It can be said no other way: Glenn Hughes is a force of nature. Defying the years, the Cannock-born singer looks as good as he always has and sounds even better. His voice is a thing of absolute wonder, his bass playing something that can move mountains.
Glenn Hughes – The Damn Truth
The Apex, Bury St Edmunds – 23 October 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Lawrence Potter
Celebrating fifty years since he joined Deep Purple, this tour was a welcome dip back into those heady days when he and David Coverdale heralded the start of Mark III, moving into Mark IV, the cherry-picked selection a very welcome blast from the past.
The all-age demographic of the audience tonight says more about the lasting power of rock music than a thousand books. Gathered tonight were a mix of those around when The Voice of Rock joined Purple all the way through to children only just in double figures, brought along by parents who want their offspring to see a true legend up close and personal.
Certainly, Hughes never disappoints, his commitment to his craft sharpened to breathless levels since he turned his life around from his well-documented and honestly spoken about issues with his health. This is a man focused on life and his music.
Stormbringer is a volcanic start, its molten notes and explosive power pouring from the stage. There’s a primal thrill here, the sheer volume and sledgehammer force like a giant shot of adrenaline as Hughes lets off the first of a string of his extraordinary scream, his bass pumping and Soren Anderson tearing out the riff.
Following his time with The Dead Daisies, this had the distinct feeling of the artist continuing to be the master of his own destiny, his sense of being at one with long-time band members preeminent as they operate like a well-oiled machine.
The swirling keys of Bob Fridzena introduces Might Just Take Your Life, his touch, like that of Anderson, bringing his own flavour to the original whilst staying respectful to its much-loved structure.
With this fresh approach, familiar songs are brought to life once again, and the playing is jaw-dropping and able to capture all the excitement of first hearing them.
Truly, good songs are timeless, which Hughes and his band understand fully as each is shot through with fire and grace. A genuine passion here shines brighter than any multi-million-dollar, multi-media arena stage show, the music truly doing the talking.
Sail Away effortlessly moves from its funky workout intro through to its cataclysmic and ground-shaking ending before an epic You Fool No One extends into its California Jam roots, drummer Ash Sheenan’s solo a display of both power and humour as he finds time to berate someone leaving their seat in the stalls during it.
As dazzling as the musicianship is, though, it’s when the main man introduces the songs that hit the hardest, his heart truly on his sleeve and the love he has for his former Deep Purple bandmates obvious and honest.
A tantalising mention of trying to get the Mark III line-up together for a reunion adds a feeling of ‘what if…’ to proceedings before a stunning Mistreated brings everyone back to the present, time never diminishing its roar as the bluster and soul hits like a wrecking ball.
A funky Getting Tighter and the seriously heavy soul power of You Keep On Movin’ close the set before the encore’s unbeatable knockout punch of Highway Star and Burn complete things in unstoppable waves of sound. THAT riff still causes goosebumps.
With the promise of more solo material to come and Black Country Communion reconvening next year, Hughes shows absolutely no intention of slowing down, and when you’re on the form of your life, why should he?
As young and old made their way out into the night air, the sense of community was tangible, and the shared experience one that spoke of the healing and eternal power of music.
Few people on the planet understand that as clearly as Glenn Hughes and his ability to make this happen speaks of a lifetime’s experience of tragedies and triumphs turned into something life-affirming and priceless. A true legend.
The Damn Truth
First off, though, there was the not-insignificant matter of an opening slot by Canadian superstars in waiting, The Damn Truth. Seemingly always over here, the quartet have built up an ever-expanding fanbase, their brand of sixties and seventies-tinged high-voltage rock ‘n’ roll an irresistible draw.
With a set of killer songs and massive stage presence born from countless long treks across their native land, there are seemingly few bands out there that can touch them and having just emerged from the studio with super producer Bob Rock, their confidence was sky high.
From the instant rush of This is Who We Are Now onwards, the whole was a whirlwind of light and sound that brought the visceral thrill of rock music to the beautiful curves of the sonically perfect architecture of the venue.
The chemistry sizzles onstage, all four members well-drilled, comfortable and obviously in love with the material, Lee-la Baum’s big soul power vocals, Tom Shemer’s stinging fretwork and the almighty groove and power of Dave Traina’s drums and PY Letellier’s bass gloriously tight but loose.
Highlights were many, and few bands on the scene can reach the buoyant highs of Only Love or the Summer sun anthem of Tomorrow, the whole set flying by on the wings of rock ‘n’ roll angels.
The Royal Albert Hall beckons.