the band continue as they do all night with other songs from their trilogy of hit albums (‘Frontiers’, ‘Escape’ and ‘Captured’). I was surprised that there was nothing included from their latest release, as far I noted anyway. ‘Open Arms’ is accompanied with more singing from the crowd but unfortunately my “Journey” ends with ‘Escape’ (so many puns are possible I know!) simply due to train links. I hear afterwards of course the obvious song everyone was waiting for (‘Don’t Stop Believing’) was played and the one I personally wanted to hear (‘Faithfully’) also came out, as expected…typical, a hand to forehead moment for me!
Wembley was far more about the music than the football tonight. This was a great show and an opportunity not to be missed by myself that was received with much gratitude. Many may scoff at the line up, but hey, these people on stage tonight can really play, sing and put on a big show at the drop of a hat without the need for stage theatrics. This was a definite change to my normal gig stomping grounds I must say and another big Wembley show that fulfilled expectations.
Review and Photos © Paul Maddison