WHITESNAKE, FOREIGNER, EUROPE

A Updated
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Thank you, David Coverdale for some absolutely magnificent evenings; it was great to be with you at the last UK show.

WHITESNAKE, FOREIGNER, EUROPE
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena – 25 May 2022

Tonight’s show at the Motorpoint Arena was both a celebration and something of a bereavement. For the benefit of those who haven’t read any of my reviews before, Whitesnake are one of my three all-time favourite bands. My love for the group started before I even reached my teens, and spreads across the band’s various styles and all line-ups. I attended my first ever gig in the summer of 1991 at the age of fifteen, by which time Coverdale had already effectively disbanded Whitesnake in 1990. I wondered back then if I would ever actually see them live, and was thrilled when Whitesnake went on the road in July 1994 to support the ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation. An ecstatic me was at the Hammersmith show on July 18th (at the age of eighteen) and it fulfilled my already burning ambition to see Coverdale and company live.

It’s funny how your view changes as you get older. Whitesnake went out on the road again in 1997 to promote the ‘Restless Heart’ album, and Coverdale confirmed that it would be a farewell tour. At twenty-one, I had more money and made the decision that I wanted to be at the final UK show, which happened to be in Plymouth on Monday December 3rd, 1997. To offer some insight into the lengths I was prepared to go, I was on holiday the week of the tour, and flew back from San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, landed Monday morning, came straight home from Heathrow to Hampshire, then dived in the shower and headed off to the Plymouth Pavilions. I still remember how I felt that night. This was the end for Snake, and even though I knew how important the band would be in my life, there was no sadness. I was simply relieved and overjoyed to have the chance to see Coverdale and Vandenberg a second time, and proud to have been there for what was, at the time, their last UK performance. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the last show in the end, but I was simply happy to just be present.

Fast-forward to 2022 and the actual end of the journey is finally here. When it was announced that the dates for this latest set of shows would be “The Farewell Tour”, I instantly decided I wanted to, once again, be there at the last UK performance; on this occasion, that was at the Cardiff Arena. As someone who has suffered serious Covid anxiety for over two years, it was the first time I had been in the same indoor space with more than six people in over two years. That alone hopefully gives another idea of just how important tonight’s show was to me. However, emotionally, I felt very different to the twenty-one-year-old me who trundled down to Plymouth, merely thankful to have had the chance to see them one more time. Now aged forty-six, Whitesnake have been a part of my life for over thirty-five years, and I have seen them on several different tours. The realization that this was it, David Coverdale telling me himself that it was time to call it a day, the emotions on the way to Cardiff were mixed. I was bouncing to see the band one last time and extremely grateful for the privilege of witnessing Coverdale’s last full-on live performance, but there was a large dose of sadness as well. The day had arrived, and suddenly the realization that I would never see Coverdale and Whitesnake again became very real.

That is enough of the history lesson. I know from others I spoke to this evening that many people felt very much the same as I did. What made the evening extra special was the two top-class support acts. I have always enjoyed Europe and my association with them goes all the way back to my childhood as well. Released in 1987, ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 9’, tape two/side two, contained ‘The Final Countdown’ (plus Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On Prayer’). Somewhere in my garage, I have a box of old cassettes and I know that item is still in there… plus a few other ‘Now…’ tapes, including ‘Now… 10’ which just so happened to contain Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’. Both of those compilations were played to death as a child, and sometime over the next couple of weeks, I really must go and dig them out. As if Europe and Whitesnake wasn’t enough of a draw, sandwiched between the two were Foreigner, and for what it’s worth, there is a cassette of their 1992 ‘The Very Best… And Beyond’ also in the same box of tapes. Throughout the years, for one reason or another, I hadn’t seen either of these iconic bands, so two legendary bands, plus the final show for one of an all-time favourite, what more could you ask for?

I have to hand it to the venue staff. As we made our way to the back of a very long “standing area” queue, I momentarily feared that avoiding a long wait outside might have proved to be a bad decision. However, they got people through the doors, through security and into the venue in double-quick time. I have seen a queue like this take thirty minutes or more, whereas the Cardiff Arena staff had everyone inside the venue in less than half of that. Top marks! With t-shirt and program purchased, and a spot near the back secured, it was time for the show. I usually go down the front for Whitesnake shows, but for various reasons, I decided to enjoy this one from further back. With a great sound, two viewscreens, a massive digital backdrop, a decent light show and room to breathe, the sacrifice of being within touching distance of Coverdale paid off.

