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Journey / Whitesnake / Thunder http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/25/6d/9c/journey-whitesnake-thunder-2013-concert-review-Rocktopia-thumb-63-1389637244.jpg Hot

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Journey / Whitesnake / Thunder - MEN Arena, Manchester (UK) - 23rd May 2013

The American-style triple bill tours seem to have really taken off in Europe now, all the bands seeing the advantages of playing bigger places than they could manage on their own. So, following on from their successful jaunt with Foreigner and Styx in 2011, Journey are over again with Whitesnake and Thunder in tow, for surely the big melodic rock package of 2013.

Brit serial reformers Thunder barely ever put on a poor show and thrive in situations like this, and true to form it was as early as the opening 'Dirty Love' before singer Danny Bowes elicited the first crowd sing-along, although how many opening bands could get away with telling the crowd that their efforts were "shit!"? Playing to a large percentage of people who obviously didn't know who they were, the no-nonsense bluesy rock of 'River Of Pain' and 'Higher Ground' soon converted the uninitiated, with Bowes in fine voice as usual and the easy stage manner of guitarists Luke Morley and Ben Matthews giving a confident but relaxed air to proceedings. The forty-five minute set included old favourites 'Low Life In High Places', 'Backstreet Symphony' and 'Love Walked In', and by the time Thunder left the stage with the last notes of 'I Love You More Than Rock 'n' Roll' ringing out, much clapping, jumping and dad dancing had been witnessed both off and on stage.

David Coverdale and his snake had a tough act to follow, and to be truthful they didn't really succeed. The latest metallic version of Whitesnake is a bit of a double edged sword in that the players are excellent and it's a good, old-fashioned rock and roll show, but the years of screaming over the volume have taken its toll. To be fair, I thought Coverdale did a reasonable job early on, his timbre on 'Give Me All Your Love', 'Ready And Willing' and a stomping 'Don't Break My Heart Again' being somewhat better than any of the many Whitesnake performances I've seen in the last decade. OK, 'Is This Love' was a bit ropey, but when the band trotted out an unexpected 'Gambler' (touchingly dedicated to departed 'Snake members Jon Lord, Cozy Powell and Mel Galley, whose pictures graced the big screen) I thought David had finally seen sense and gravitated back towards the bluesy songs that he can still sing fairly comfortably.

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However, the overlong guitar duel between Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich and obligatory Tommy Aldridge drum solo killed the momentum and it took my current favourite Whitesnake song, 'Forevermore', to get a bit of it back. It was back to the posturing and excess during a short medley of heavier songs before a bit of decorum was shown and Bernie Marsden came on to show the young(er) pretenders how to wring some emotion from a guitar during set highlights 'Fool For Your Loving' and 'Here I Go Again'. Whilst still the consummate showman, Coverdale again proved that 'Still Of The Night' is just too big a song for him these days. Sorry, but the memory of those attempted screams just won't go away, which is a shame because for half an hour he really seemed to be back on form.

As a long-time Journey fan (pre-Perry actually!) I had always thought of them as one of the best live bands on the circuit, but they didn't look interested in 2010 and looked even less so here. Whereas a few short years ago an opening of 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)', 'Any Way You Want It' and 'Ask The Lonely' would surely have been a scene of absolute mayhem, the low volume, muddy sound (where's Kevin Elson when you need him?) and total lack of movement by everyone bar the excitable Arnel Pineda, seemed to stun the crowd into disbelieving (sic) silence. Guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Ross Valory stood like shop dummies while Pineda jumped around missing notes and reverting to his natural mispronunciation of the lyrics. Things only improved slightly when the reliable Deen Castronovo took the mic for 'Keep On Running' and even one of their rockiest moments, the brilliant 'Edge Of The Blade', lacked power and came across as bland.

The ballads 'Lights' and 'Open Arms' were politely received, and it wasn't until very late in the set when 'Escape', 'Wheel In The Sky' and 'Be Good To Yourself' benefitted from an improved mix that the crowd seemed to wake up and realise that they were watching one of rock's iconic bands. 'Faithfully' and 'Don't Stop Believing' ended an encore-less set but I'm afraid my mission to see as many Journey shows as I can before I die has long since been abandoned. It was Thunder's night, and it's sad that two of the world's best-loved bands now seem to have insurmountable problems.

Phil Ashcroft

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