Whitesnake & Def Leppard + Thunder
There's no denying it, this is the double ticket of the year in the UK, as two of our biggest draws in the Eighties return together with both a vengeance and a top notch album apiece. Cardiff is awash with the unwashed, with many an ancient tour t-shirt being rescued from the dogs basket. The sheer volume of people is testament to these two powerhouses, who have managed to sell out the venue without selling out in any other way.
First up are Thunder, who good as they are seem a little redundant. When you have the two co headliners belting out an hour and twenty minutes or so apiece, seeing Thunder opening for them seems to be little more of a bonus. Thunder (who should be celebrating their 20 th anniversary next year) go through the usual motions during a short set of seven songs, including the likes of “Dirty Love”, “Love Walked In” and “I Love You (More Than Rock & Roll)”. It's entertaining, it's Thunder, but if you want the full, thunderous effect, go and see their headlining tour later in the year.
I can't believe that after nearly 30 years of loving rock music I'm sitting in front of the stage, camera in hand, waiting to see Whitesnake for the first time. It's been 30 years since the “Snakebite” EP, and with the new “Good To Be Bad” bad album it seems there's life in the old snake yet. Finally, the lights dim, the guitars crank up and David Coverdale strides purposefully to the end of the stage extension to tell us that these are the “Best Years”. It's a perfectly appropriate song to start with, the lyrics positive and the music loud and heavy. To keep all the old fans happy, they follow it with a blistering version of “Fool For Your Loving”, a song that many bands would reserve until the end of a set. As if to prove the new material is as strong as any of the oldies, a second is then trotted out in the form of “Can You Hear The Wind Blow”, ramming home the point with finesse and a bucketful of power chords. The 80 minute set flies by, even managing to drag out a few surprises, such as perfect acoustic versions of “The Deeper the Love” and “Ain't Gonna Cry”.
Regardless of age or past abuse, Coverdale's voice is in great shape as he croons and screeches where appropriate. He may be dragging a few years behind him now, but he shakes them off with a wiggle of his hips, the oldest swinger in town and justifiably proud of it. The crowd love it, especially when he sucks up to the Welsh. The banter is natural and fun, and soon we're all in the palm of his hand. There's nothing quite like seeing him orchestrating a rousing singalong to “Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City”. The show is all about the Cov, but there's no slacking allowed in the instrumental section of the band, and as usual he's surrounded by top class musicians. Guitarists Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich trade riffs and solos like they're going out of fashion, even getting their own “Duelling Guitars” solo spot mid set, during which they deliver some blistering guitarwork, not to mention some hilarious facial expressions. Bassist Uriah Duffy keeps his end up, as to drummer Chris Frazier and Timothy Drury on the keyboards. It's a tight unit, and they plough through some of the best rockers of the last 30 years, ending on the screamtastic “Still Of the Night”, which again sees Coverdale showing that his voice is as good as ever. A great set by a great band.
SET LIST: Best Years; Fool For Your Loving; Can You Hear The Wind Blow; Love Ain't No Stranger; Lay Down Your Love; The Deeper The Love; Is The Love; A Fool In Love; Ain't Gonna Cry; Ain't No Love In the Heart Of The City; Give Me All Your Love; Here I Go Again; Still Of The Night
The clear message to Def Leppard is “Follow that”. During Whitesnake's show I wondered what the point of the giant digital screen behind the stage was, as all it did was display a logo or two, seeming like a bit of a waste of money. As the lights go down for the second time, it becomes obvious that this is Leppard's toy. Framed by theatre style curtains, it comes to life and we are treated to a collage of Leppard albums and song titles, a whistle stop tour through the band's chronology. As it ends, Joe Elliot and chums bounce out to “Rocket”, with a myriad of images exploding all over the screen to back up the song. It's quite a sight, and very effective. It carries on for the first four songs, including a synchronized showing of the “9 Lives” video, then runs out of material and the band are left on their own. Mind you, Def Leppard are a band that, whilst they like to use fancy tricks, are perfectly capable of rocking up a storm without them. The sound is great, and Joe Elliot sings, dances and fucks about like a man having a great time. Not surprisingly, there's no cause to fault the musicianship in this band, either, with this version having been together since guitarist Viv Campbell joined in 1992.
The set is an unashamed greatest hits package, although it's a shame that the only pre “Hysteria” song is the majestic, half acoustic “Bringin On The Heartbreak”. Elsewhere, we get the likes of “Animal”, “Make Love like A Man” and even a surprisingly cool version of David Essex' “Rock On”. The set dips in the middle, as Rick Allen gets a break and the other four give us an acoustic version of “Two Steps Behind” (one of my favorites). Coupled with Elliot's lengthy chat to the crowd it sort of bungs up the mood, and this seems to continue for a few songs for some reason. After Elliot seemingly struggles with the high vocals for “Animal” it all comes back together with a bang, as the lights crank up for a fantastic version of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. They follow this with “Rock Of Ages” and the two encores “Bad Actress” and “Let's Get Rocked”, with these four songs representing easily the best twenty minutes or so of the night, such is the confidence and power of the band. As someone who really doesn't have a favorite between these two it's hard to call a winner in this battle of the bands, but I think Whitesnake just pipped Leppard at the post, although both were generally superb. Go LepSnake!
Review & Photos by Alan Holloway