With continued efficiency, Europe took the stage exactly on time. Straight away, it was obvious from my vantage point near the back of the standing area that the sound was going to be top-notch. I was thrilled to hear Joey Tempest in all his clear-cut glory, and the guitars and keys of John Norum and Mic Michaeli respectively were nicely balanced, so as to not be too overpowering or buried somewhere in the background. For a band that has been around as long as Europe, trying to perform an opening set-list that would keep old, new and passing fans happy must have been a minefield, but I tip my hat to them because they did a decent job. After opening with the title-track from their 2017 album ‘Walk The Earth’, Europe got the crowd going with a fine rendition of ‘Rock The Night’. There were six or seven (being greedy) songs I’d love to have heard and that was the first. They then fired out ‘Scream Of Anger’ and a bloody glorious ‘Carrie’ that saw the crowd raise their voices. There was a nice little sing-along crowd participation moment during the chorus, ably conducted by Tempest. They slotted in another new millennium item with ‘Last Look At Eden’ before going back to the ‘Out Of This World’ album (1986) for ‘Ready Or Not’ and ‘Superstitious’. I don’t mind admitting that when the pounding drums and thick riff of ‘Cherokee’ bounced out the speakers, I was more than delighted. It took the crowd a few goes, but the “hey” chants after “Cherokee” got progressively louder. Knowing their slot was short, there really was only one obvious track left. The second that keyboard riff flowed around the Motorpoint Arena, the already rather full venue really took off. The mobile phones were out in force and this extremely well-known song got everybody going. I can happily state that I am overjoyed to have now finally witnessed Europe perform their colossal eighties hit live. I have been told numerous times that Europe really kick ass on the live stage and tonight, despite the short set, they proved that reputation is well deserved. I was chuffed to hear ‘Rock The Night’, ‘Carrie’, ‘Cherokee’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ and scoring over 50% of my seven in such a short set is brilliant, but I can’t help a small tinge of sadness that there was nothing from ‘Prisoners In Paradise’, specifically ‘Halfway To Heaven’, ‘Talk To Me’ or the title-track. That just provides incentive to catch them doing a headline show sometimes in the near future.

I don’t know whether it was just me, but the gap between Europe and Foreigner seemed rather short. With just enough time for a loo break and a cheeky pint, the next act were swiftly on stage. Much like Europe, I am shocked and disappointed in equal measure that Foreigner are another band that I have never seen live. Since my youth, I have drifted somewhat away from the Melodic Rock/AOR sound, but even still… Foreigner are a huge name. There is little to fault when they kicked off their set with a rousing ‘Double Vision’. What was odd to me was that by the time Europe finished their set, the floor was so packed that I was almost in the jeans of the guy in front of me, and yet despite the venue continuing to fill, there seemed more space at the back. I’m sure there are times when this has happened before, but I can’t recall them right now. ‘Head Games’ got the crowd singing, then that famous piano intro announced the arrival of ‘Cold As Ice’. Much like some of the Europe numbers, this was another absolute classic that I am hugely grateful to have witnessed live. There were a couple of tracks I desperately wanted to hear from Foreigner, and a rather tasty ‘Dirty White Boy’ struck one of those from the list. They went all the way back to their first album for ‘Feels Like The First Time’ and strangely, considering all the classic hits that were played this evening, that song has been running around my head ever since the gig. The appearance of ‘Urgent’ went down well with the crowd, who were nicely warmed up by this stage. Sadly, Foreigner then lost their momentum. I have said for many years now that instrumental solos should be consigned to history, especially drum solos. To me, it’s a waste of time that saps the enthusiasm of the crowd. I am not keen on headline acts doing it, but a support act… no sorry, play another bloody song! To give them their due, to be able to whip out the behemoth that is ‘Juke Box Hero’ quickly restored order and this cracker was everything I’d hoped it would be, although the “roar of the crowd” could have been a bit louder for the line in question. That was the end of their main set (again, you’re the support… why are you going off? Play another song and stop buggering around!). ‘Long Long Way From Home’ took the crowd all the way back to the start again and then, well, there really wasn’t any other place to go, was there? ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ was again everything I’d expected from the second of my listed trio, and it seemed I wasn’t alone. The mobiles were up again, and Kelly Hansen delivered the spine-tingling vocals wonderfully. When the chorus arrived, the majority of the audience seemed to be singing along. By the time he serenaded them during the extended participation moment, everyone around me was singing loudly. Foreigner closed out their longer than I expected set with ‘Hot Blooded’. It was, as you’d expect, rather fabulous, including a little crowd participation in the chorus. Aside from the mucking about with instrumental solos and an encore, I can’t find fault with their actual performance. The songs sounded fabulous and the band delivered them well.

