Whitesnake, Foreigner and Europe @Newcastle Utilita Arena, May 15 2022
When David Coverdale made the brave decision to bring Dino Jelusick on board last summer it was less an admission of defeat and more the most pragmatic move possible for a pensioner determined to celebrate one last hurrah.
Without the vocal support offered by Whitesnake’s ‘new’ recruit and the Croat’s fellow band members — all of whom can hold a tune — this increasingly divisive farewell tour would never have happened.
And surely nobody wanted that?
For all those bemoaning a below par performance by one of blues rock’s greatest frontmen, thousands more poured out of Newcastle’s Utilita Arena surrounded by that warm glow of self-satisfaction synonymous with experiencing a bulging back catalogue turned up to 11.
Where else would you hear Here I Go Again, In The Still Of The Night, Fool For Your Loving and more delivered with such power and passion by a crack collaboration of internationally renowned hired hands?
When was the last time the city’s largest music venue was packed to the rafters to witness a British rock institution paint a glorious picture of a storied past?
And in all honesty would the band’s relentlessly loyal paying customers prefer to see someone else cast in the role of pantomime dame Coverdale as Whitesnake roll back the years one final time?
Is This David Coverdale?
If anyone expected a note-perfect finale to a glittering career they clearly stopped listening to Is This Love in 1987.
Those familiar with Whitesnake shows during the last 15 years have become used to a predictably steady decline in Coverdale’s vocal prowess but the bloke has banked thousands of peerless performances in the past.
For that he deserves credit, respect and a great deal of goodwill.
And he more than merits one last jog around the rock block…regardless of any wear and tear to those previously pristine pipes.
What Coverdale doesn’t warrant is the increasingly snide criticism coming his way from those who claim to have been front row and centre of the Whitesnake Choir from day one.
Those who should know better.
And those who owe DC more than most for decades of unwavering commitment to his arduous craft.
Well done for witnessing a true titan of the genre at his charismatic best and his pin sharp peak.
You were the lucky ones.
But don’t rain on the parade of those experiencing Whitesnake — replete with all of their glorious hits — for the first time.
For the newbies — and everyone open minded enough to accept Coverdale’s well documented limitations — this was still a hugely enjoyable rock and roll party.
Those who voted for 80s nostalgia rather than Eurovision cheese were richly rewarded as hit after hit echoed around a sold-out arena soon to join Whitesnake’s main man as a footnote in North East music history.
Sure, those hits didn’t always sound like they did 35 years ago.
And Coverdale didn’t look much like the MTV idol immortalised in ‘that’ video featuring future wife Tawny Kitean cavorting on a car bonnet.
But flanked by trusty six stringers Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, the voice of Whitesnake put on a show like only he can: teasing the crowd, tackling the tougher notes (not all of them) of those torch-waving anthems with admirable resolve and trying his level best to reprise the glory years.
Coverdale’s fiercest critics might claim the towel should have been thrown in long ago.
His biggest fans were simply overjoyed to hear those chart-busting fist-pumpers one last time.
Tanya And Tommy Tough To Beat
Older but surely no wiser that his occasional boss, drummer Tommy Aldridge proved age is never a barrier to beating the shit out of your oversized kit.
And the veteran tub thumper emerged as one half of a fascinating rhythm section featuring the striking Tanya O’Callaghan.
Whitesnake’s first female member might have been a long time coming but her understated stagecraft and authoritative backing vocals were all part of a painstakingly put together package carefully designed to squeeze a few more months out of the band’s wilting ringmaster.
Yet it was Jelusick who allowed an emotional Coverdale to truly enjoy his Toon swansong as the multi-talented singer and instrumentalist, in tandem with fellow keys man Michel Luppi, did so much of the heavy lifting when it came to elevating the most familiar tunes here.
Come set closer Burn almost everyone but DC — his most devoted fans included — sang the key lines of that Purple standard but did it really matter? Of course not.
Those craving a classic rock vocal masterclass should check out Inglorious frontman Nathan James or Buffalo Summer’s Andrew Hunt. But if pure showmanship and a monstrous production is your bag then Whitesnake is still where it’s at.
Queue The Final Countdown
Bringing along Foreigner and Europe for the ride, alongside Jelusick, was another smart moved from Coverdale and co. although the latter were missed by thousands of disappointed punters too late to the hair metal party.
Those still queuing after 7.30pm missed a highly efficient greatest hits set that paid due homage to The Final Countdown and its myriad chart singles.
Ageless frontman Joey Tempest had little time to ramp up his trademark rapport with a slow building crowd and, as such, a busy set occasionally lacked Europe’s usual warmth.
Those unfamiliar with the band’s more recent material were, however, treated to a rousing version of Days Of Rock N Roll culled from 2015’s War Of Kings.
And a sumptuous rendition of Superstitious — Tempest’s unofficial ode to classic Whitesnake — deserved to be savoured by more than a half-full arena.
Eurovision Or Double Vision?
Foreigner had the benefit of a rapidly swelling audience and irrepressible frontman Kelly Hansen.
Like Coverdale, the veteran vocalist took several off-stage breaks to recharge the rock and roll batteries but when it was his time to shine few could deny the 61-year-old comfortably stole the show.
Hansen employs an old-school, theatrical approach to the uncomplicated art of live performance and one of the finest AOR singers on the planet can still do justice to Double Vision, Urgent, Cold As Ice et al.
By contrast, Foreigner’s co-founder and chief songwriter Mick Jones accepts his time helming a full-throttle melodic rock tour de force is over.
And these days the 77-year-old chooses short bursts of fret-burning throwbacks over extended, energy-sapping nostalgia trips.
Strangely, even after all of these years, Jones still wants to know what love is: surely the ongoing adulation of an admiring crowd provides the definitive answer.
So could this really be the last time Tyneside is treated to two of classic rock’s most influential and indefatigable characters as they finally bring down the curtain on their respective careers?
If the heart says no, then the head says yes.
After more than a century of service between them, there’s just no need for Coverdale to go again or for Jones to remember what it feels like the first time.
Two genuine juke box heroes are long overdue a break and now’s the time for celebration, not sniping.