WHITESNAKE IN CONCERT: A TUTORIAL FOR THE FUTURE
Photos by Brian Schroeter
Though hard rock has arrived at retirement age, its senior classmen are flourishing on tour. Really, these years are the first in which old metal musicians exist, and 2011’s foundation will be built on someday by geriatric Gojira, decrepit Devin Townsend, crotchety Cave In, et al. Right around 2025, those bands might look to Ronnie James Dio, who played all aces til his final days; to Metallica, who in middle age flagged fast; to Judass Priest’s withdrawal from major touring (or whatever) and to the renaissance of Whitesnake, whose recent face-blasting gig with L.A. Guns and Skid Row was like a survival guide for bands seeking to enjoy fruitful third and fourth decades! I was there and learned a lot! Check it out:
Tip #1 L.A. GUNS
Hunt awesomeness like a young, unknown band.
Highlights: “Rip And Tear,” “Never Enough,” “Sex Action”
On the way in to the show, I was asked which L.A. Guns line-up was on the bill: singer Phil Lewis’ gang or the Tracii Guns-led quartet. It’s negligible, I explained, cuz fans just trade original voice for original guitars or vice versa. That was my thought before the show. Once Tracii Guns plugged in and Love/Hate singer Jizzy Pearl nailed his first (and all subsequent) notes, it seemed improbable that the Lewis line-up could compete. As the set rolled on, it felt like Pearl (stud!) and Guns’ young-buck rhythm section were carrying a major shoulder chip, like a young band out to prove its awesomeness. Except L.A. Guns is an established band out to prove their relevance. (Same diff, turns out.) And it was proven early in the set, so I had lotsa time to make goo-goo eyes at Pearl and repeatedly mouth the words Love/Hate tour in my pants please. His lip-reading skills must be rusty cuz he reacted like I was saying Love it in my ass pleats.
Lesson Though your goals are met and your success enjoyed, you must relax never and kick ass always. Cuz bands are working to take your spot.
Tip #2 SKID ROW
Ensure that your post-glory years line-up is beyond reproach.
Highlights: “Big Guns,” “Monkey Business”
In 2011, Skid Row has been fronted by Johnny Solinger for 11 years, i.e., two more than by Sebastian Bach. But the Solinger-led Skids have a much lower profile, so each gig is populated by fans who require convincing. Some of those are cynical, many haven’t heard the newer shit, and most have been poisoned by Bach’s pronouncements of post-1996 Skid Row’s lameness. So their mountain to climb is huger and more treacherous than others’. I love those guys — esp Scotti Hill and Snake Sabo lovvve youuu — so I was pulling for an inarguably awesome set to quiet any bashing from Baz and, um, me. What I got was a corny pledge of allegiance intro (the audience rose GMAB), a scowling Rachel Bolan (tech problems), flat drum performances (rusty?), and an off-night for their singer (forgot words, lotsa audience singing).
Lesson Sure, you’re busy with other ventures, but don’t skimp on rehearsals. Doing so telegraphs disinterest.
Tip #3 WHITESNAKE
By any means, make a lovable album and do a quality show.
Highlights: “The Deeper The Love,” “Steal Your Heart Away,” “Forevermore”
One unwelcome side effect of reality TV/the internet is the death of mystique. E.g., our pre-Whitesnake concert attitudes can be biased by knowledge of David Coverdale’s voice health and of his date of birth. So I love that Coverdale resembles a psychopath (in a good way) in his non-acknowledgement of this, all Vegas-ish as he flirts with ugly chicks seated in the front (which appears sexy from the back rows!), spins his mic stand with his crotch as its base (timeless), and states his pleasure to be performing at an obvious dump (I heart dump-parties!). This is professionalism, so forget realism and macho bro-ism. In Coverdale’s hands, the show is an actual show with an arc drawn by flashy duels and solos and lights and exhortations to “tear the fucking roof off” (of an open-air venue). Plus he sounds great (that scream!) and looks good, so it’s a big whatever when well-known songs are tuned down a step or four. And like Tracii Guns, Coverdale shells out for talent like guitarist Reb Beach (Winger), drummer Brian Tichy (studd), and bass and keyboard dudes who can sing. Best of all, Coverdale’s awesome new songs from Forevermore re-enforce the vibe of effort (not post-peak coasting) and motivation (not minimalism). Watch and learn, longevity-seekers!
Lesson Don’t be perfect — be entertaining.
Whitesnake’s awesomely entertaining tour continues tonight in New York, and soon in South America and Japan and stuff (dates here). Also, please internet-harrass my editors @MetalSucks to add Love/Hate to The Metal Suckfest. Lolz it’s the least they could do after all of my sacrifices.