Whitesnake are on the road in America, and they are taking no prisoners. David Coverdale is fronting one of the strongest bands of his career, and while the show is all his, he shares the glory and plays well with the other kids in the playground. If this band shows up in your neck of the woods do not miss this tour. Coverdale’s well worn, classic British hard rock vocal pipes are in excellent condition, and his utter command of both audience and band posits him as possibly the best of his class. Whitesnake had the sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa, California in the palm of his outstretched hands for two hours of heavy rock bliss.
Much has been made of the condition of David’s voice, but he sounded amazingly up close and personal on this night. Coverdale is surrounded onstage by a trio of longstanding Whitesnake stalwarts in super drummer Tommy Aldridge, bassist Michael Devin, and team captain Reb Beach, but the hot musical news of the evening (after the fact that, I’ll say it again, Coverdale was in great voice) was the glorious noise being made by new guy keyboardist Michele Luppi, who sings as well as he wrings Lordsian tones from his set of ivories, and the stunning arrival of guitarist Joel Hoekstra, who may be the best guitarist to command a WS stage since Mr. John Sykes. I intend no disrespect to any guitarist that’s spent time in the Coverdale stable, they’ve all been superb in their own rights, but Hoekstra simply commands his axe and the stage with an aura of superstar around him, not unlike that of his blonde maned leader. Hoekstra combines magnificent technical skills with a passion and feel for the instrument that is almost unheard these days.
Coverdale and Hoekstra look like modern day vikings as they sail the sea of the stage. A very powerful combination that I hope finds its way into a recording studio for a project of original ‘Snakes tunes. This is The Purple Tour, a tour in which Mr. Coverdale pays respectful homage and tribute to his musical past with the one and only Deep Purple, and the setlist was a fascinating blend of colors as white and purple coalesced into the sweetest hues. This was a greatest hits show of the best kind – it stretched out over forty years, ranged from the very commercial to the musical risky, and it pleased the sold out, singing along crowd to no end.
This band is a smart band, and they didn’t for a moment stoop to cover band versions of Blackmore and company’s best work, instead choosing to wrap the Purple tunes in a very modern two guitar Whitesnake setting. It’s totally to Coverdale’s credit that he insist that everyone on the stage’s floor not just sing, but sing well, and they covered every note, whether they be sweet harmonies or compelling vocal duets that pay tribute to the voice of rock, the man who Coverdale referred to on this night as “My soul brother, the great Glenn Hughes”. David Coverdale may be the reigning champion amongst the frontmen of classic heavy rock. He is the perfect gentleman, appreciative of crowd and collegial with his army. He has written a night full of hits that nearly everyone in the audience knew every word to every chorus of the night, and if he stopped smiling last night, it must have been while he was behind the amps during one of the many solos he graciously gives the great players in his band. When keyboardist Michele Luppi sings an exceptionally high note and nails it (in addition to nailing the Lord material on the ivories all damned night long!), he gets full approval and attention from his boss. A class act all the way around.
Whitesnake exists in some very high altitude, rarefied air – they are at the top of the heap in the world of classic hard rock, beside the likes of Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, and a few other acts who not only put on a good show for their fans and their hard earned money, but who also celebrate the music, the times, and the lifeblood of rock ‘n’ roll. There is absolutely nothing about their presentation that is anything but top shelf. It’s like David Coverdale told me himself, “Whitesnake, we’re the fucking Armani of rock bands, dude”. SETLIST: 1. Burn (Deep Purple) 2. Lay Down, Stay Down (Deep Purple) 3. Love Ain’t No Stranger 4. The Gypsy (Deep Purple) 5. Give Me All Your Love 6. You Keep On Moving (Deep Purple) 7. You Fool No One (Deep Purple) 8. Guitar Solos 9. Mistreated (Deep Purple) 10. Is This Love? 11. Drum Solo 12. Stormbringer (Deep Purple) 13. Here I Go Again Encore: 14. Still Of The Night.