rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth was granted exclusive access to Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale ahead of the band’s UK tour next month and here’s the first of a series of special features celebrating the bastions of British blues rock.
Look out for a full and exclusive Q&A with the man himself right here very soon but for now find out why Newcastle will be the first port of call on the ‘Snake’s latest headline tour…
Whitesnake kick off their UK headline tour in Newcastle on the back of another hit US album and a string of sold-out dates Stateside. But home is where the heart is for frontman David Coverdale.
David Coverdale will turn 60 later this year and yet, like fellow Teessider and bastion of blues rock Paul Rodgers, the eternally youthful face of multi-million selling band Whitesnake boasts more creative energy than most musicians half his age.
Fresh from co-writing Top 50 US album Forevermore – a record which broke the Top 20 in Japan, Germany and Sweden and beat Britney Spears in the race for UK pre-sales – the flamboyant frontman is promoting a headline tour and the CD/DVD release Live From Donington this month [June].
However, while Coverdale takes pride in every aspect of his acclaimed work there is one city and one venue which still demands a reappraisal of everything that has gone before – simply because it’s where it all started for the global brand that is Whitesnake.
“We’re so pleased to be kicking things off in Newcastle,” he said. “I have such a great affinity with the people up there. And I’m ever so glad to be going back to the City Hall.
“We enjoyed a lot of success with Def Leppard when we did the arena tour and Download last time out. But we get so much mail from UK fans saying they prefer to see us in more intimate surroundings. I don’t mind either way! But Newcastle City Hall is very special to me and very close to my heart. It’s where Whitesnake was launched.”
Yet for Coverdale, one of the North East’s most iconic music venues means much more to him than the birthplace of his band as a major commercial force.
“My favourite memory of the City Hall has nothing to do with me or Whitesnake,” he added. “It was seeing Jimi Hendrix when I was just 15-years-old. He was part of a bill that included The Move and Amen Corner and I came out of the bathroom and Pink Floyd were on stage! What a night!
“All of these different bands were coming out one after the other and then there was Hendrix, who was a giant to me. At the City Hall you’re close enough to see the people performing and to benefit from the experience.”
Once Whitesnake’s star was in the ascendancy Coverdale was a regular City Hall performer in his own right and these ‘homecoming’ gigs have always resonated powerfully with the exiled North Easterner.
“My mam would always come to the Whitesnake gigs at the City Hall,” he added. “She’d come along with my aunt and they’d stand at the mixing desk – they looked like X-Men standing there with their big glasses on.
“I suppose I only have one regret – I always envied Lindisfarne doing their long residencies at the City Hall around Christmas time and getting to play everything they wanted to play. I would have loved to have done that. Considering I’ve been doing this for 40 years now I’ve only really played 25% of the songs live that I’ve recorded.”
With each new album, especially those in Forevermore’s league, filtering the setlist to suit all tastes becomes an even greater challenge. However, Coverdale never wanted Whitesnake to become a so-called heritage act – belting out the old favourites at the expense of fresh and vibrant new matrial.
“Mick Jagger told me years ago that the Stones made albums to promote their tours,” added Coverdale. “When I was with Deep Purple we went out on the road to promote the album. Now the wheel’s come full circle again and I’m living in Mick’s world. Good To Be Bad gave us two years on the road. And it looks like Forevermore will do the same.
“On the 2008 tour we made sure that 50% of the set was from the Good To Be Bad record. That really fuelled me and charged me into performing at the top of my game. We intend to play the pick of Forevermore and a mix of the older stuff.
“We have never, at any time, tried to recreate something that’s been done before. I like that we have such an immensely powerful back catalogue but we will never set out to recreate Here I Go Again. Forevermore is the kind of music we enjoy making right now and we’re loving what we’re doing as a band.”
* Whitesnake play a series of UK dates – with The Union in support – from June 13.
* Live At Donington is released via Frontiers Records on June 6.
* This interview originally appeared in Newcastle’s Journal newspaper.