Review by John Jeffrey , photos Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Lewiston, NY – Going into ArtPark for Rock Music Star’s first show there – for the 2016 Summer concert season – I honestly did not know what to expect. While the teaming up of some of rock’s most legendary stalwarts: David Coverdale (Whitesnake), Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Derek St.Holmes (Ted Nugent) looked good on paper (as the latter two teamed up for a reunited version of Whitford/St.Holmes, as the duo opened the show), I wasn’t necessarily convinced how well it would all translate into a great rock and roll show.
Most of my reservations had to do with the question of what condition Coverdale’s voice would be in. Following his and Whitesnake’s career – somewhat from a distance – since the late 80’s, I’ve seen Whitesnake go from playing their songs in standard tuning, to most recently tuning down a whole step and a half (that’s A-440 down to C#/D flat for you musicians out there). This has been mostly due to the severe vocal fold edema and a left vocal fold vascular lesion Coverdale suffered in 2009.
Although initially, Coverdale had announced that his voice had seemed to have fully recovered from the trauma that sidelined him and the band on the Judas Priest tour back then, he has recently admitted to having ongoing issues which may be the antithesis for the impending “Farewell Tour” announcement coming for 2017. Coverdale stated, “You know, you can only tune “Still of the Night” down so far.” He followed by saying, “I have to be able to do my thing and know it is working. I don’t want to be intimidated about going on stage.”
Unfortunately, for any group, whose lead singer is dealing with vocal issues, the main thing it affects is the band’s ability to be consistent in delivering great live performances. On a given night during a tour, one might say the band the was great and the next night, people might say the band was not so great. So the biggest question in my mind, was “would I be seeing the good Whitesnake or the not-so-good Whitesnake?”
When David Coverdale and the current lineup of Whitesnake (featuring guitarists Joel Hoekstra, Reb Beach, bassist Michael Devin, drummer Tommy Aldridge and keyboardist Michele Luppi) hit the stage at 8pm, after the opening song “Bad Boys,” it was confirmed in my mind , that I was seeing and hearing the band in great form on this overcast evening. With the name of the tour being the “Greatest Hits” tour, it was no secret that their 90 minute set would be chock full their biggest, radio friendly songs from the 80’s, however the band did pull out the rarely played ballad, “Sailing Ships” as a segue into the song “Judgement Day.”
The combination of the stellar musicianship the band demonstrates, along with Coverdale’s posing and posturing, kept the moderate sized Artpark crowd entertained for most of the night, but having four individual (bass, drum and 2 guitar) solo spots was rather superfluous considering the band only played just over a dozen songs through the entire concert.
I do have to admit that while most drum solos are considered the “customary” bathroom break, Tommy Aldridge kept the crowd enthralled, especially when halfway through his solo, his threw out his sticks and played the rest of his solo, solely with his hands, ala John Bonham. I could see the teenagers in the back row, by the bleachers, playing air drums in tandem with Aldridge’s impressive display.
When Whitesnake closed the evening with the ever predictable, “Still of the Night,” it was as though the band and the entire venue traveled back in time, as the entire crowd completely lost their minds. People were headbanging as though their 40-50 year old necks were of no consequence, fists were flying in the air, and couples up front were so turned on, it was like watching an ’80’s Cinemax movie happen right in front of you. If 2017 does wind being the “farewell” to Whitesnake, let’s hope WNY gets one more chance to ride the ‘Snake.’
As I previously stated, opening the show was the recently reformed Whitford/St.Holmes band. With the various members of Aerosmith off doing side projects, and St.Holmes opting out of Nugent’s 2016 summer trek, the pair took the opportunity to tour in support of their long-awaited follow-up to their 1981 ‘Whitford/St. Holmes’ album, with a brand new CD, aptly titled, ‘Reunion.’
In addition to the core of Whitford and St. Holmes, the band features Chopper Anderson on bass, Aerosmith’s touring keyboardist, Buck Johnson, and drummer Brent Fitz. Fitz got the gig when Troy Lucketta (who drummed on the CD) had to bow out due to Tesla’s tour with Def Leppard. Fitz has become quite the “in-demand” drummer as of late, as he was the drummer for Slash and the Conspirators for the last few years, and prior to that, he had long stints with Theory of a Deadman, Vince Neil, with his big break being in the band Union, who ironically was fronted by Vince Neil’s replacement in Motley Crue, John Corabi.
While the band may come across as mild-mannered looking musicians, don’t forget that Clark Kent is actually Superman as well. These guys are as seasoned as they come, and even playing to a half-empty venue at 7pm, these guys rocked HARD!
Playing only 5 songs from the ‘Reunion’ CD and a medley of Aerosmith and Nuge tunes (“Last Child,” “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “Stranglehold”), it was truly a crime they didn’t get a chance to play longer, as the crowd was definitely hungry for more!
Whitesnake setlist 6-28-2016
Special thanks to Maria Hays and Melissa Dragich-Cordero for allowing RMS to cover this event.
For more on Whitford- St. Holmes, visit www.whitfordstholmes.com
For more on Whitesnake, www.whitesnake.com