The Waterfront, Norwich July 19, 2023
by Adam Aiken
The bill tonight is something of a family affair – and given the strong links between the two bands, Dead Sea Skulls probably didn’t have to do the hard sell to snap up the support slot on this short tour.
But it’s a match made in heaven and the Brummie garage-rock trio get things off to a superb start.
Ash Sheehan is the band’s focal point, with the usual stereotypical formation on stage ditched to bring the singer/drummer front and centre. And they blitz the place.
The opening three songs stand out, and the highlight is The Remedy – a brilliant high-octane number driven along by the sticksman.
He almost takes on the role of orchestral conductor during the whirlwind of a set, and on the one occasion when he ditches the drums to play the trumpet (yep, the trumpet), the bass drum is seamlessly taken over by bassist Jimi Crutchley. They – literally – don’t miss a beat.
“We’re here to warm you up,” the frontman announces at one point. By the time they’ve finished, it’s mission accomplished.
This show is one of just a handful in the UK for Glenn Hughes ahead of his headlining stint at Maid Of Stone this weekend.
There are only nine songs in the set, but from opener Stormbringer onwards they are all crackers.
Sail Away’s riff is an absolute monster, and it’s a reminder of just how many great songs there are in the Deep Purple catalogue that haven’t enjoyed the same exposure that many of the better-known hits have had.
The former Purple and Black Sabbath bassist is a right chatterbox, too, with a mix of interesting anecdotes, a decent David Coverdale impression and some insights into what keeps him going (all he wants to do is “stay sober and spread the message”).
And he seems to have a particular soft spot for The Waterfront, telling us that he’d specifically asked to play here when he found out that the venue wasn’t scheduled for his longer UK tour later this year.
“I’m talking too much but you mean so much to me,” Hughes tells us.
It’s the sort of platitude often uttered from the stage, but tonight it feels genuine and heartfelt.
Hughes’s voice remains as remarkable as ever, and it’s easy to forget that he was originally just Purple’s backing vocalist.
The only thing that blights the set is an over-the-top drum solo from Sheehan, who is Hughes’s drummer as well as being the Dead Sea Skulls frontman.
It’s technically brilliant and he’s a great musician – but we already know that, having seen him earlier in the evening. This much-too-long solo just brings things to a screeching halt.
But once normal service is resumed, Gettin’ Tighter – from Deep Purple’s short-lived Tommy Bolin era – is the highlight of the night, with yet another tremendous riff.
That song was on Come Taste The Band – a record that was initially dismissed by many as an aberration but has since rightly become regarded as a decent Deep Purple album.
And as he often does during his shows, Hughes takes the opportunity of explaining how fond he was (and still is) of Bolin, who died not long after that record came out. It feels almost like a father-and-son thing.
Mistreated and You Keep On Moving bring the main set to a close before the encore proves to be another high point of the evening.
Highway Star (the only non-Hughes-era song tonight) sees bass duties handed to Crutchley, another returning Dead Sea Skull (and Hughes’s manager), before Burn gets the place bouncing, with guitarist Søren Andersen driving it along perfectly and helping the show end on a triumphant note.
During the set, Hughes points out that he’s the only one keeping this era of Deep Purple alive. “Will these songs be played again?” he asks, perhaps rhetorically.
Maybe, maybe not – but it’s unlikely anyone else will do them as much justice as this guy does.