It’s no coincidence that after two and a half years on the road playing the classic-era tracks from his former band Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes has chosen to end his tour in the West Midlands. Not only does the area’s reputation as the birthplace of hard rock tie in nicely with the set he has planned tonight, the Cannock-born singer/bassist strongly regards this show as a sort of homecoming, and he’s clearly very excitable about it. “I’m here just as much to see you as you are to see me”, he enthuses right from the start. “Let me prove it to you!”
Opening with the title track from 1974’s ‘Stormbringer’ album, Hughes is quick off the mark in showing off his still-impressive vocal range with a performance the track’s original vocalist David Coverdale would envy. His funky yet heavy bass riffs drive the track as they do much of tonight’s set. There’s no sign of the health issues that caused the initial UK dates to be postponed from May, and on ‘Might Just Take Your Life’, Hughes and his backing band sound excellent together, with heavy keyboards combining with Soren Andersen’s guitar work to provide that trademark Deep Purple sound. The sleazy riff of ‘Sail Away’ meanwhile shows any newcomers why Deep Purple were so highly regarded alongside the likes of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as forerunners of embryonic heavy metal in the early ’70s.
Although it’s potentially the last time Hughes airs many of these songs live, he’s keen to stress that he’s going nowhere any time soon. “Listen, I’m not ending anything, I’m beginning something!” he points out, having recently signed up as vocalist for rock supergroup The Dead Daisies, and judging by his performance on ‘You Fool No One’ there’s clearly still lots left in the tank for his next project. He does take a break halfway through the show to allow drummer Ash Sheehan to perform an extended solo, which the Walsall man carries off with style and character, leading to huge cheers as the rest of the band return to the stage refreshed. Occasionally Glenn also takes a few moments to tell stories about the writing of ‘You Keep On Moving’ alongside Coverdale, and dedicates ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ to the late guitarist Tommy Bolin with an emotional tribute.
The set ends with some of Deep Purple’s most well-known songs, closing out the main set with the unmistakable ‘Smoke On The Water’ slipping into a coda of the Ray Charles’ classic ‘Georgia On My Mind’ where Hughes’ soulful side gets an airing and earns a massive cheer. The encore ends the evening on a faster note, with the riff-heavy ‘Burn’ before Hughes hands over his bass and gives his all vocally to ‘Highway Star’. It’s clearly an emotional ending having revisited this part of his career over the past couple of years, but Hughes acknowledges the audience then urges them to follow him onto his next venture. The truth is with the career he’s had, he doesn’t need to prove anything, but this show does affirm that Glenn Hughes remains one of rock’s finest vocalists.
Ash Sheehan actually performs two sets this evening, first performing with his band Dead Sea Skulls, in which he takes lead vocals as well as drums. They’re an excellent band to warm up the crowd with a blistering set that combines blues-rock riffs with a bit of a Stone Temple Pilots-inspired sound on tracks like ‘The Remedy’. It’s a set full of surprises from the trio, with Sheehan even providing trumpet and a beatbox section during ‘Turnin’ Away’. Ash is great at keeping the crowd focused, and the band provide a very entertaining opening set.
Reviewer: Ian Paget
Photographer: Ian Dunn