Whitesnake Web 2 By John Burrows @ishootgigs@Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, May 22 2013

According to one popular reality television show it’s all about the voice. And given the fact that Danny Bowes, David Coverdale and Arnel Pineda barely missed a note in Newcastle it’s a point of view that’s difficult to contest. 

All three were in sparkling form as the soft rock classics just kept on coming – Thunder’s Bowes setting the tone with his soulful, bluesy delivery, Whitesnake’s Coverdale countering with one of his most consistent performances in decades and Journey’s Pineda reinforcing his reputation as the AOR scene’s rising star.

However, with a who’s who of guitar heroes treading the boards on Tyneside the voices were just part of a sparkling package. And as the 80s anthems flowed the focus ultimately switched to the lords of the strings and a four-hour masterclass in fret-burning brilliance.

Luke Morley, Ben Matthews, Doug Aldrich, Reb Beach and Neal Schon nailed every solo and ripped through every riff. But there was more. Something few could have ever imagined or anticipated and a moment that will live with everyone present. When Whitesnake went back to the future and brought on Bernie Marsden to join the party, a collective gasp filled the rapt arena. Even the lads from Journey packed the wings for a better view of a genuine icon.

Marsden bravely shunned the shiny MTV-flavoured versions of Fool For You Lovin’ and Here I Go Again and took both songs back to where they started – his solo on the latter recalling the days before Coverdale became all-consumed with the trappings of fame, fortune and Tawny Kitean. It worked a treat before the shrill tones of Still Of The Night brought a triumphant close to the best Whitesnake show in decades.

Thunder 2013 Web By John Burrows @ishootgigsPrior to their set, Aldrich told RUSHONROCK that Thunder had ‘kicked the asses’ of both Whitesnake and Thunder in Sheffield. The softly-spoken American was in reflective mood as he sat in the back of an empty truck revealing his band’s determination to up their game and justify their co-headline status.

Aldrich’s steely resolution had clearly rubbed off on local hero Coverdale – the Teessider overcoming a shaky start to lay to rest any lingering doubts about one of classic rock’s most revered voices. Forevermore, more than any other song on a setlist spanning 35 years, proved there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.

But Thunder didn’t make it easy for Coverdale and co. to slip back into the comfort zone. The semi-retired bastions of bluesy British rock rifled through a 45-minute slot with Bowes’ idle banter juxtaposed alongside some seriously compelling music. A blistering version of Higher Ground brought the very best out of Morley and with Love Walked In any sceptics checked out. These days less is more where Thunder are concerned but their ‘national treasure’ status is assured.

Journey had it all to do as the final course of a sumptuous rock feast and they did it – in a thoroughly professional manner that occasionally bordered on the dispassionate. Pineda’s presence ensured a vibrant centerpiece to an uber-slick show but his band-mates consistently failed to follow the Filipino frontman’s exuberant lead. Nobody expected Schon and co. to match the band’s youthful singer stride for stride but an all-too static delivery from the band’s elder statesmen screamed indifference.

Jonathan Cain was the prime offender. Perhaps the multi-instrumentalist was buzzing behind that cool exterior but he looked like a musician going through the motions and dreaming of that cosy double bed at the lavish Malmaison.

Journey 2013 Web By John Burrows @ishootgigsThat Pineda carried Journey is symptomatic of a tired act in desperate need of a fresh approach to the arena format.

More confident than ever, the former karaoke singer engaged his audience, reached the high notes and utterly overshadowed his plodding colleagues. Pineda is still hungry: too many of Journey’s flag-bearers look like they’ve already had their fill.

Of course there’s still no finer sight or sound than the polished US titans belting out Ask The Lonely, Only The Young, Faithfully and the ubiquitous Don’t Stop Believin’. Nobody does AOR better. But no amount of panache can compensate for a lack of passion.

Simon Rushworth

Exclusive pictures courtesy of John Burrows @ishootgigs

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.


  •' Self Made Man

    Good review Simon _ liked the thematic reference to The Voice _ genius.
    Can’t agree with you about DC having a shaky start. I thought he kicked ass from the outset with Don’t Break My Heart Again sung and played beautifully. In fact, that’s probably the best I’ve heard Whitesnake since the early-80s. The sound had a bluesy feel to it not though Bernie Marsden obviously had something to do with that.
    Sadly, the solos which blighted previous tours are still there though mercifully in truncated form. Ten out of ten for the set list, however and DC’s banter
    Thunder were OK, no more, no less while I enjoyed Journey more than I thought I would despite their show being a little too polished. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with their musicians. At their age, Schon and Cain can’t be expected to match the energy levels of the much younger Pineda. As for the singer himself, it’s difficult to criticise his range or power but there is something though I can’t put my finger on what it is.

