Kerrang!: Whitesnake at Donington '90
Source: Kerrang! UK No 304, 25/8, 1990 Written by: Neil Jeffries.
As the sun dipped below the trees and the first bonfires lit the evening sky, Donington was Whitesnake´s for the taking.
But instead of grabbing it by the throat, they battled it weakly with an outstretched limp wrist: the lamest performance by a Donington headliner ever. In front of the lamest crowd ever, too. Come the end I couldn´t tell whether people were applauding out off enthusiasm, duty or sympathy.
I was really looking forward to this, confident that Coverdale would use the stage to regain a crown that had become rather tarnished of late, but instead he merely delivered an arena show that seemed to enthral only those within the area bathed by the stagelights.
"Slip of the tounge" and "Slide it in" were greeted warmly enough, but things quickly slipped to the miserably mundane, relying on false endings and F-words to elicit a crowd response. Steve Vai"s contributions to "Kitten´s got claws" livened things up considerably, but after a bumbling attempt at talking to the crowd (was Coverdale really that nervous?) the evening took a vertigo- inducing nosedive with the words, "Would you please welcome the Flying Dutchman..".
"F**kin' Gary Moore rip-off!" yells a voice ahead of me... "He´s gorgeous!" drools the girl on the shoulders of the guy to my right... but let"s be honest, Adrian Vanderberg´s solo spot is plain boring.
Coverdale returned to explain that he'd been chastised by the Beep for swearing, so promptly got the crowd to do it for him. Things were looking up.
They got marginally better as the band slipped into "Is this love?", red and purple lighting transforming the stage and PA towers into a giant neon skeleton, but the lead vocal let it down.
After a weak "Cheap and nasty" singalong, Coverdale accused the crowd: "You're pathetic!" Joking or not, he was at last getting things right. Full marks too for wheeling out the epic "Crying in the rain" - but did it have to be as the intro for Tommy Aldrige"s solo? I saw him play this same solo with Pat Travers 10 years ago. It was brilliant then and it´s brilliant now, but in the ensuring decade the appeal has aged almost as much as the drummer himself...
"Fool for your loving" appears to have reached pensionable age as well, this rearrangement rendering it almost unrecognisable from the 1980 classic orginal.
Thank God then for The Stevie Vai Solo.
I'd waited all day for something to tell the grandchildren about. This even upstaged Pagey rockin' out with the Smiffs...
Coverdale introduces him as "His Royal Darkness.. the Seven-String Sorcerer" - and the first real electric thrill of anticipation charges the night. For a moment he stands quite still, the silver studs on his black suit blinking like diamonds in the white spotlight. The his right had twitches and his outstretched left arm directs the sound. the guitar alternately roars ferocicously, then soars up towards the pain barrier.
Moving across the stage, he picks up the pave and Something Really Weird happens. One minute he is master of the guitar, the he is a seemingly helpless slave as it spins around him. Then it´s rising up, up and away above him - making an out-of-the-body flight all of its own - ultimately reaching the lighting rig. Suddenly its spotlight dies and Vai reappears in another on the other side of the the stage, with a new guitar, launching into "For the love of God" then "The audience is listening" off "Passion and warfare". Everywhere neck hairs stand to attention - even Coverdale"s. When he returns to the mike, he deadpans: "You've grown up since the video, Steven!" (reffering to Thomas McRocklin´s camero). Then: "Apologies to Graham Russell, but Steven isn"t going anywhere..."
Sorry, David. But neither were Whitesnake...
After about an hour, I had looked at my watch and they"d been on 20 minutes. Sighing, I"d turned my back and closed my eyes. At once, I could convince myself I was at Reading in '79 and Coverdale was singing with real emotion. The songs were pretty dumb, but everything was more fun. Opening my eyes, I reflected; a decade is a long time to spend reinventing yourself, only to end up with an inferior version of the orginal.
As if to prove my point, the only thing to challenge Vai were (first) 70,000-plus voices singing "Ain"t no love in the heart of the city" in the encore, then the fireworks that began to explode even before "Still of the night" had ended. The pyros seemed as impatient as I was for the whole depressing affair to be over; a rude and hasty bang to silence Whitesnake's whimper... Neil Jeffries