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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Glenn Hughes (Live Review By Paul H)

Glenn Hughes, Tramshed, Cardiff

When I was younger I never used to like Glenn Hughes. I was always a MK II Deep Purple fan. As a teenager getting seriously stuck into the back catalogue of one of the UK's seminal hard rock outfits, which included Mk III I was regularly frustrated by the way Hughes appeared to scream all over David Coverdale. “Hey” I thought, “you’ve got the bass and you’ve got one of the best singers in the world. Why do YOU need to sing as well?” Then he appeared with the title ‘The Voice Of Rock’. Who coined this phrase? And why are you the voice of rock? Why not Gillan, Plant or so many others? As I matured and my listening expanding, Hughes appeared on countless albums. 14 solo albums, and over 150 albums where he features suggested to me that maybe he’s not the arch-villain that I always painted him as. His 2008 album with Tony Iommi, Fused, is a superb release and his music with Black Country Communion always enjoyable, despite the £105 ticket prices for the rare shows in the UK.

However, when Hughes announced his Classic Deep Purple Live tour, the sceptic in me suggested that this was a rather clever way of cashing in on the current wave of nostalgia which has swept the music industry in general. Pop bands from the 1980s appear all over the place at sold out gigs and the rock world is by no means exempt. I’ve recorded my dislike of tribute bands over new bands before in these pages but from a marketing point, then the strategy is untouchable. The target audience inevitably focuses on those with the most disposable income, hence ticket sales are no challenge. The music transports the audience back to a time when life was much less complicated and messy, where the biggest challenge was where to score the next underage beer and whether you could make the last bus home.

Hughes and his excellent band rolled into Cardiff fresh from a successful headline set at Steelhouse Festival in July and having toured the same set of songs for several months, were as polished as that table in the 1983 Yellow Pages French Polisher advert (‘It’s just possible you may save my life’).

I first saw Laurence Jones (8) support Vintage Trouble in the same venue in June 2017. The Milton Keynes guitarist is another in the prolific line of young blues guitarists on the circuit. Jones has already released six albums and at 26 has already made a big splash in the blues pond. Adding a Hammond organ to his band is inspired, taking some of the pressure of Jones and adding some real girth to his songs. Like all blues guitarists, his music is heartfelt and soulful, but on occasion just a little generic. His seven-song set included one of his earliest songs, Foolin Me, which had more than a nod to Jimmy Page’s Since I’ve Been Loving You riffs, whilst the biggest cheers were unsurprisingly for the admittedly impressive cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower (incorrectly credited to Hendrix) and the closing cover of CCR’s Fortunate Son. Two covers in a seven-song set, both songs over 45 years old, and that’s what the crowd loved most. I rest my case. Pleasing enough but a little lazy when you have six albums.

Arriving to a muted fanfare but with his face plastered over the backdrop and the amps in a tie-dye edit, Glenn Hughes (9) and band wasted little time in launching into a blistering Stormbringer. The Tramshed was by now full to bursting and having secured a space on the right of the barrier, the view of guitarist Soren Anderson and drummer Fernado Escobedo was sacrificed for a bit of space, cool air and comfort. Hughes setlist focused on the MK III version in the main, although he moved into Mk IV with a moving, if slightly overlong narrative about the late Tommy Bolin, playing the meandering Gettin Tighter, much to the approval of the old school in the house. Whilst much of my early focus had been on MK II, MK III (That’s Hughes, David Coverdale, Ian Paice, Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore) produced two phenomenal albums in Burn and Stormbringer. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the set was drafted from those two albums.

Might Just Take Your Life and Sail Away followed, and by now it was clear that Hughes has protected those golden pipes magnificently. At 66 years of age, the man sings better than he did in 1974, his range astounding and each note crisp and clear. Those shrieks that once irritated me are integral to the songs, but his lower range was also fabulous, for example on the warming You Keep On Moving, the second track from the 1975 album Come Taste The Band. Hughes’ bass playing is up there with the greats, his intricate patterns and hard riffing fully a part as he commands centre stage. Whilst I could have done without the 1970s bloated and extended You Fool No-One, interspersed with its keyboard solo from Dane Jesper Bo Hansen, Anderson’s guitar solo and Highball Shooter before the reprise, there was no doubting the talent on display.

By now Hughes was in full flow, although his gushing “I love you all” was one of the few things that started to frustrate me. Lectures about peace, love and how ‘music is the healer’ may well resonate in a hot full beered up venue but try telling that to those losing their homes, queuing for food banks or wondering how to make the next rental payment. A mammoth Mistreated included a raucous sing-along before one of the two MK II tracks arrived. Inevitably, Smoke On The Water was belted out, segued with a little of Georgia On My Mind, the track written by Hoagmy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in the 1930s and associated with Ray Charles along with many others before the band quit the stage. 

The encore was blistering though. An aggressive and fiery Burn got the place jumping before Hughes handed his bass tech his Yamaha and took solo vocals on an extended but totally epic Highway Star to end an impressive if ever so minorly irritating evening. Hughes as a musician is astonishing with his vocals superb and his band tight. I just wish he’d drop some of the narrative. Will his next tour be as full if he plays his own music? Who knows, but I have my doubts.

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