Keeping up a gruelling schedule that would break many a younger man, Glenn Hughes’ solo career, which took a bit of a back seat during his Black Country Communion and California Breed projects, has been resurrected with one of the finest albums of his long career in ‘Resonate’.
The original winter tour to promote it was cancelled when co-headliners Living Colour pulled out, but these rescheduled dates had the advantage of being in a less crowded January gig calendar. For us London fans there was the added bonus of the show being moved to a packed Islington Assembly Hall, the thirties art deco town hall whose sound and sightlines, not to say sprung floor, make it one of London’s best-loved venues right now.
As a warm up for the ‘voice of rock’s appearance, some fellow Black countrymen of a younger generation in Stone Broken delivered a very agreeable 35 minute set that went down well with a crowd mainly old enough to be their parents- at least.
Unusually for a British band they take their cue from the US radio-friendly, post-grunge of the likes of Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, and opener ‘Stay All Night’ showed how the guitars of singer Rich Moss and Chris Davis combine to give a satisfying crunch, but the latter can certainly hold a tune as he proved on ‘Better ‘and ‘This Life’.
It was easy to see why ‘Wait for You’, with a chorus that reminded me of 3 Doors Down or one of Shinedown’s more commercial moments, is getting radio airplay, while a new song ‘Just a Memory’ was a tad heavier and they even got the crowd going during another lively closer in ‘Not Your Enemy’. Their enthusiasm and humility also went down very well, all confirming that we should be hearing a lot more of them in 2017.
We were transported into a different era as Glenn Hughes came on stage, his red paisley waistcoat and strides, shades and mop of tousled hair all adding to the psychedelic vibe of his new logo which formed the stage backdrop. The opener though was bang up to the minute as ‘Flow’ blended an accessible chorus with a real retro musical vibe. It was the first but far from the last, time when new boy Jay Boe was bouncing and rocking his Hammond organ as he extracted some vintage heavy sounds out of it.
The big challenge that faced Glenn was how in just under an hour and a half he could possibly both showcase the new material and also cover all phases of his career, but somehow an exquisitely chosen set list managed to do so. On the old Hughes Thrall number ‘Muscle and Blood’ Glenn was in reassuringly fine form, combining tender almost angelic singing with his trademark screams, then both I and the person I had been chatting to in the interval about the virtues of Mark 4 Deep Purple were not the only ones cheering, as Soren Andersen played the opening riff to ‘Getting Tighter’.
It occurred to me at that moment bands like the Red Hot Chilli peppers might never have existed but for that song and to prove the point the band went off into a funky jam which gave full reign to Glenn’s bass playing skills.
The old and the new blended seamlessly with ‘Stumble and Go’ showing a different side to his songwriting before the Trapeze oldie ‘Medusa’ had the powerful, epic feel of hard rock’s pioneer years, followed by the more recent ‘Can’t Stop the Flood’ which is now seen as a Glenn staple judging by the crowd’s reaction.
I was struck how tight his all-Scandinavian band were, and after a tentative start ‘One Last Soul’ only confirmed that they are possibly the finest Glenn has played with. They also did justice to another Purple classic in ‘You Keep On Moving’, Glenn extending the song with what seemed to be an improvised vocal coda which he dedicated to his mother who was seriously ill in hospital.
Indeed it was a more reflective, mellow Glenn than the swaggering figure often witnessed, as he mentioned that the gig was a working distraction from his heart being elsewhere and he seemed overwhelmed by the fans’ support and warmth.
Throughout his career, he has slipped chameleon-like through hard rock, funk and soul phases. It was the former that was the dominant element tonight as the gig stormed to a conclusion. Another newie ‘My Town’, driven on by some ferocious drumming from man mountain Pontus Engborg built some momentum that only increased with Glenn’s thudding bass intro to the second BCC number of the night in ‘Black Country’, which then segued into ‘Soul Mover’.
Again this seems to have become a signature GH song, with its blend of funk and heavy rock, and as Soren pulled some classic guitar shapes the crowd were joining in on a singalong.
One of my criticisms in the past has been that sometimes he can wander off into lengthy jams and not hold my attention. This was certainly the case on the last tour in spite of Doug Aldrich’s talent, but with this line up the set was leaner and meaner.
No time was wasted on the encores. ‘Heavy’, which I had guessed might have opened the main set was a perfect live anthem, and there was an outpouring of joy as it segued into Soren playing the opening riff to the inevitable ‘Burn’, he and Jay trading those classic instrumental passages as Glenn screamed over them.
A superb band, a cleverly chosen, career-spanning setlist and a perfect venue: all reasons why this was my favourite Glenn Hughes gig in a long time. At 64, the famous voice remains in remarkable shape, and this gig set the bar very high for the next stage in his career with the Black Country Communion reformation.
Review by Andy Nathan grtr