(Live Review) YNGWIE MALMSTEEN + GLENN HUGHES - The Arcada, Illinois (8/26/23)
The Beard and Little Johnny
Tonight loyal, (and might we say brilliant and astute), readers of our weekly reviews, The Beard and Little Johnny are attending show #51 and bands #230-232 of our 2023 The Reviews Never Stop Tour in an already altered state. Turns out we double booked today and therefore, Little Johnny and I have already attended a three-hour Chicago Whiskey and Bourbon tasting event. Fortunately, the hour-long train trip back, (along with about 32oz of water and electrolytes), has helped, however we will not be further imbibing at this evening’s concert event.
We are at one of our regular stops, (the iconic Arcada Theater in Saint Charles), for the metal one-two punch of Swedish virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen and often underrated/overlooked singer Glenn Hughes. Although The Beard has seen Yngwie multiple times before, this will be a first for Glenn Hughes. As always, we are in our balcony seats, with full cups of water, ready to fly the horns.
Surprise unbilled opener Relavation came out a half hour before scheduled showtime and did 30 minutes of some light prog music that sounded somewhat emo on the lyrical end of things. We did not dislike them, but as they were unbilled, many people were not even in their seats during this set and were in fact filing in and getting seated throughout it. Ultimately it was timekiller music, and the Beard is giving them a 65/100
The Beard is admittedly too young to remember Glenn Hughes as the Bass player/co-vocalist (with David Coverdale) in one of music’s first hard rock heavy metal acts, Deep Purple (from 1973-76). Similarly, I completely missed the Hughes/Thrall release in 1982. (Pretty much everyone else apparently did too.)
(Ed: Nope - I have it in my vinyl collection!)
And, by the mid 1980’s the Beard was into black metal, (Venom Mercyful Fate, Bathory, etc.) and again missed the underrated and overlooked Black Sabbath album Seventh Star (which Hughes fronted but never really toured behind due to poor health and other “things”). In the last thirty years, Hughes has released over a dozen rock or blues solo albums and appeared with a handful of different bands and other star projects, including Joe Bonamassa, (Black County Communion), and a guest appearance with Heaven and Hell in 2010. (Ed: Don't forget the couple of albums he issued alongside Tony Iommi.) Since 2019, Hughes has been fronting supergroup The Dead Daisies. That is a combined 50 years in music, and I have never seen the guy live before. So, check another box on the endless and infinite bucket list as tonight I finally review Glenn Hughes.
Short set of all Deep Purple songs. It only took a few seconds into the opening song "Stormbringer", (from the album of the same name), to realize Glenn Hughes still has a “piercing” scream reminiscent of 50 years ago. Playing bass and strutting the stage in his dark sunglasses and still very long hair, Hughes joins the list of age defying rock stars. Credit also needs to go to the Jon Lord-style keyboards by Bob Fridzema and some excellent guitar work by Soren Andersen.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of seminal Deep Purple album Burn, Hughes followed up with three straight songs from that release including "Might Just Take Your Life", "Sail Away", and a show stopping night highlight rendition of "Mistreated" where Hughes delivered a vocal range unbelievable in a 72-year-old man. Other than Rob Halford, I cannot remember someone that old throwing out such high noted screams apparently at will.
Little Johnny said, “That guy has a scream like a fire engine siren.” “Yes, he certainly does Johnny, and he is in his 70’s”. Johnny shook his head and said, “What the hell do these old guys eat?” The Beard stands as impressed at this man’s voice after 50 years as anything I have witnessed this year.
Although I was unfamiliar with "Getting Tighter" and "You Keep On Moving", (both from later Deep Purple album Come Meet the Band, even on encores "Highway Star" and "Burn", (and after an hour plus set), Hughes' voice and screams never lessened. On vocal talent alone this was a 90+ but add in a great band behind him and his engaging banter with the crowd and this elevated the set to a 95/100.
Crack a cold one for the ageless wonder Glenn Hughes.
Headliner was sixty-year-old Swedish superstar Yngwie Malmsteen whom the Beard is far more familiar with, (at least the early days anyway). A high school-era Beard stumbled across Malmsteen on the 1983 Graham Bonnet fronted band Alcatrazz. About the time though that I first heard him in that band, he had already been kicked out of it. So, I followed him for his 1984 debut solo album Rising Force. The Beard loved the combination of classical guitar work mixed with blazing heavy metal guitar shredding and very soon after that Yngwie Malmsteen was a part of one of The Beard's first all heavy metal concerts when he opened for AC/DC in 1985.
The Beard bought the first five Malmsteen albums, but by the early 90’s, I had drifted to other bands and stopped following him until about five years ago. Since then, I have seen him a couple times (2018 & 2019), and tonight will be the first time in the 2020’s.
At sixty, Malmsteen still does things most human hands were not designed to do. He remains a freakishly talented guitarist. But, amid the nonstop shredding came that beautiful classical training that took the song "Like an Angel", (which is dedicated to Malmsteen’s wife April) and endowed it with notes of love and tears rather than his usual speed and fury. It is this aspect which kept Yngwie from quickly becoming a one trick pony.
Malmsteen is doing his own singing now, which The Beard had to think was because he has now run through every single vocalist that will work with him. Lol, Malmsteen’s reputation for being “difficult” to play/work with is legendary, and since the vocals are often just a wrapping to present his guitar virtuosity within, it does not unduly affect the set. That said, I miss Jeff Scot Soto.
As song after song rolled off, Yngwie strutted, danced, (sort of), and shredded notes like a musical woodchipper stuck on high speed. Honestly, I did not recognize most of the songs unless they were from the first few albums. In the end, you just watch his hands anyway. As always, Malmsteen brought his “Wall of Sound” 58 Marshall amplifiers, (at least a few of which were actually plugged in lol), to create an admittedly impressive visual effect.
It was a musical treat hearing pieces like "Trilogy Suite Opus Five", and "Evil Eye" (from all the way back in the Alcatrazz days). "Smoke on the Water" was a fun addition to the set. Although it would have been amazing to see Glen Hughes come back out and handle the vocals for that one, Yngwie sang it pretty well.
"Red House" was also a surprise with Malmsteen showing off some bluesy chops, (as well as all the speed). An abbreviated cover of the Star-Spangled Banner was loudly applauded, (as it should be), but The Beard preferred Ted Nugent’s version of a few weeks earlier. The encore of "Black Star" was also a Beard favorite from the old days, involving a great balance of both acoustic and electric guitar into one piece. All in all, watching Yngwie Malmsteen for 75 minutes makes you realize two points: One. The man is truly a generational talent as a guitarist and is undoubtedly blessed with very special skills. Two, if “you” are not a guitarist yourself, then seeing him once every few years is plenty.
Little Johnny said, “That dude has really fast hands. I bet he would be an awesome pickpocket.” “Way to Star-Trek it Johnny. Go where no one else has gone before with your thought process.”
At the end of a fun evening, The Beard is awarding Yngwie Malmsteen a 91/100. Crack another cold one for a 90+.
So, this wraps up the 51st event and bands 230-232 of our 2023 season. The Beard and Little Johnny have a week off before the Metal Bus rolls again but never fear, we will have a new live posting for you each and every week at your home for metal ...
The Mighty Decibel
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Until next time this is The Beard & Little Johnny saying ...