Glenn Hughes has, during his six-decade career, been associated with more than a handful of bands. Finders Keepers, where it all began in the mid-60s became Trapeze, the funk rockers that set him up for the big time. There’s the short-lived collaboration with Pat Thrall (Hughes/Thrall), a brief stint with Black Sabbath, and, over the past decade, the ill-fated California Breed, and the recently revived Black Country Communion. As a solo artist, the list of collaborators is even more extensive and impressive, ranging from Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith to KLF and Gary Moore.
But, despite such a stuffed CV, Hughes will forever be synonymous with the band that made him a bonafide rock star in the ‘70s and, eventually, landed him in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. That’s because, between 1973 and 1976, the singer-bassist was able to do what so many other members of Deep Purple’s revolving line-ups were not: shape the rock icons’ sound. With fellow lead singer David Coverdale, he added funk and soul to the mix, resulting in such stone cold classics as Burn and Mistreated. Both songs have, deservedly, remained encore favourites at his live shows over the ensuing years.
So it’s no major leap for Hughes to set aside the remainder of his expansive back catalogue to focus primarily on the three albums he recorded with Deep Purple: Burn, Stormbringer, and Come Taste The Band. And dressed in era-appropriate garb (paisley shirt, red waistcoat, red trousers), his hair as long as it was 50 years ago (as evidenced by the young man portrayed in the psychedelic backdrop), he’s clearly up to the task.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that, both physically and vocally, he’s still in far better shape than any of the band’s other singers. To be fair, the 66 year old is in better shape than many performers half his age. Lithe, energetic, and looking even more comfortable on stage than he has in years, Hughes leaps into the opening salvo of Stormbringer, Might Just Take Your Life, and Sail Away as if it’s still 1974. Not just does his voice hit all the high notes, his bass playing seems loaded with 50 years of pent-up groove and passion. There’s even a surprising aggression to the solos he lays down during Gettin’ Tighter, while You Keep On Moving (written with Coverdale in 10 minutes, he confesses) still has all the swing of a wrecking ball.
But, while this is very much a Glenn Hughes solo show, he doesn’t for one second forget the contributions of his sterling backing band. Longtime guitarist Soren Anderson has little trouble recreating some of the most iconic riffs of all time (Smoke On The Water, anyone?) or shifting between the distinct styles of some of the most iconic guitarists of all time (Ritchie Blackmore and Tommy Bolin, anyone?). Jesper Bo Hansen, planted behind his keys and microphone stage left, makes light work of Jon Lord’s rich, textured layers of synths, piano, and especially organ. And powerful new drummer Fernando Escobedo (who Hughes introduces with a “where have you been all my life?”) plays with the flair and dexterity these vibey songs demand.
Of course, in keeping with the era’s traditions, each musician gets a solo spot to really showcase their chops (in case their exemplary playing during the actual songs wasn’t proof enough). Hughes, as ever, is the most impressive: his near acapella, largely falsetto rendition of Georgia On My Mind, accompanied by nothing more than some subtle keyboard chords, is, quite simply, a showstopper.
The only way to top it is with an encore of Burn (incendiary, obviously) and the arrival of surprise guest Joe Bonamassa. Hughes’ Black Country Communion colleague may look like he’s slumming it in jeans, camo jacket, and cap, but the guitarist essentially ends up pouring gasoline over the fire that’s already burning on the Electric Ballroom stage (all figuratively, of course). On Mistreated he and Hughes trade vocal and guitar lines like a pair of duetting singers, while a pedal to the metal Highway Star almost manages to live up to the immortal line “It’s gonna break the speed of sound”, boding well for Hughes’ earlier promise that he’ll be keeping this show on the road for the next few years.
Within the next few years, Laurence Jones (the evening’s opening act) will surely be a bonafide superstar in his own right. A confident performer with the blues in his veins (and fingertips and voice), he’s also got the songs to take him far. Sure, his take on All Along The Watchtower is flashy, but it’s his own compositions from new album The Truth that really impress with their modern take on an age-old genre.
Review of Glenn Hughes at Electric Ballroom on 15th October 2018 by Nils van der Linden. Photography by Edyta K.