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No schtick nor open shirt

Glenn Hughes
live at Toldkammeret, Helsingör, Denmark,
February 8, 2017.

Cool, calm and collected. This is Glenn Hughes as he enters the stage on a windy and snowy evening in Helsingör, Denmark, February 2017. The venue is less than ideal, with a very low stage and pillars obstructing the view. Still, the turnout is better than expected for a Wednesday night and the audience spans fans in their mid 20s to more grey haired ones in their 60s who remain seated in the adjoining cafeteria even as the show is in progress. Glenn seems to have raised his profile these past few years by being in the media eye.

The start of the show is the highlight, with Flow, Muscle & Blood, and Getting Tighter. The band is tight and heavy. Very heavy. Engborg is probably the hardest hitting drummer Hughes has played with (next to Chad Smith?) and the drum sound is crystal clear. His style is slightly unusual. Powerful as mentioned but not a basher per se. Plenty of creative fills and outros where he’s so focused on the delivery that he almost looks bewildered once the song has ended. This power is welcome but it also comes at a cost. In the past Glenn has often played with swinging drummers and his most popular work was built on light and shade, both in terms of vocals and playing. This is the heaviest Glenn Hughes show I’ve seen to date, but there’s also a lack of dynamics as the evening wears on. Glenn and Engborg almost bring enough power on their own, but then there’s also a Hammond player and 2(!) guitarists. The soundscape is living but not breathing.

Glenn Hughes, 2017-02-08; photo: Alexander Hallden

Soren Andersen is obviously a great sidekick for Glenn in a professional capacity, but clarity in the playing is not his greatest strength. With Blackmore in the 70s you could hear every note picked and somehow he was able to cut through the mayhem with clean leads. With Soren, the wah wah pedal is constantly pressed down and few notes leave a deeper impression. Partly because his tone doesn’t cut through enough. Later in the show Glenn goes on to explain how he wanted a Jon Lord presence in his band and introduces Jay Boe. Jay’s playing is lively and fine but somewhat lost in the mix.

Glenn has surrounded himself with great, hungry talent on this tour, all focused in their delivery, mineral water by their feet. So, why is something still missing? Maybe because they’re not equals or simply because one is spoiled by his earlier collaborators and legendary past. While his band is musically in your face, Glenn is more subdued than normal given recent events and having a cold. This cold has no effect on his performance and even though the acrobatics are all but gone, You Keep on Moving is all the better for it. The bass intro is magical, with Glenn playing notes close to the bridge of his bass while adding just the right amount of stringbending to get that ambient effect. The crowd goes silent in respect of the intro and moment (Glenn introduced the song by talking about his mother).

Throughout the evening it becomes clear no song is too hard to sing for this 65-year-old. While other singers of his generation look like they’re about to have a heart attack any minute trying to do their old songs justice, Glenn clearly employs a different technique. Barely moving an inch, he focuses his stare into the crowd, adjusts his mouth accordingly and lets loose a falsetto, followed by soft improvisation, followed by a full on power voice. Just like that. He’s in total control and it’s cool to witness. It’s also one of the few times my focus is 100% on the stage. If this kind of dynamic was present more often in the show and band, the outcome would have been different. But I think what it comes down to in the end is the combination of songs and delivery. Glenn doesn’t have enough classics of his own to sustain the audience’s excitement fully throughout. Or he simply doesn’t play the classics he has in the way people first heard them. I also think this is partly why the crowd is receptive but not ecstatic. When he does talk to the crowd he connects though and does so by being down to earth and honest. No schtick nor open shirt necessary.

Glenn Hughes, 2017-02-08; photo: Sylvester Zimsen

Hopefully he will be back to Scandinavia with a slightly more nuanced approach, in a venue where you can see the stage and where his new level of restraint is also reflected in the band’s delivery.

Daniel Bengtsson
Photo: Alexander Hallden, Sylvester Zimsen



6 Comments to “No schtick nor open shirt”:

  1. 1
    Adel says:

    I saw Glenn in Reading uk and he was amazing. When you love an artist so much you tent to see every fault as greatness. His voice was great and his body language was sending great vibes. Touring in small venues is great for the fans as they will be up close and personal but it not good for old singers as the ventilation and the fresh Aor circulation is very poor. Hence why they end up struggling with poor health.

  2. 2
    Michael says:

    Saw Glenn in Örebro, where was Sören Andersen..? Having a cold..? The band pulled it off anyway but..

  3. 3
    Purple Tickler says:

    I was there, this was my first GH concert, having seem DP/WS numerous times.
    Fully agree with your views. Very good atmosphere, but the venue was horrible, very hard to see anything more than the top of the heads. The Hammond
    sounds was completely lost down the back where we were standing (forced to).
    Glenn’s voice was amazing though, and the setlist was excellent. Hope to catch GH some other time at a better venue, Toldkammeret never again.

  4. 4
    Jeff says:

    This poor reviewer…He knows just enough to be a danger to himself and unfortunately now, to others as well. I saw Hughes in LA at the Whiskey with my 25 year old daughter and he was ripping huge swaths of heavy
    riff -flesh from the surface of our brains. He was stunning. He “Doesn’t have enough classics of his own” ? OMG…Have mercy, he makes everything “his own” by his performance! A lack of dynamics? Then this poor reviewer starts mentioning Blackmore’s tone (whom I love) but there are so many dynamics at play to prevent such a comparison that it should be a crime to even go there. Congrats on your attention be 100% on the stage…YIKES!

  5. 5
    henrik h says:

    I saw the concert in Helsingør.

    It was a spectacular performance.
    By far the best within the Purple pedigree, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Deep Purple- post Lynn Turner.

    They play with enormous swagger and bravour. The groove was tight.
    Every musician play with precision and restrain. The drummer has some mannerism, which the review confuses with bewilderment.
    Believe you me, Engborg is anything but bewildered.

    Søren Andersen is spot-on in his delivery, plays with precision and has just enough overdrive to make his tone sustain.

    – Glenn Hughes blew me away!

  6. 6
    henrik h says:

    I saw the concert in Helsingør.

    It was a spectacular performance.By far the best within the Purple pedigree, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Deep Purple- post Lynn Turner.

    They play with enormous swagger and bravour. The groove was tight.Every musician play with precision and restrain.

    The drummer has some mannerism, which the review confuses with bewilderment.
    Believe you me, Engborg is anything but bewildered.

    Søren Andersen is spot-on in his delivery, plays with precision and has just enough overdrive to make his tone sustain.

    – Glenn Hughes blew me away!

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