Both Whitesnake and Def Leppard are currently riding high in the charts with critically new albums marking a return to form for each. This double headlining tour has further added to this momentum.
It is Whitesnake who take to the stage first in the full SECC. Their set consists both of greatest hits and no fewer than four tracks from the new Good to be Bad album.
New material often takes more than one tour to bed-in properly and fans can be reluctant to buy new records by old bands. This was not the case for Whitesnake tonight with the new songs being greeted warmly by the audience, many of whom have clearly bought the album. In fact, so good are the new songs, they blend in seamlessly with material from the multi-million selling Whitesnake 1987 album. However, with Doug Aldrich both playing guitar and writing songs in the style of John Sykes on the new material, one might ask whether David Coverdale couldn't just bury the hatchet and get Sykes himself back into the fold.
As might be expected, the biggest applause is reserved for the classics including Fool for your Loving, Is this Love, Ain't No Love In The Heart of The City and Still of the Night. In a poignant touch, Coverdale dedicates Love Ain't No Stranger to the terminally-ill former Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley. The high point of the set comes with the beginning of Here I Go Again where it seemed that every single person in the entire audience had their hands above their head clapping.
Always the showman, Coverdale has the audience mesmerised throughout the evening both with his singing skills and his sexist banter between songs. While his voice strained at times, this didn't affect the overall quality of the performance.
The last Whitesnake tour was rather badly paced, with long and rambling guitar and drum solo spots taking place astonishingly early in the set. Tonight's shorter set marks a great improvement featuring the excellent Snake Dance guitar instrumental but avoiding lengthy individual guitar solo slots by Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich. Unfortunately, however, the lesson has not been learnt with regard to the drums and the lengthy solo with new drummer Chris Frazier comes just five minutes later. This minor criticism aside, this was a near perfect gig. Whitesnake left to rapturous applause, and would clearly be a hard act for Def Leppard to follow.
Like Whitesnake, Def Leppard played a best-of set interspersed with material from the new album. Starting with Rocket, all the crowd pleasers were present and correct including Armageddon It, Animal, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Photograph and Rock of Ages. Wisely, a veil was drawn over the period from the mid 90s to early 2000s when Leppard unwisely dabbled in grunge with the Slang album and then went on to release two below-par records with no heart or claws (Euphoria, X).
Despite their reputation as studio perfectionists, Def Leppard proved that they have no problem reproducing their sound live including the complex harmony vocals.
Following the long period of dodgy clothes and haircuts which the band sported in an unconvincing attempt to disown their heavy metal past, singer Joe Elliot and bassist Rick Savage have grown their hair back properly and are wearing old-school rock clothes as is guitarist Viv Campbell. The overall effect is lost however, when Campbell and his guitar partner Phil Collen strip to the waist. Both gym-bunnies look like they've actually greased themselves and thus look more like members of the Chippendales rather than one of the most successful hard rock bands of all time. NWOBHM colleagues Saxon would never do such a highly dubious thing!
While Def Leppard avoided guitar and drum solo spots of the type favoured by Whitesnake, their set instead unexpectedly featured a bass solo. Even more surprisingly, in what must be a world first for bass solos, it was actually entertaining. All too often at rock concerts, bass players can be seen but not heard. Rick Savage was a notable exception to the rule with his sumptuous bass sound being clearly audible throughout.
At concerts, it is difficult not to get the impression that fans don't really want to hear slow songs and that the bands only bother playing them to get their breath back between bouts of rocking out. This evening, the slow songs went down just as well as the fast ones.
With a short set filled with greatest hits and well-picked new tracks, it seemed that Leppard couldn't put a foot wrong. This changed dramatically when the band came on for an encore with new track Bad Actress. This rather weak song went down like the proverbial lead balloon, leaving the crowd standing absolutely motionless for its duration with the exception of one brave soul with raised arms. At the end of the song you could almost have heard a pin drop.
This tactical error aside, Def Leppard played a blinding set. Serious Def Leppard fans would no doubt have preferred to hear more material from High and Dry and Pyromania, but with only an hour and a quarter to spare, there simply wasn't the time. This was quite simply a triumphant night for both bands.
:twisted :twisted :twisted :twisted / 4 out of 5
Whitesnake: Best Years, Fool For Your Loving, Can You Hear The Wind Blow, Love Ain't No Stranger (dedicated to Mel Galley), Lay Down Your Love, Is This Love, Snake Dance (guitar solos), A Fool In Love, Drum solo, Ain't Gonna Cry No More (Acoustic), Ain't No Love In The Heart of The City, Give Me All Your Love, Here I Go Again. Encore: Still of The Night
Def Leppard: Rocket, C'Mon C'Mon, Make Love Like a Man, Armageddon It, When Love and Hate Collide, Nine Lives, Bass Solo/Rock On, Two Steps Behind, Bringing on the Heartbreak, Hysteria, Animal , Photograph, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Rock of Ages. Encore: Bad Actress, Let's Get Rocked.