Journey + Whitesnake + Thunder @ LG Arena, Birmingham – 28th May, 2013


Review by Paul Quinton

There have been a few of these packages in this country over the last decade or so. Danny Bowes of Thunder devised them as a sort of travelling Monsters of Rock Show, and compared to a single bill of bands of this stature, they do represent fair value. Having said that, the LG wasn’t full for this particular show, with the back tier curtained off, and it was also noticeable how many seats were vacant in the front few rows when Thunder took the stage at the unusually early time of 6.45.

Journey tour posterSince officially breaking up in 2009, THUNDER have actually played a few shows, including their traditional Christmas gigs, and a set at the High voltage Festival in 2011, but to be frank, tonight it was as if they’d never been away. Although this show was nearer the end than the beginning of the tour, so they were a little closer to match fitness than they might have been, it genuinely was as if they’d never been away. The sound was great, and the band were straight into their stride, perhaps surprisingly opening with ‘Dirty Love’ rather than ‘Back Street Symphony, and with both band and crowd getting into the show straight from the off, it was clear they were a very popular opener. Danny Bowes was his usual self, even resorting to mock insults to get the crowd involved and while I know there’s a school of thought that says he wastes too much time cheerleading, when he does show how good a singer he really is, as he did tonight on ‘Low Life In High Places’, it’s easier to appreciate that it’s who he is and he wouldn’t be the same frontman without it. Someone really does need to have a word about the dancing, though. They played pretty much the set-list you’d expect, although there were a couple of surprises near the end, including finishing the set with ‘I Love You More Than Rock’n’Roll and without pre-empting the rest of this review, Thunder really were the best band of the night.

Thunder set-list:- Dirty Love, River of Pain, Higher Ground, Low Life In High Places, Back Street Symphony, The Devil Made Me Do It, Love Walked In, I Love You More Than Rock’n’Roll.

WHITESNAKE could probably have headlined this package themselves, and certainly walked onto the stage with the swagger you’d normally expect from the headliners. However as the show went on, the feeling grew that there was something not right about this set.  By the end of the second song, ‘Ready and Willing’, it was obvious that David Coverdale was struggling with his voice. Outside his middle range it was more of a croak than a singing voice, and his attempts at screaming were often painful to listen to. It also seemed that he was taking whatever measures he could to save it, letting the other band members sing the choruses as well as taking a sizeable mid-set break for the customary solos, which under other circumstances would have been tedious at best. The guitar duel between Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich was very average, and Tommy Aldridge turned in the same drum solo as he has for most of the last 25 years. It wasn’t all bad, the band commendably played a healthy mix of new and old material, in fact the highlight of the set was the title track of the most recent album, ‘Forevermore’, heavier and more menacing than their usual stuff, and ‘Gambler’, dedicated to the memories of Cozy Powell, Mel Galley and Jon Lord was also good. Good things aside, you have to wonder how long the band can carry on in this vein. Even if the crowd are demanding to hear the ‘1987’ songs, it’s clear Coverdale can’t sustain that kind of performance for any extended sequence of shows.  When he reins in the screaming and stays in his range he’s still an effective performer and one of the best frontmen in the business, and there’s plenty of evidence to show they still have a lot to offer, including the quality of the new material. Creatively, they’ve still got it, but live the cracks are becoming more apparent all the time.

Whitesnake set-list:- Give Me All Your Love Tonight, Ready And Willing, Can You Hear The Wind Blow, Don’t Break My Heart Again, Is This Love, Gambler, Love Will Set You Free, Steal Your Heart Away, Forever More, The Best Years, Bad Boys, Fool For Your Loving, Here I Go Again, Still of The Night.

It’s two years since JOURNEY toured the UK on the back of their last album, ‘Eclipse’, headlining a similar sort of bill to this one, only that time with Foreigner and Styx, but with no new music to sell, tonight’s gig was unashamedly a ‘Greatest Hits’ set. In fact of the fifteen songs in tonight’s set, excluding the solos, all but five came from the seminal ‘Escape’ and ‘Frontiers’ albums, and the most recent song played was ‘Be Good To Yourself,’ which was first released in 1986. Being fair, they did play some more recent stuff at other gigs on the tour, but nonetheless, the focus tonight was definitely on the past. Although most of the set could have been safely predicted in advance, they did manage to surprise even hardcore Journey fans by throwing in part of ‘La do Da’ in a segue with ‘Only The Young’ and it was especially good to hear some harder edged songs like ‘Escape’ and a cracking ‘Edge of The Blade’, although what those fans introduced to the band by ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ made of those is anybody’s guess. Arnel Pineda was the usual bundle of energy, even with his boy band haircut, and he seems to have little trouble in reaching the same stratospheric notes as Steve Perry, his performance of ‘Open Arms’ being particularly good. But although the band played well, this gig seemed quite flat, with the band never quite managing to rouse the majority of the crowd. For this Journey fan, they were never boring, although a little more adventure in the set list would have been welcome, and although ‘Wheel In The Sky’, four songs from the end nearly did the trick, but until they played that song to close the show, they seemed to find it difficult to lift the show to heights I’ve seen them reach in smaller venues, and perhaps that’s the point. The show itself was great value, but sometimes bigger isn’t better. As it turned out the night belonged to the opening band on the bill, but I can’t help thinking that each of the three would have been so much better in their own show at a smaller venue.

Journey set list:- Separate Ways, Any Way You Want it, La Do Da, Only The Young, Stone In Love, Keep On Running, Edge Of The Blade, Lights, Open Arms, Escape, Dead Or Alive, Wheel In The Sky, Faithfully, Be Good To Yourself, Don’t Stop Believing.