    • simon

      Interesting views as ever. I suppose I’m with you in trying to put my finger on what went wrong – or not quite right – with Journey. Overall a great night though…would be nice to think we have a few more in the weeks to come.

  •' Martyn P Jackson

    Doug Aldrich’s quote could equally have been applied to this gig too. Thunder easily won this battle of the bands for me. It’s a crying shame they’re no longer a functioning as a full-time band.

    Whitesnake undoubtedly gave an inproved performance on their last egregious City Hall show. The lower register of Coverdale’s voice sounded fine, but his upper register remains seriously wanting in a live context. Highlight of the set was certianly Bernie Marsden’s appearance, which made me yearn for Whitesnake to return to their British blues-rock roots.

    Journey gave slick but ultimately rather souless performance. Difficult to believe this is band to rocked the City Hall when Jeff Scott Soto was fronting them.


    • simon

      Journey and JSS were a dream partnership – however brief – but I don’t think Arnel is the problem. Unless he’s fallen out with the rest of the band? I reckon it would be easy to fall out with Jonathan Cain – I have rarely seen a bloke look so miserable on an arena stage. Glad you liked Thunder mate – still a class act.

  • I’d not heard much Thunder but I did enjoy majority of their set. Main thing that stuck out for me was the great audience interaction and even getting the audience to laugh.

    Whitesnake were really good. Sure Ol’man Coverdale can’t quite get the notes up top any more but we can’t really use that as an excuse for complaint. He had good banter with the crowd and the whole audience seemed to enjoy it.

    I was very underwhelmed with Journey I have to admit. Pineda seemed more obsessed with climbing on the drum riser and jumping off things than interacting with the audience. I think he only tried to really speak twice to the audience and once in middle of “how are you all” the bass player (sorry his name escapes me) jumped in with the next song cutting the young guy off.
    All in all their set seemed too rushed and they looked like they were just going through the motions with no passion. They came on in Whitesnakes shadow and it engulfed them. People were sitting down around me and talking, then leaving about 30 minutes into their set.
    Shame to end on a low after a great night

  •' Jim F

    Nice review, but please do not be insulting of Arnel Pineda by referring to him as a “former karaoke singer”. Arnel is no more a former karaoke singer than is just about every filipino. Cover band singer? Yes. Independent artist? Yes that too, the Zoo band had their own material and gigs around the country and in Hong Kong, etc.

    • simon

      Fair point, well made Jim. I’m a big fan of Arnel and always have been (if you look at past interviews/reviews). Don’t mean to be derogatory at all with that reference – it’s more a case of showing where he has come from and where he is now.

  • honest opinion , thunder – this was my first time seeing them live and to be honest they were magnificent, these guys complimented each other so well and Danny Bowes vocals were note perfect , very very impressed, obviously love walked in was the one for the crowds but i have to say this was carried out with utter professionalism and they made it look easy and more importantly they looked like a band who were enjoying the moment…

    DC rolled it back and i agree with the comments regarding struggling with some vocals however when this occurs the band join in and it becomes unnoticeable,(remember although he does not look it this guy is 61 years old) this happened rarely and DC engaged the crowd extremely well, a glutton of hits topped by Bernie Marsden joining the set which was TBH a memorable moment.. the show was really a tribute to whitesnake and in the time they had they crushed in a great variety of their huge back cataloguue along with the recent brilliant Evermore .The only thing i would say is agreeing with an earlier comment, maybe burn, aint no love orr soldier of fortune would have made a great show magnificent… so many classics to choose from its gotta be hard so in a any case i have to say well done DC …

    great start with separate ways, then unfortunately the static band (for me ) were a huge let please dont let this put people off but Arnel looks totally out of place and must feel it..its like watching a tribute band and that said arnel is the only one working hard but it simply dosent fit . left the building after 5 songs which i NEVER EVER do but the quality i had just witnessed fron the 2 prior bands simply wasn’t there,,,if you have tickets for these gigs all i can say is get there early as the quality is in reverse to what is classed as the norm

    • simon

      Great comments and appreciate you taking the time to post your views. Got to say I agree with you every step of the way and – although I forgot to mention it in the review – I completely concur where the backing vocals are concerned. DC has known his limits for some time now and surrounds himself with musicians who are also great singers. Whitesnake’s vocal harmonies are the standard for other bands to follow.

