June 6, 2015
Pala Resort Starlight Theater
Review by Bruce R Kilgour
When David Coverdale announced that The Purple Album, Whitesnake’s 12th studio release, would be a “re-imagination” of songs from his tenure in the Deep Purple Mark III and IV lineups, opinions were mixed. Perhaps some felt that without the distinctive vocal parts from Coverdale’s band mate Glenn Hughes, the material would lack the dynamics of the original recordings.
When Whitesnake brought their “2015 Purple Tour” to the beautiful outdoor Starlight Theater at Pala Resort, any doubts were quickly erased when the band wisely opened with perhaps the most well-known track from that period, “Burn.” It should be noted that the first four shows of this tour, which began May 28, included three additional Deep Purple tracks in the set which have since been dropped, perhaps due to time restraints, or possibly due to audience response. Fortunately, “Slide It In” has been added to the show as the second song, and it’s definitely a tune that this audience was ready for.
New guitarist Joel Hoekstra, along with 13-year Whitesnake veteran Reb Beach, were quick to demonstrate the expert guitar work that this material demands, pulling off several solos that would (or should!) make Ritchie Blackmore proud. Rounding out the band are longtime bassist Michael Devin, keyboard player Michele Luppi, and the drummer with the most years spent in Whitesnake, the extraordinary Tommy Aldridge.
The 13-song set included six Deep Purple tracks from the new release, four songs from the massively popular self-titled 1987 album, two from the 1984 breakthrough Slide It In, and the title track from the excellent 2011 release Forevermore, which Coverdale dedicated to “all the fans that have supported me for 40+ years.” There was also a brief, but dazzling, dual guitar solo leading into “Mistreated,” and an amazingly powerful solo from Tommy Aldridge, who turns 65 this year and attacks his kit with an energy that drummers half his age would find hard to muster.
Presenting a set that is almost half Deep Purple songs may have left a few fans disappointed who might have wanted a few more from Slide It In and perhaps one or two from Slip Of The Tongue, but this is what Whitesnake 2015 has to offer and what was advertised. David Coverdale is justifiably proud of the songs he wrote and sang from 1974 to 1976, and delivered them (and the Whitesnake material) with the same vocal and physical agility he has always displayed.
The regular set ended with the powerful one-two punch of “Stormbringer”, which I was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of fans in my vicinity singing along with, and the Number One hit “Here I Go Again,” which seemingly the ENTIRE audience knew the words to. After a few minutes, the band returned with an epic ten minute version of “Still Of The Night,” which Coverdale was clearly saving a few high notes for. The 100-minute set ended precisely at 9:00, with the band graciously thanking and high-fiving the very pleased crowd.
With more than 70 shows remaining on this tour, which takes the band across the United States, then to Japan, Europe, and the United Kingdom, it will be interesting to see if the current setlist remains intact and if anything or anyone special shows up (like Glenn Hughes did three days later in Los Angeles). This reviewer certainly thinks the setlist accurately offers fans the only way to hear these classic Deep Purple tracks performed both by the original singer and a fine group of musicians who clearly love and respect the songs. And if Hughes, Ian Paice or perhaps even Ritchie Blackmore wants to sit in, all the better.