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London Astoria 2,
10 June 2008
OK a simple question. Who is the greatest white boy soul singer in the UK?
Answer on a technical knock out is Glenn Hughes. Technical because he lives in
California and also because he’s still plying his trade to an appreciative rock
audience, but in all other aspects there is no one who can come close to his Sly
Stone evocations, his Stevie Wonder style phrasing, or indeed his different
unrelenting shades of funk that would please Prince fans.
The above might
not come as a surprise to die-hard fans who know him as a former David
‘Mainman’ Bowie protégé and are in touch with Glenn’s recent career.
Indeed it’s a measure of tonight’s triumph that Glenn successfully managed
to drag his legion of leather jacketed Purple/Hughes fans along with him.
The band dug deep,
rocked hard and the crowd roared him on as he charmed them with some hip
Californian style patter in which he elucidated his love for everyone and
everything. But with a voice that could shatter cut glass crys tal at 30 paces
and a vibrato that effortlessly shifted to falsetto, Glenn grabbed the crowd by
its collective lapels with a raucous version of ‘Crave’.
And for the rest
of the night he powered his way through material from the new album, most
notably the suitably titled ‘Funk’ and the dance friendly ‘You Got Soul’ as well
as the show stopping ‘Love Communion’ The first of several enquiries as to ‘can
you feel it’- a reference to the evening’s funky vibe - was met in the
affirmative and he and his band set about funking the night away.
Not for nothing is
his new album called First Underground Nuclear Kitchen, the acronym setting the
context for Glenn’s current musical direction. Looking like a cross between Lou
Reed and Bono with died cropped hair and designer shades, Glenn worked the crowd
like a magician, taking them up, down, sideways and back to the top with some
startling vocal dexterity that veered between genuine emotion and rock and roll
front man cliché. His incredible range and high pitched screams and whoops and
hollers evoked Ian Gillan at his best.
When he did
finally touch base with his Purple back catalogue he explored the very outer
edges of ‘Mistreated, pulling the elongated blues in several different
directions before dedicating the middle section to his stricken former Trapeze
mate Mel Galley.
Along the way
Glenn also mentioned he was proud of his back catalogue and hoped fans would
move ‘forward’ with him to his new funky soul phase. He also name checked Steely
Dan’s Elliott Randall as being in the house but he showed no inclination to call
him up to play.
He settled instead
to introduce ‘the tallest guy in the house’, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer
Chad Smith, who towered over his kit and drove the band into an even harder
funky edge. At about the three quarter mark of the set the funky groove was in
danger of overdosing. And having showcased the full range of his voice and the
not inconsiderable talent of rehabilitated guitarist JJ Marsh and Luis
Maldonado, he could have done with another nod to his rock background if only
in the interests of varying the set dynamics.
As it was the
crowd embraced a raucous version of ‘Steppin On’ and roared him on to a deserved
encore of which ‘Soul Mover proved to be the perfect balance of rock and funk.
By the time of the closing ‘Burn’, Glenn had broken through any of the crowds
reservations and truly hit base and even one final repeated cry of ‘can you feel
it’ was actually received with a full throated roar of approval, a case of
rocking your soul perhaps!
Review by Pete Feenstra
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