Glenn Hughes rocks St. Charles
Former Deep Purple bassist/singer an ageless wonder
By Steve Metsch
Please forgive the delay for this review. Life gets busy. But when you catch yourself still thinking about a concert nearly three weeks later, it’s worth writing about.
I journeyed out to the lovely and intimate 900-seat Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Sept. 13 and was rewarded with a fantastic concert by Glenn Hughes.
Hughes played bass guitar and sang for Deep Purple from 1973 to 1976. Yes, a long time ago. But he had a lasting impact on the band, playing on some great songs from that era. In concert, he dusted off some of those gems for what was billed as “Classic Deep Purple Live.”
Hughes and his band opened with “Stormbringer” a rollicking track from the 1974 album of the same name. Fans in the near-capacity theater roared their approval.
Unlike many performers his age – he turned 66 this year – Hughes had absolutely no problems hitting the high notes. None. I was floored. Usually, guys pushing 70 may need help from backup singers, or perhaps dial it down a bit. Not Hughes. He was in fine voice all night.
The band followed that with a funky version of “Might Just Take Your Life,” after which he yelled, “Let’s get this thing rolling!” And roll they did, churning through nine songs before returning for a two-song encore. More on that later.
“Sail Away,”from the 1974 “Burn” album, sounded better than ever. And it was great to begin with.
Glenn Hughes and his band were in fine form at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Photo from wwww.GlennHughes.com.
He and David Coverdale, also with Deep Purple with Hughes in that era, co-wrote many of those songs and they turns singing them. He did a pretty good job singing songs that Coverdale sang. “I’m honored by the legacy, honored to play these Deep Purple songs,” Hughes said.
I loved the bluesy take on “You Fool No One” which featured a bit of “High Ball Shooter” along the way.
Hughes talked of joining the band in 1973, joking that he “was 7 years old.” He told an amusing story of meeting legendary Deep Purple lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore the first time.
“Ritchie took me to his house, there were two guitars, two chairs facing one another. I was ‘okay.’ Ritchie then played the lead for what became ‘Mistreated’, the first piece of music written for the ‘Burn’ album,” Hughes said.
He and his band then played a superb version of “Mistreated,” in my opinion one of the most overlooked songs in the Deep Purple’s extensive song catalogue.
Hughes spoke highly of the late Tommy Bolin, another former member of the band, who died in 1976 at age 25 from an overdose. “Not only was he a great guitarist. He was the nicest kid I ever met,” Hughes said.
After that, Hughes dove into an extended bass solo that segued into “Gettin’ Tighter,” a song he wrote with Bolin for the “Come Taste the Band” album, released in 1975. It was a special moment.
Hughes often thanked the fans for supporting him over the years. He proudly spoke of being clean and sober since 1991, a move which likely saved his life. “Thank you,” he told the crowd, “for allowing me into your life.”
Although he wasn’t with the band when it was recorded, he had to play perhaps Deep Purple’s best-known song, “Smoke on the Water.” How could he not? And, the band played it very well. The whole crowd was on its feet.
That closed the set, but the band still had a powerful one-two punch in store.
Hughes and Co. returned to the stage with a sizzling version of “Highway Star,” a song that traditionally opens Deep Purple concerts. I’ve seen Deep Purple numerous times, most recently in 2017 in Tinley Park, and I’ve gotta tell you that Hughes’ voice blows away that of 73-year-old Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. That song demands some serious screaming, and Hughes never missed a beat, never sounded bad. It was an amazing vocal performance. After the show, a couple fans told me they wouldn’t mind seeing Deep Purple with Hughes on lead vocals.
The night’s final song was an extended version of “Burn,” one of Deep Purple’s finest moments. The song lived up to its title.
Seeing Hughes in concert reminded me of my beef with the current version of Deep Purple. The band never plays songs from the Covderdale-Hughes era, ignoring some really great music. They treat those songs like they don’t exist. It’s a big mistake.
One other thought: I would have loved to hear “Holy Man,” a personal favorite from the “Stormbringer” album. It’s such a good song. Maybe next time?
And, there apparently will be a next time.
Hughes said he and his band are “eight months into a two-year tour,” adding that they will probably swing back to the Chicago area. That’s good news. If he does return, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You will not regret it.