Glenn Hughes

O2 Academy, Newcastle

10 October 2018

I saw Glenn Hughes in 2010 at the High Voltage festival, taking Dio's place in Heaven and Hell, and although he impressed me then, I've never bothered to see him again. To be honest, I'm not a massive fan of his solo work, nor of the way he "over-sang" Deep Purple songs on the Mk III and IV live recordings. But I thought I really ought to see what he's like live on his own. So with some trepidation here I am.

The venue is packed, and it's clear Glenn still has a huge fan base around these parts, although pretty obviously squarely in the "nostalgic rock fan" demographic (which I'm not knocking, that's why I'm here too). And tonight Glenn delivers pretty much exactly what that demographic wants.

The show starts with a bizarre intro tape of edited snippets of Mk III \ IV songs. The point of this is beyond me. But, oh well. I'm sure it worked for some.

Glenn hits the stage with a three-piece band behind him and goes straight into Stormbringer.

It's loud and powerful. Glenn's voice is great. But...

It's not quite right.

The band is solid without being exceptional. The Hammond player is good but a bit low in the mix. The guitar player is talented but a bit too generic "hard rock" for my tastes. The drummer is dextrous and thunderous but doesn't really swing the way I would want him to. Glenn is amazing but isn't David Coverdale.

It's not bad but it's not... right.

I'm not disappointed, because it's honestly what I expected. Solid without being exceptional. Entertaining without being special the way the Living Breathing Deep Purple are to me.

Then they play Might Just Take Your Life, and I don't know why but everything clicks into place. The Hammond sound is perfect, Glenn sounds completely natural on the Coverdale verses (the guitarist and organ player fill out the sound with backing vocals) and ear-splittingly perfect on his own verses. The third song is a very unexpected Sail Away, and again everything is perfect. I love these songs, and I love how he's singing them.

Several songs contain long instrumental breaks, the way a Deep Purple song should, and these are led by—dominated by—Glenn's bass. And maybe it sometimes gets overlooked in favour of his singing, but he really is a phenomenal bass player.

You Fool No One is the vehicle for band solos. The Hammond player takes one that is short but excellently put together in the Jon Lord style. The guitar solo isn't as bad as I feared it would be, I still think his "feel" is wrong on the songs, but he's still a great player. The drummer gets a really interesting, well-constructed solo, and again he's a really good player, even if still he doesn't really swing in the songs.

Throughout the whole gig, Glenn's voice is incredible, I absolutely can't fault it: perfect quality, beautiful tone in his lower register, powerful screams, flawless control over his falsetto. I don't think any other singer of his generation can match him today for quality of voice. I still find his stage attitude and mannerisms a bit much, but at the same time it all feels genuine, I don't think he's putting it on as an act, I really think this is the real Glenn Hughes, take it or leave it.

Towards the end of the set, there's a serious mis-step. Throughout the show I've been expecting it, but hoping it doesn't happen, and finally it does:

He plays Smoke on the Water.

There is no greater feeling in the world than being in a Deep Purple audience when the riff to Smoke on the Water starts. It's a riff full of enormous significance and memories, and the energy of a crowd when they hear it is indescribable if you've not been there.

And Glenn's band played it.

And I felt nothing.

It was just wrong. I can understand why he felt he ought to play it at a "Glenn Hughes plays Deep Purple" show, but honestly I would have preferred another Mk. IV song to close the show.

And I don't care that he is so tonally perfect on Georgia that jaws are dropping open and heads shaking in disbelief (including mine). It's still wrong.

That out of the way, the first encore is Burn, and it's a powerful version with an audience sing-along, and it sounds pretty good even though the drummer can't keep up.

Then, surprisingly, Highway Star as the last song. And, surprisingly, this one really works. It's a cracking version, the entire band nails the feeling, and Glenn is spot on, guitar solo and all, better than Ian sings it these days.

And with a last reminder that he loves us all and we are his family and a higher power has sent him to sing these songs for us (seriously), Glenn Hughes has left the building.

The crowd loves him unconditionally. I love him... with reservations. But ultimately, I love these songs, and he's got more claim than anybody else to be singing them today, and without him I would never have got to hear them live, so what more could I ask?

With that in my mind, as I leave the venue and realise I'd come and hear him sing these songs again, and examining my feelings as I write this, I have to say, with reservations, that it was the best concert I have ever seen.