Glenn Hughes: I got my freak flag flying again

Photo credit: Reg Richardson 

Glenn Hughes | Electric Ballroom | 1 November 2015

“Music is a healer,” Glenn Hughes tells a packed Electric Ballroom. “It keeps us all sane.

Of course he’s right, driving home the point with a two-hour masterclass in its power to uplift. His source material: highlights of a four-decade career, spanning his first taste of success with Trapeze in the early ‘70s to the latterday powerhouse that was Black Country Communion. Classics from Deep Purple, Hughes/Thrall, and his expansive solo discography round out a far-reaching setlist, given total cohesion by Hughes’ magnificent vocals and Doug Aldrich’s shape-shifting playing.

So, urgent set opener ‘Stormbringer’ leads into an equally explosive run through 2005’s ‘Orion’. Tenderly dedicated to Trapeze’s Mel Galley, ‘Touch My Life’ and its stratospheric vocal finale sit comfortably alongside a fiery makeover of early ‘80s rock anthem ‘First Step Of Love’.

An ass-shaking interpretation of Whitesnake’s ‘Good To Be Bad’ has little trouble keeping up with 1973’s boogie fest ‘Sail Away’. The soulful, heartfelt ‘Mistreated’ – which ends almost a capella – and joyous celebration ‘Can’t Stop The Flood’ (with its “I got my freak flag flying again” refrain) are two sides of the same coin. And BCC’s relentless groover ‘One Last Soul’ segues perfectly into the funk-fuelled ‘Soul Mover’.

Even the biggest leap through time – 37 years separate the galloping blues rock of ‘Black Country’ and soaring singalong set finale ‘Burn’ – seems effortless. It’s a testament to Hughes – whose vocal voracity is matched by his shape-throwing bass playing – and the bond he’s formed with his band, Aldrich and drummer Pontus Engborg.

The virtuoso guitarist, especially, is the perfect foil for a frontman who’s no stranger to collaborations. Tonight their mutual admiration is blindingly obvious and highly contagious – not just in the compliments they pay each other, but in their tight-knit playing, the two musicians using every opportunity to trade licks – and broad smiles – centre stage.

Hughes, clearly having the time of his life, repeatedly promises to keep the thrills coming by staying out on the road well into next year.

“This train’s not stopping,” he promises.

Based on the unstoppable momentum of tonight’s show, he’s right again.

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