The Bomb Factory, situated in the Deep Ellum entertainment district of Downtown Dallas, Texas is a fine, fine venue; a great place to see the latest up-and-comers or, as tonight, a venue of legends as David Coverdale’s Whitesnake come through town in the early stages of their Flesh & Blood World tour.
The album isn’t out for a little while yet – rest assured there’ll be a full dissection from Sentinel Daily bossman Scott Adams before too long in these very pages – but a goodly crowd is out to pay tribute to one of hard rock’s enduring greats anyhow.
The band open with a dense, rocking take on Bad Boys from their biggest American album, 1987, the front of house sound a little muddy as guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach battle for early domination in the six string department. The band interpolate a little of that album’s Children of the Night mid song, and the ice is broken with exuberance all around.
But what of David’s voice? I hear you cry! Well, it’s evident that the band are tuned maybe a step down for a start, and Michael Devin on bass is singing backups on the verses as well as the choruses, but overall, in the early stages of the set Coverdale holds up well. Everyone in the band, drummer Tommy Aldridge excepted, is a good singer and Coverdale leaves the early choruses to them and the crowd as he assumes the role of ringmaster-cum-cheerleader. The crowd don’t seem to mind.
Hoekstra plays some nice flashy lead, revelling in the freedom that comes from no longer being a Cher sideman, whilst Reb Beach, looking like a young Gary Rossington on the other side of the stage is more restrained yet no less effective. Gonna Be Alright, from that soon-come new album, dissipates the early momentum understandably, but the following song, Love Ain’t No Stranger, provides the first real goosbump-inducung, lighters-in-the-air moments of the evening and the Bomb Factory crowd responds accordingly.
Another newie, Hey You (You Make Me Rock) sounds genuinely authentic, shooting a line back to the band’s glory days that they were seemingly unable to connect to in Whitesnake’s Doug Aldrich years. This bodes well for the new album. This is followed by a vocally-ragged Slow and Easy, Coverdale getting a bit excited but again being bailed out on the choruses; that said, nobody who’s paid good cash money to be here tonight is complaining, everyone taking their share of vocal duties on the crowd participation section with a lot – make that A LOT – of gusto…
The band, rounded out by keyboard player Michele Luppi, are an insanely tight unit, even this early in the tour. And even though the three guitar players are bound to stay close to the mics, limiting their stage presence a little, you have to say that whether it’s the early and earthy blues rock of Slide it In, the hair metal attack of Bad Boys or the cod-Zeppelin bombast of Still of the Night they lock it down and rock it out with a slickness and style that you just can’t fault.
The set’s mid section, clearly designed to give Coverdale a half time break with it’s extended guitar battling and drum soloing interspersing two more new songs drags a little if that’s not your thing, but it is obviously needed to keep things sane for David, and there’s always the bar for those so minded. The final quartet of classics – Is This Love, Give Me All Your Love, Here I Go Again and Still of the Night send the crowd home delirious whatever their thoughts on the way this band presents itself in 2019 – a fact which must surely make this a victory for David Coverdale’s decision to take this unit out on the road once again. The Flesh & Blood tour looks like being a long one – so just lower your expectation a little, prepare for fun and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you decide to go along for the ride.