There’s something about Glenn Hughes and his relationship with Welsh audiences that appears incredibly special. There’s rarely a ticket for sale when the Voice Of Rock rolls into town, be it in recent times with The Dead Daisies or on his own. Hughes is loved by the Welsh hard rock crowds unconditionally.
Glenn Hughes – Dead Sea Skulls
Tramshed, Cardiff – 18th July 2023
Words and Photography: Paul Hutchings
Tonight, we are one of only three UK locations (Norwich and Northampton, the other lucky recipients) treated to his much-touted and admired Deep Purple sets, Hughes following several European shows, and ready for his headlining set at the inaugural Maid of Stone festival.
If this is a warmup, then that show should be magical.
Hughs is accompanied by long-time guitarist Soren Andersen, Ash Sheehan (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keyboards). Sheehan is something of a catch. I last saw him with Laurence Jones in February, but the man is clearly a drumaholic, for he’s not content with anchoring Hughes but also leads the openers for the evening, Dead Sea Skulls, with a vibrance rarely seen from the drum stool.
His lengthy and powerful drum solo, which splits You Fool No One and High Ball Shooter, is far more energetic than it should be, given the energy he’s already invested.
All eyes inevitably fall on Hughes, though, and the man is deservedly the centre of attention. If there is ever an advert for healthy living, then Hughes is it. Every time I see him, he looks in better shape. Perhaps he has found a special elixir or drinks unicorn blood for breakfast?
But seriously, no man of 71 years of age is in better condition than Glenn. And not just physically but vocally too. Opening with Stormbringer, there’s no easing in. Oh no, siree, Glenn is hitting those high notes and screams within seconds.
He doesn’t ease up throughout the 90-minute set. Only Geoff Tate can rival Hughes for range and quality as they head into the twilight of their careers. But Tate doesn’t play bass as well. I’ll just leave that there.
The songs are welcomed like the old friends they are. Elongated versions abound. Gettin’ Tighter and the inevitable Mistreated are cheered to the rafters, the latter providing one of the biggest workouts of the evening.
It’s a trip that many of the audience have taken many times before. His last appearance with this show was nearly five years ago, and the chosen songs may not have changed in the list much, with only his version of Smoke On The Water missing from that last visit.
There may be much less hair in the crowd than when these songs first came around, but the gusto which is put into Highway Star and an epic Burn by the audience is just as enthusiastic.
Hughes and his band are beaming. It’s a triumphant return to a part of the world that will always keep a welcome for one of the true legends of hard rock.
At this rate, Glenn will still be ripping this set out in 20 years’ time. I hope I’ll still be able to stand to see it.
Dead Sea Skulls
I knew nothing about this Birmingham trio before tonight. But what an explosive opener Mr Hughes had chosen.
Having Ash Sheehan as his drummer made it a no-brainer in some respects, but Sheehan’s double duty wasn’t just hitting the skins. No, The Dead Sea Skulls’ approach is to be right in your face from start to finish. And just in case you wondered how they do that, well, Sheehan is there front and centre, standing up to drum as well as sing and cajole the crowd.
Dead Sea Skulls bring a punky garage band approach, with brothers Nick and Jimi flanking Ash as they skim through an eight-song set. Opener Absent was a rude awakening to some of the more sedentary members of the audience, but by the time the band mangled the KISS classic Shout It Out Loud, everyone had eyes for the stage.
Ash is the focal point, even taking the opportunity to fit in a bit of trumpet at one stage. The man is a musical machine! Playing for an audience who were only here to listen to Deep Purple classics meant that this was only ever the appetiser, but fair play to Dead Sea Skulls.
There will be many waking up after these dates with their name imprinted on their mind. Keep an eye out for them if they are in your area, for they are well worth a watch.