Talk about getting the Big Guns out, this tour is pretty much a dream for any lover of hard rock, and the sold out (or very nearly) venues so far have shown that we still like to watch the old heroes cavorting about like they used to, even though much of the long hair has been cropped these days. Cardiff is no exception, and the hall is flooded with people, even though Thunder are stuck with a start time of 6.45pm. It’s heartening to see so many people in to watch them, and as they start with old favourite “Dirty Love” you can tell the people are up for a bit of a singalong. As ever, Danny Bowes shows himself to be the living embodiment of the word “Irrepressible”, bouncing around and having fun with the audience throughout the band’s 45 minute set. It gives them time for just 8 songs, and whilst it must have been hard to pick 8 tracks, Thunder’s repertoire is so impressive it was guaranteed that every one would be a winner. For me, the highlight is the powerhouse guitar driven “Backstreet Symphony”, although the crowd reserve their biggest cheers for “Love Walked In”. As usual, Thunder get on with the job without ever coming over as pretentious of big headed,. Guitarist Luke Morley looks like he’s pilfered his haircut and shirt from Top Gear’s James May, but he looks comfortable and relaxed, so who am I to judge. As they come to the end of “I Love You More Than Rock & Roll” I realize that my throat is already sore from singing along and there’s a big grin plastered across my face. Retired they may be (honest!), Thunder are still one of the most reliable live bands this country has ever produced, and as ever are a hard act to follow, whoever you are.

Set list: Dirty Love; River Of Pain; Until My Dying Day; Low Life In High Places; Backstreet Symphony; The Devil Made Me Do It; Love Walked In; I Love You More Than Rock & Roll

When Thunder leave the stage a well oiled machine ensures that we’re not left waiting very long at all before The Who’s “My Generation” starts blasting through the speakers, the cue for Mr David Coverdale and his merry men to bring their chiselled chests onto the stage. A smile is brought to my face as Coverdale’s first words are “Ere’s a song for ya!” as they kick off with “All Your Love Tonight”, followed by a very welcome “ready & Willing” for all the old fans. Coverdale looks as good as can be expected for an elder statesman, and although he sounds strained at times he does a good job. For the first half of the 90 minute set he really doesn’t hit as many notes as he should, but actually improves as the night goes on, even though when he chats to the crowd he sounds like he’s just been karate chopped in the throat. It’s when the band slows down a bit that he is at his best, such as on the best track of the night “Forevermore”, although he’s not helped by a sometimes poor mix (during “Best Years” for example) that allows the guitars of Doug Aldirdge and Reb Beach to drown him out. All in all, Coverdale does a godo job, but I get the feeling he’s more suited to acoustic concerts these days, where he doesn’t have to scream and can use his natural singing voice, which is great. It wouldn’t be a Whitesnake gig without Tommy Aldridge trotting out the same old drum solo he’s done for many, many years now (and with different bands), and I sit through it because there’s nothing better to do. Ditto the guitar piece from Doug and Reb, which isn’t that impressive and doesn’t fit in with Whitesnake’s ethos at all. These niggles aside, the set is lots of fun and full of energy, Coverdale is a real showman and interacts with the crowd like a beloved uncle, whilst the band are tight and mainly bare chested. Set closer “Still Of The Night” is a welcome song, even though Coverdale takes a few minutes to be able to hit the notes, and overall it’s been a good gig that has showcased both strengths and weaknesses of Whitesnake in 2013.

Set List: All Your Love Tonight; Ready & Willing; Can You Hear The Wind Blow; Come & Get It; Is This Love; Looking For Love; Love Will Set You Free; Steal Your Heart Away; Forevermore; Bad Boys; Fool For Your Loving; Here I Go Again; Still Of The Night

And so to the main event. As big as Whitesnake are, they can’t compare to Journey, a band that has seen a massive resurgence in sales since “Don’t Stop Believing” was plastered all over U.S television. Regardless of this, Journey are a band with an incredibly solid back catalogue of 24 carat quality, and as this is my first time seeing them I am filled with anticipation.

The first thing I notice is the use of the digital backdrop. Thunder didn’t have it, Whitesnake flashed up a few images and logos, but Journey make it their own, with animation suiting song lyrics throughout. It makes quite a difference to the overall feel of the show and has obviously been done with great care and forethought. As with many vocalists, there have been conflicting reports of vocalist Arnel Pineda;s live prowess, but all I can say is tonight he is on fine form, hitting notes higher than the roof and really carrying the emotions of songs like “Faithfully” and “Open Arms”. Interestingly, a drunk Welsh girl asked if the latter was originally by Boyz 2 Men, probably because she is stupid.

Tonight’s set is heavily weighted towards the “Escape” and “Frontiers” albums, and whilst they are undeniable classics it’s a shame not to hear more from “Raised On Radio” aside from “Be Good To Yourself”. Regardless of this, there’s barely a bum note struck, as they open with “Separate Ways”, followed by “Any Way You Want It”, after which Neal Schon rattles off “The Star Spangled Banner”, something that probably goes down a lot better in America, whereas Cardiff couldn’t care less. Deen Castronovo does a great vocal job from behind the drumkit on “Dead Or Alive”, giving Arnel a well deserved rest (by all accounts, Deen is too shy to be a frontman, but certainly has the voice for it). Although the crowd don’t react to him in the same way as they did Coverdale, he’s very energetic and enthusiastic throughout, bouncing around without dropping a note. Towards the end they do “Wheel In The Sky”, extending it by a few minutes and really rocking the whole joint as it’s slowly turned into a proper hard rock song. Naturally, “Don’t Stop Believing” rounds off the night, filmed on a thousand cameraphones, and I have to say Journey were absolutely brilliant. A great night, perfectly finished.

Set List: Separate Ways; Any Way You Want It; Only The Young; Star Spangled Banner; Stone In Love; Keep On Runnin'; Edge Of The Blade; Lights; Open Arms; Faithfully; Rubicon; Escape; Dead Or Alive; Wheel In The Sky; Be Good To Yourself; Don’t Stop Believing

Review: Alan Holloway
Photos: Eleanor Jane (