At The Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., June 24, 2008

WHITESNAKE (Live at The Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., June 24, 2008)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Package tours featuring a number of bands are becoming more common these days in the UK. Promoters seeing the success of these type of tours in The States have realized the pulling power that two or more “name” bands can have on ticket sales. Recent shows have included Alice Cooper, Motörhead, and Joan Jett while another featured Scorpions with Judas Priest.

Whoever decided on pairing Def Leppard with Whitesnake certainly knew that they’d be able to pull the punters in with no problems at all. Added to this mouth-watering bill was up-and-coming Southern Metal-influenced Rockers, Black Stone Cherry, and the stage was set for a great value evening of Hard Rock.

First up was Black Stone Cherry, one of Roadrunner Records latest and hottest acts. With a set featuring cuts from their excellent self-titled debut album including the thumping “Rain Wizard” alongside tracks from their forthcoming Folklore And Superstition album and for half an hour or so, Black Stone Cherry thundered along delivering their Southern-soaked brand of groove laden, heavy weight Rock ‘n’ Roll, tipping their hat towards such luminaries as Blackfoot and Raging Slab. Lead singer and guitarist Chris Robertson has the perfect voice for this with a real powerful, gritty blue collar edge to it, bringing to mind a more youthful Leslie West (Mountain) or Nicky Moore (ex-Samson, Mammoth). Add to this the huge titanic riffs from lead guitarist Ben Wells and bassist John Lawhon, and you’re onto a winner. A special mention must go to drummer John Fred Young who is simply one of the most entertaining drummers around today. With a thick mop of curly hair and arms flailing like a rabid octopus, hurling, snapping and spinning his sticks at every opportunity, as well as constantly standing up and jumping around with wild abandon. His energy and enthusiasm is contagious and his technical skill exemplarily, and he certainly adds to the live performance of the band. Closing the set with a heavyweight rendition of “Voodoo Chile” featuring Robertson, Wells and Lawhon all with their guitars behind their heads a la Hendrix, Black Stone Cherry provided one of the most entertaining sets seen by an opening act for a while, and are certainly one to catch when they return for a series of headline shows later this year.

BLACK STONE CHERRY (Live at The Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., June 24, 2008)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Although this was classed as a co-headlining show, Whitesnake were the second band on the stage each night during the tour in more of a “special guest” role. Whitesnake are on something of a crest of a wave at the moment, following the release of their critically acclaimed and commercially successful album Good To Be Bad, their first all-new studio album in 11 years.

As Whitesnake hit the stage to “Best Years,” David Coverdale wasted little time in fully utilizing the walkway section of the stage to get straight out in the audience, and he looked fitter and leaner than ever, making a mockery of his constant references to his own “Grandfather” status. Coverdale’s banter with the audience was one of his strong points, and at every possible occasion he would engage in playful chat with the crowd, often singling out certain individuals much to their great delight. He certainly knows how to work an audience and remains one of Rock’s consummate showmen.

Clearly proud of his latest album, and the chance to air some new material into the set, the likes of “Can You Hear The Wind Blow” nestled comfortably alongside seasoned classics like “Fool For Your Loving” and “Love Ain’t No Stranger,” which was touchingly dedicated to the terminally ill former Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley who tragically passed away not long after the show.

The pace was slowed down for an acoustic spot, featuring “The Deeper The Love” and mega hit “Is This Love” before the new song “Fool In Love” picked up the pace again. One thing, however, was of concern… as the show progressed, Coverdale’s voice became coarser and more abrasive and his singing became more of a screech. Whether the rigors of a long tour were beginning to take their toll, or his age is catching up on him, Coverdale certainly wasn’t at his best with “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” suffering from a less than smooth delivery.

Coverdale always manages to get top class musicians in his band, and there is no exception with this line-up with guitarists Reb Beech and the excellent Dough Aldrich certainly fitting the bill in Whitesnake. As the show neared the end with the rocking “Give Me All Your Love” and “Here I Go Again,” which elicited one of the biggest cheers of the night, Whitesnake were in full flow and the crowd was clearly up for a longer set, but unfortunately time constraints prevented this from happening. Closing the show with the mammoth “Still Of The Night” should have left things on a high, however Coverdale was really struggling at this point, and perhaps the acoustics of the arena didn’t help, but this was not one of his best performances, which is a shame as this is his the venue closest to his old Teesside roots.

Overall, Whitesnake were somewhat disappointing and have certainly performed much better in the past, and time will tell whether this was mere blip or something more permanent.

As with Whitesnake, Def Leppard’s career is taking something of an upturn at the moment, with new album Songs From The Sparkle Lounge receiving rave reviews and drawing comparisons to their classic Hysteria days. Certainly as they hit the stage to a cascade of lights and video images to the sound of “Rocket,” they certainly got off to a flying start, and with the ’70’s-inspired Glitter Band like “C’mon C’mon” following hot on its heels, Leppard rose to the challenge.

Utilizing a much larger stage than Whitesnake, with a large staircase leading to Rick Allen’s drum riser, flanked by walkways on either side and with a huge video screen draped with the red theatrical curtains from the Songs From The Sparkle Lounge cover to the rear of the stage, ensuring everyone in the Arena had a great view.

DEF LEPPARD (Live at The Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., June 24, 2008)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Blessed with a much clearer sound than Whitesnake, Def Leppard delivered a crowd pleasing set of their hits including “Animal,” “Make Love Like A Man,” and “Hysteria,” with a scattering of new songs in between with “Bad Actress” being only one of a handful of tracks from their latest album. Surely an album as strong as Songs From The Sparkle Lounge deserves a couple more songs in the set?

Rick Savage disappeared and suddenly reappeared across the stage in a pretty effective trick during the intro to the David Essex classic “Rock On.” The pace slowed down somewhat during the now obligatory acoustic moment featuring “Two Steps Behind” and “Bringing On The Heartache,” however, a closing salvo of “Armageddon It,” a superb “Photograph” featuring a montage of images of Leppard past and present, and the foundation shaking anthem of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” had the Arena dancing.

DEF LEPPARD (Live at The Metro Arena, Newcastle, U.K., June 24, 2008)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Perhaps the best was kept until last as the main set closed with a rousing “Rock Of Ages,” the highlight of the classic multi-million selling Pyromania album. The final song of the night, “Let’s Get Rocked,” ended the show on a high and pretty much symbolized Leppard’s knack of producing incredibly catchy hard-edged Rock/Pop songs.

With a show length approaching 4 hours, this was certainly great value for money for the thousands of punters shoe horned into The Arena. No doubt other Promoters will take note of the pulling power of a couple of major acts together with a hot up-and-coming new band, and hopefully more packages like this will come your way.

Musically, it was something of a mixed bag with Black Stone Cherry showing great potential for the future, while Whitesnake struggled with a poor sound. Despite Coverdale’s vocal off-day, he did still entertain like the old pro he is. Def Leppard, with the benefit of a much better quality sound, delivered an enjoyable Greatest Hits laden set, which sent the capacity crowd home happy.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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