Having been thinking about this gig for months, and really years given the tour had been postponed due to Covid, the time for Coverdale’s last Whitesnake UK show had arrived. Once again, the gap between the penultimate and headline acts felt a little shorter than normal, no doubt in part to starting just before seven and having three bands, but it wasn’t long before ‘My Generation’ appeared on PA to herald the arrival of the great man. There were a couple of truly fitting moments in tonight’s show, one at the start and one at the end (that I’ll come to later). Back in July 1994, the very first song I witnessed Whitesnake perform at my very first Snake show was ‘Bad Boys’, and the very last time I’d see them they started the same way. With spotlights swirling and the crowd roaring, they came on stage and fired into that for the opening number. Perfect, just perfect!

Right from the opening bars and lyrics, Whitesnake sounded really good tonight. It helped with the quality sound within the Motorpoint Arena, but it was more than that… Cov’s vocals, the guitars of Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, the keys from Michele Luppi and one of the newer faces in Dino Jelusick, plus the rhythm section of the newest member, bassist Tanya O’Callaghan and veteran Snake Tommy Aldridge, just sounded bloody fantastic! I’d purposely not looked at the set-list as I wanted the night to be a surprise. All I knew was the song that preceded ‘Here I Go Again’, so I had time to prepare to hear one of my all-time favourite songs one last time. The sextet then tore through ‘Slide It In’, with plenty of people shouting the title when it appeared, and ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’, which is always a good-un. Then came the biggest question mark of the night. Fourth up was ‘Hey You (You Make Me Rock)’, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent song, but it seemed an odd choice to be the sole representative from Snake’s final album ‘Flesh And Blood’. Given the centre page of the tour program was dedicated to ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’, I am a little bemused how that didn’t make the set-list.

Following a lively ‘Slow An’ Easy’, Snake went back to the beginning with the ever-gorgeous ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’. Those around me seemed to give it some for the inevitable crowd sing-along, and there were large numbers of hands up clapping, but it wasn’t as vociferous across the arena as I have seen at other gigs. That soon changed when the band erupted into ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Aside from ‘Here…’, this is the other track I always adore hearing live, and there seemed much more enthusiasm for this number than the golden oldie. Over the years, Coverdale has made it clear he values his musicians and there will always be solo spots, and thus we were treated to some guitar and keyboard solos, then the thundering monster that is ‘Crying In The Rain’. Aldridge was then allowed his solo spot, and I have to say, it felt too long and those around me seemed to agree. The mobile phones were soon whipped out as Coverdale delighted the audience with ‘Is This Love’, and it got a more committed response from the audience, both clapping and singing. The arrival of ‘Give Me All Your Love’ alerted me to the oncoming emotional moment, and as I enjoyed the tasty solos, I’ll be honest and admit the tears began to well up.

Within minutes, the keyboards started and the crowd dutifully assisted with the opening lyrics of, “I don’t know where I’m goin’, but I sure know where I’ve been…” I had tears in my eyes knowing this would be the last, the final time I’d ever see Coverdale roar out one of my all-time Top 3 songs. Right on cue, Coverdale requested “Light ‘em up” and for us to “Make some fuckin’ noise, Cardiff!” The hands were up, the heads were raised and the voices rang out, and all too quickly it was over. Happily, there was no messing around with an encore walk off and ‘Still Of The Night’ brought the four-song segment from ‘1987’ to a close, and with it, the final Whitesnake song. I mentioned earlier that there was a fitting opener and closer to this show, and so it came to pass. The final song, the last number I would ever see Coverdale sing in the full-on live environment, wasn’t actually a Whitesnake song… it was Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’. My mum’s favourite band was Purple and she also adored Coverdale, and I get my love of Rock and Metal from her, so… it was quite personally perfect that Snake would end on a Purple number. With the spotlights bright and many hands in the air, the band took their bows as ‘We Wish You Well’ played over the PA. I wasn’t sure if they would play that tonight with its lyrics, but the sentiment is still the same.

Then it really was all over. Several gigs, years of listening pleasure and the final time to enjoy it live had come… and now gone. My only criticism tonight was the set-list. The latest release is a re-mixed version of the 1994 ‘Greatest Hits’ and in terms of supporting that, this was more than suitable given almost all the choices came from the ‘Slide It In’ to ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ period, even though there was only one track from the latter. However, leaving the reissue aside, at the end of this day this was a Farewell Tour, and to have nothing pre-1984 bar ‘Ain’t No Love…’ and ‘Burn’ (or the three re-recorded songs, before someone picks me up on that) was a real shame. It’s a small personal niggle.

It meant the world to me to be there tonight, and it’s a show that will live with me until I shuffle off to the great gig hall in the sky. Thank you, David Coverdale for some absolutely magnificent evenings; it was great to be with you at the last UK show.

Dave Scott

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