In my professional life I once played a small part in the successful campaign to help save Camden Town’s Electric Ballroom from demolition. So ten years on, at a time when so many venues have closed, it feels good to be standing in this legendary place waiting for the even more legendary Glenn Hughes to take the stage. Tonight’s gig in Camden is the final night of a solo world tour that features Doug Aldrich on guitar and Pontus Engborg on drums.
I’ve been a fan of Deep Purple virtually as long as I’ve been a fan of rock music. And although I’ve always loved the Gillan-fronted Mark 2 era albums I also love the output of Mark 3 era Deep Purple, too. And what made those albums particularly distinctive, had much to do with the influence of a certain Mr Glenn Hughes who brought his pitch-perfect harmony vocals and inventive funked-up bass playing to the party.
But whereas, post-Deep Purple, the other Mark 2/Mark 3 members all found gainful employment in three of the biggest heavy rock bands of the time, namely Rainbow, Whitesnake and Gillan, Glenn Hughes seemed to be left to one side a little. Of course, he continued gigging and recording in various projects. But, arguably, it wasn’t until the arrival of Black Country Communion, a 21st century take on the old early-70s “super-group” concept, did he really have a project to match the significance of his Purple days. Like every supergroup before it, Black Country Communion eventually fell apart but was superceded by yet another supergroup, California Breed, one that also ended up going the same way. So Hughes is back touring as a solo artist and tells the audience tonight that’s absolutely the way he intends to keep it from now on.
Few artists look as joyous to be on stage as Glenn Hughes or as appreciative of the audience. He genuinely looked like he was enjoying every single minute. After starting with a suitably heavy version of Stormbringer, the set tonight took us through songs from various stages of his long career. Deep Purple, of course, but also Trapeze, Hughes-Thrall and, more recently, Black Country Communion – as well as highlights from his solo career.
Mistreated was a definite highlight of the evening for me and I suspect , judging by the reaction from the crowd, for much of the audience, too. And much as I’m exited at the thought of seeing the modern-day line-up of Deep Purple next month, I doubt we will see anything as majestic, soul-filled or dazzlingly, spine-tinglingly, emotionally brilliant as what we witnessed with Mistreated tonight. The latter-day Deep Purple have practically disowned the Mark 3 material and it doesn’t appear in any of the band’s setlists. So let’s be thankful Glenn Hughes is helping to keep this music alive. And so magnificently he does it, too. Arguably, his voice is holding up better than either of the two front-men most associated with Deep Purple, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale. And he certainly hits all the high notes so beautifully.
One final observation. I don’t think it was just my imagination but the crowd did seem slightly more ethnically diverse than at many similar rock gigs I’ve seen recently. Hughes’ funk-influenced bass-playing and soulful vocals always marked him out as someone who could reach out beyond the archetypal white male rock fan. And given how much he talks of the healing power of music I suspect that this would please Mr Hughes greatly.
“Thanks for coming out and supporting this guy,” said guitarist, Doug Aldrich towards the end. “One of rock’s treasures.” Indeed he is.
Way Back to the Bone
Touch My Life
First Step of Love
Good To Be Bad
Can’t Stop the Flood
One Last Soul