Whitesnake Live in San Francisco!

Regency Ballroom
San Francisco CA
June 11, 2015

By Dan Wall

Set List:
 Burn | Slide it In
| Love Ain’t No Stranger | The Gypsy | Give Me All Your Love | You Keep On Moving | Forevermore | Reb Beach Guitar solo | Mistreated | You Fool No One | Tommy Aldridge drum solo | Is This Love | Stormbringer | Here I Go Again|

Still of the Night.

1 hour,40 minutes. 

During a career that has now lasted 42 years, David Coverdale has never been shy when it comes to the marketing of his music and the changes associated with keeping a massive band relevant and in the limelight.

After leaving Deep Purple in 1976, Coverdale started a string of Whitesnake lineups that always seemed to have a different angle. There was the bluesy Snake, the classic rock Snake, the metal glam Snake and the reformed Snake. Big Dave mixed all of this activity with solo work and a record with Jimmy Page, with the vocalist’s name always front and center no matter who his playmates were.

And now, Coverdale has done it again. With his new “The Purple Album” project, David has re-interpreted the music of his first band, Deep Purple, celebrating the line-up that featured himself, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist Richie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Jon Lord on the 1974 classics “Burn” and “Stormbringer,” as well as 1975’s “Come Taste the Band” (with Tommy Bolin on guitar for the last one).

It’s really no surprise to this writer that DC dipped back into the ‘Purple well’ for this project, since there had been rumors that Blackmore was finally thinking about coming out of retirement to play rock again, with Coverdale and Hughes leading the charge to re-form that Purple line-up. It didn’t happen, and with Hughes playing in one of his 20 or so projects again, Coverdale decided to just let Whitesnake re-introduce some of the 70’s best rock music to a younger generation.

Never bothered about turning a line-up over, Coverdale tabbed guitarists Reb Beach (who has been in the band since 2003) and former Night Ranger axe slinger Joel Hoekstra to man the stations that have been held by a ‘Rock and Roll Legends Roll-Call’: Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Mel Galley, John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Steve Vai, Warren DeMartini and Doug Aldrich have all played guitar for the Snake at one time or another… and how many bands can claim that kind of talent? How many record labels can claim that kind of talent?

Drummer Tommy Aldridge (who has been in Whitesnake three different times), and joins bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Michele Luppi as the new recruits to the band. That makes 41 members for the Snake since the band’s first album was released in 1978. After seeing this show in San Francisco, it doesn’t really matter who’s in the band-every unit is well-drilled, and everyone in the building knows who runs the show… that being DC, David Coverdale.

Opening with one of rock’s all-time greatest songs, “Burn,” the group stormed through a 13-song set that mixed the best of the Purple stuff with a selection of Whitesnake classics. Just take a look at the set list above, and if you are a Deep Purple fan from that era or a Whitesnake fan ever, that is just about a dream-run of great tunes.

Coverdale’s voice has been an issue on the road in the past few years (he had to cancel a 2009 tour when his voice gave out), but on this night, the throaty roar that filled up the radio for most of the 80’s and 90’s was in glorious form. The comparisons to Robert Plant linger (doing the album with Page didn’t really help that), but I will always have both of those vocal legends on my Top 10 List of rock singers.

Beach and Hoekstra are a fine team; neither guitarist chose to imitate any of the players that came before them, with both preferring to put their own stamp on the solos and riffs that most of the fans can hum by heart. Devin is a rock solid bassist and Luppi is a solid pro on keyboards, and every member mentioned added back-up vocals to the mix. Many Purple fans had wondered if the band could handle the parts originally sang by Hughes live, and while no one will ever sing like Glenn Hughes, this version of the band did a very decent job of making everything sound as good as could be expected.

The real highlight of the live act (and any band he is in) is drummer Aldridge, a true drum legend who has played with Black Oak Arkansas, Ozzy Osbourne, Pat Travers, Ted Nugent, Hughes/Thrall, Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy. I first saw Aldridge with Black Oak Arkansas 40 years ago down the road from here at Winterland, and on that night he was a revelation with his giant hair flying, sticks twirling and a drum solo that amazed everyone in attendance. Today, Aldridge is 64 years old, and virtually nothing has changed (not even the drum solo, which I have seen more than 20 times). While the hair may be greying, it’s still the same size, the sticks are still flying and the rolls are still played with aplomb. A true physical miracle, it’s hard to take your eyes off of Tommy Aldridge.

Highlights were plentiful, with just about every Deep Purple song making the grade despite slight tweaks to each composition. “Mistreated” showed off the power of Coverdale’s voice, while the run for home that featured “Stormbringer,” “Here I Go Again” and “Still of the Night” was simply breathtaking.

Coverdale was resplendent as always, dressed in black pants and a white shirt adorned with enough jewels and chains to make a school girl happy. The sound was great, the lighting solid and the most amazing thing was how a Whitesnake hit, such as “Love Ain’t No Stranger” slotted so nicely adjacent to a Purple track like “The Gypsy.” I’ve been a fan of Coverdale’s since I first heard “Burn” in 1974, and for a longtime fan like myself, this was simply a once-in-a-lifetime event.