By Adam Waldman
Numerous bands, especially ones with a career spanning several decades, have made a significant amount of lineup changes. Deep Purple is the only one that labeled the lineup changes like chapters in a book. Glenn Hughes’ character was introduced in 1973 as a member of the Mark III lineup. Though he is known by many as “the voice of rock,” Hughes joined Deep Purple as a bassist/vocalist. The other character introduced at the same time was David Coverdale on lead vocals.
The Mark III lineup of Deep Purple released two studio albums in 1974, Burn and Stormbringer. When guitarist/founder Ritchie Blackmore left the band, reportedly due to the influences of funk rock that Hughes and Coverdale brought to the band, he was replaced by Tommy Bolin. The Mark IV lineup was created. They released just one album – Come Taste The Band – in 1975 before breaking up the following year.
It’s been over four decades since Hughes was a member of Deep Purple, which makes his current tour featuring songs from his time in the band even more intriguing.
The Mark III and IV lineups, though immensely talented, were not responsible for most of the Deep Purple hits that most rock fans associate with the band. Aside from “Burn” and “Mistreated,” the other songs by these lineups would be considered album cuts.
Along with those two songs, which Hughes played during his set at Tarrytown Music Hall (his last date in the U.S. in 2018), it was the classic hits “Highway Star” and “Smoke On The Water” that energized the crowd most. If you’re only interested in hearing Hughes sing the hits, then this might not be the show for you.
However, even if you didn’t know one song in the set, you will still be in awe as you experience a 66-year old that seems to be frozen in time on stage. Hughes hits ungodly falsetto notes that most singers in their twenties can’t come close to. In between these high octave notes, Hughes mesmerizes you with his soulful lower register singing. With a half century of singing under his belt, Hughes remains “the voice of rock.” To top it off, he also happens to be a badass bass player and showman.
I don’t know the ages of the rest of the band that helped bring this collection of Deep Purple songs to life, but I’d say that all were significantly younger. And yet, it was almost impossible to take your eyes off of Hughes for even a moment. Stellar vocals and bass playing combined with showmanship and an understated charisma based on peace and love, Hughes owned the stage as much as any rock performer that I’ve ever experienced in a live setting.
The two hours spent with Glenn Hughes and his band were a journey back in time. Not so much in a nostalgic way with songs taking you back to your youth, but with a timeless rock performance infused with soul and a hint of the psychedelic era. That’s not what most rock music is like these days. It’s either of the moment, or for many older musicians, clinging to days gone by.
Unlike many, I don’t believe in going to see classic rock artists because they are on a “farewell tour.” If they can still deliver, then it is almost imperative to go and see them, because once they are gone, the void that they leave is not likely to ever be replaced.
Although, Hughes seems to have discovered the fountain of youth that makes you marvel at the fact that he is in his mid-60s, the fact remains that he is among the last of a dying breed. It’s not that there isn’t great talent out there anymore, it’s just that the industry (and genre) have shifted in a way that is unlikely to produce artists with careers that span several decades anymore.
Hughes closed the show with a message of peace and love, telling the audience that “music heals…music escapes…music saves.” I couldn’t agree more. What I found most interesting about his speech to the audience was when he thanked all of us for keeping rock alive.
While I appreciate the graciousness, it is you that we all should be thanking, Mr. Hughes. The type of performance that you gave at Tarrytown Music Hall is what inspired generations of kids to become rock music fans in the first place. It the reason why so many of us consider classic rock to be the soundtrack of our lives. And though we may appreciate the evolution of rock to varying degrees, it is the foundation that you are a part of that we should all be thankful for.
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