@ Newcastle City Hall, June 13 2011

If David Coverdale is to continue thrilling crowds the world over with his trademark blues rock tones then it’s time to face the facts.

When he’s up on stage there’s still nobody better as a showman, singer, raconteur and master of the double entendre.

Physically fit and with his voice in far better shape than on the Good To Be Bad tour, there’s a consistency and an enthusiasm about his performance and delivery that defies the Saltburn crooner’s advancing years. 

Yet what remains so frustrating for the massed ranks of the Whitesnake choir is Coverdale’s continued absence for long periods of a show that clocks in just shy of two hours. If, as appears to be the case, the former Deep Purple frontman can’t deliver the full set then fair enough – but the solution shouldn’t be to fill the mid-section with self-indulgent solos.

Surely Whitesnake would be better served trimming the time they spend on stage and ensuring the main man remains the focus for the bulk of the show? Play for 75 minutes, blast through the hits and take a break after the curtain’s come down – don’t disrupt the flow slap bang in the middle of what is an otherwise dazzling set to savour. Less, as they say, is more.

Right now Coverdale’s long absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder and it’s disappointing that so many fans emerged from the City Hall saying the same thing: the mercurial singer more than cut the mustard but the filler left a bitter taste.

Of course the Reb Beach versus Doug Aldrich fret-off has become a familiar feature of modern-day Whitesnake shows and both men are masters of the electric guitar. But on the Forevermore tour their joust is just too long and the same can be said for Brian Tichy’s elongated drum solo. Coverdale is right to take pride in the quality of his band but pride inevitably comes before a fall.

Of course one of British rock’s most endearing figures is a victim of his own success because the baying hordes will always demand more. Every moment in Coverdale’s company is a moment of unadulterated joy and if the material from new album Forevermore is a barometer then, as a songwriter, he still has so much more to say.

Mixing new material with familiar hits, that side of the latest Whitesnake show is simply perfect. Love Will Set You Free sits comfortably alongside Give Me All Your Love and Love Ain’t No Stranger – three sensational tracks spanning the generations and proving the pedigree of a rich back catalogue.

For the Newcastle crowd Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City will always be a special tune – it was at the City Hall all those years ago that the audience sang the words of Whitesnake’s most famous cover back to the band and suggested there was something special about Coverdale’s post-Purple project.

The Geordie public is no bad judge. And after making a full contribution to their personal favourite they danced along to Fool For Your Lovin and Here I Go Again like their lives depended upon it.

A rousing rendition of Still Of The Night – the best version of that 1987 standard heard in these parts for many, many years – represented the ideal encore. And for all the rumblings around those solo slots it is this iconic tune which will live longest in the memories of Coverdale’s partisan and passionate ‘home’ crowd.

Simon Rushworth