There are really two Whitesnakes.
The first evolved out of Deep Purple, at the behest of vocalist David Coverdale, who replaced Ian Gillan in that band for a strong mid-'70s stint. That first era of Whitesnake featured drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Jon Lord, both founding members of Purple, and was a strutting, soulful heavy blues outfit given to echoing the seminal work of bands like Free and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. This version of the band was captured in all of its glory on the muscular 1980 collection “Live in the Heart of the City.”
The second era of Whitesnake traded the heavy soul-blues credibility for spandex trousers, hair metal hits and synth-laden power ballads like “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love,” tunes that married guitar histrionics to the sort of fare that would not have been out of place on albums by Foreigner and Journey from the same era. This is the version of Coverdale’s brainchild that struck platinum, and gained a whole new audience of fans who, quite likely, had no idea who Free was, and didn’t realize that Fleetwood Mac had released any albums prior to the gazillion-selling “Rumors.”
Fans of the original version of the band – I was one, as a barely teen in the late 1970s – felt a bit betrayed by the group’s evolution, and longed for the good old days when Coverdale would breathe real fire into Bobby Blue Bland’s “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City” and the whole ensemble would kick out the jams during Purple’s epic “Stormbringer.” “Here I Go Again” just didn’t hold a candle to this stuff.
You’d think, then, that any self-respecting fan of old-school – read “no blond streaks in the hair and no guy-liner” – version of Whitesnake would be avoiding the band’s current world tour like a particularly virulent strain of the plague.
Here are five reasons why a desire to catch Whitesnake June 28 at Artpark should bring you no sense of shame.
1) The band will be playing a lot of Deep Purple material.
In May of last year, Coverdale and a revamped lineup of Whitesnake released “The Purple Album” - just in time for the legendary British band’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame - for which the singer revisited some of his personal favorites from the 4 albums Purple released during his residency. (“Burn,” “Stormbringer,” “Come Taste the Band” and the in-concert document “Made in Europe”.) Hearing of the impending arrival of this project, I felt true dread enter my heart. I mean, why repaint a Picasso? As it turned out, “The Purple Album” was a more than respectable effort, not least because it featured the still incredible drumming of veteran Tommy Aldridge (Pat Travers Band, Ozzy Osbourne) and the still uber-strong singing of Coverdale. Suddenly, the set list for the band’s 2016 tour got waaaay more interesting.
2) The touring band is stocked with ringers.
Aldridge will be manning the kit for the Artpark show, and lovers of flashy guitar playing will be pleased to know that Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra will be getting their respective Ritchie Blackmores on throughout.
3) The power-ballads will provide a bathroom break in the set.
No need to expound on this one.
4) The Whitford-St. Holmes Band is opening.
This short-lived project, featuring Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and helium-voiced rock-soul singer/guitarist Derek St. Holmes (from Ted Nugent’s band, but don’t hold it against him) has not been active in decades, having released a self-titled album in 1981, and then splintering, due to the principals’ other commitments. Now, they’re back, with a strong new album and a re-release of the ’81 debut. I’d drive to Lewiston just to see them.
5) It’s not like they’re Nickelback.
Never underestimate the legitimacy that not being Nickelback bestows upon a band.