  •' Mark T

    Two years ago I thought Journey were outclassed by Foreinger and Styx. This year, same again, outclassed by Whitesnake and Thunder. The balance of Journeys set was wrong and they tried to “rock it up” too much to try and compete with Whitesnake and Thunder. Also, while Arnel is a good singer he lacks the charisma and stage presence that both Danny Bowes and David Coverdale have. If Journey were to come back on their own I would be reluctant to go back. Is this the most ever comments on rushonrock?

    • simon

      I’m in agreement about Journey trailing in third again but do feel Arnel – in spite of his lack of on-stage ‘banter’ – is the right man for the band. It’s just the rest of the band aren’t right for Journey anymore. And yes – this must be the most comments we’ve had for some time. Was talking to Self Made Man about this the other day and would love to have more on all the posts…not sure why people are so reluctant to share their views.

  •' trevor padgett

    Went to notts last night and have to agree with the previous comments . Thunder were in my view the best on the night with Whitesnake giving a energetic and full on set with coverdale bonding well with the crowd. Journey were once again outclassed and seemed to be going through the motions . The empty seats as the set progressed were I feel a testament to how the crowd felt.

  •' Alan Savill

    I’ve seen Journey a good few times and I must say that Arnel is a good front man. Technically perfect. No he is not Soto, no he is not Perry but he brings youthful exuberance to proceedings. Going tonight and looking forward to them.
    ‘Snake I have seen 25 times, been disappointed in Coverdale recently his banter is a bit Widow Twanky now. Shame there is no Aint No Love, I firmly believe a blues/ rock set would be stunning now.
    As for Thunder they always produce the goods Danny wants to be a manager now which is a shame as there is a lot of life in them yet.
    Best get there early !!

  • Well I’m back from the gig. A little sore as the gig started 1845 and finished just before 2300 great value with slick changes between bands.
    We missed the first Thunder song but watched the rest thinking just how big they could have been. Powerful playing Danny was on top form, Luke’s playing was subtle but powerful as ever. The sound to me was like the old days, the support had worse sound and less volume. I wish they’d do one more album.
    Whitesnake came on to My Generation from The Who. Looking at my brothers t shirt 1981 Come and Get It ( little faded like me) we discovered that it was 32 years to the day that we were at Hammy Odeon. So how have they changed.
    Well in places Coverdales voice was very poor and ragged, I wish he would stay in the range he can sing in. The older stuff would really work. Having said that he did as well as he could. Yes there was a lot of help from the three guitarists but it was passable. What wasn’t acceptable was the old drum solo from Tommy, sticks thrown in the air and use hands, great talent but not needed in a shortish set. Likewise the twin guitar solo was overlong and was the ideal T shirt buying time. Why ? Nice touch tipping a hat to Lord, Powell and Galley but it shows just how good the old Snake were great. I’m not too sure about the new stuff but we need to see progression. The old Widow Twanky routine is a little tiresome and the whitest teeth a little scary but it was a good night.
    Journey were very polished as ever. I like their singer but to me he was a little tiresome this time. His voice seemed to struggle , he had energy but a little too much as it seemed as if he was near enough choreographed. The band still seem to like him and laughed when he messed up one song by trying to sing a verse twice. The set was good some great classics and awesome guitar work.
    What was disappointing was the sound at the start. It was so quiet and lacked any bite and it took until halfway to be sorted out.
    There was an exodus when Journey were on especially during the lesser known songs but overall they were as they always are. The talk of lack of interaction was in someways correct,Cain seemed to be enjoying himself and came to the front, between song banter was not great but I prefer songs rather tan chat.
    I thought the Brum crowd were very stifled all night. From a side view the crowd stood but didn’t really give a lot back.
    Good value 7 1/2 out of ten possibly the time to change sets to reflect the singers range

    • simon

      Brilliant stuff thanks Alan. Anytime you fancy writing a review for RUSHONROCK just get in touch…great insight into the show and plenty of talking points. Really appreciate your contribution.

  • Simon look me up on FB Alan Savill would love to do more for you, been asked a few times GYRO have me for a festival, it’s a pleasure and a change to have reviews based on facts mate

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