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Music DVD Review: Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990

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In 1990, Whitesnake was one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, and they proved it by headlining England’s legendary Castle Donington, Monsters Of Rock Festival that summer. The band was touring in support of their recently released Slip Of The Tongue album, which was the follow-up to their monstrously successful 1987 album, Whitesnake, which went 8x platinum in the U.S. alone. Slip Of The Tongue was quite successful as well, going platinum, and climbing to number 10 on the U.S. album charts, but it was considered a bit of a disappointment by many Whitesnake fans – including myself.

Gone was guitarist John Sykes, who had laid down all of those killer Whitesnake guitar riffs, and in was Dutch guitar phenom Adrian Vandenberg. If you like guitar-driven, melodic, hard-rock, then definitely check out the three albums he and his band, Vandenberg, released back in the ’80s glory days of that genre. Unfortunately, Vandenberg suffered a serious wrist injury during the writing phase of Slip Of The Tongue, and Vivian Campbell had already quit over “creative differences,” so David Coverdale quickly hired guitar wizard Steve Vai to come in and record all of the guitar parts for the album.

Although I consider Vai to be one of the greatest guitarist the world has ever known, I also believe that Slip Of The Tongue would have been a better Whitesnake album had Vandenberg been able to see it through to completion. Just as Angus Young would not exactly be a good fit filling in for John Petrucci on the next Dream Theater album, Steve Vai was not a great fit for Whitesnake. When I think of Whitesnake, I think of muscular blues-rock guitar riffs screaming from a Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall stack, not some Lydian mode runs cascading from a 7-string, Ibanez Gem.

I was excited when I first heard about this better-late-than-never release, but that excitement soon dissipated after popping the thing into my DVD player. To be honest, I could have filmed this concert better on my Blackberry phone camera. I’ll give Coverdale some credit though, at least he preemptively put the word out that the video quality was not going to be great, and he even wrote in the DVD booklet that the video is “regrettably not sparkling Hi-Def, but wonderfully watchable Lo-Def vision.” Even that is a stretch. On the other hand, the audio tracks sound excellent, so it’s not a complete bust.

After a few minutes of keyboard-driven intro music, the stage lights fire up and Coverdale kicks off the proceedings with his trademark, “HERE’S A SONG FOR YA!,” just as the band launches into the propulsive Slip Of The Tongue title track, which is one of the album’s best songs. Too bad it felt like I was watching the MTV music video version of the song though – could there possibly have been any more goddam slow-motion effects used here!? Unfortunately, that is the case with the rest of the DVD as well.

Now to the good parts. How cool is it to get to see Adrian Vandenberg and Steve Vai tearing up the stage together in the prime of their collective virtuosity. In true ’80s rock concert tradition, everyone gets an extended solo and Vai and Vandenberg simply take you to school. Vai’s solo piece featured sections from a couple of his Passion And Warfare classics, “For The Love Of God,” and “The Audience Is Listening,” which left the audience eating right out of his giant magical hands. Passion And Warfare was released the same year as this tour.

The setlist was pretty good, sticking mostly to their latest material, including five songs from Slip Of The Tongue. Surprisingly they did not play their biggest hit from the album, “The Deeper The Love,” but, hey, we don’t need no stinking ballads at this here Monsters of ROCK! They did play the new supercharged version of “Fool For Your Loving” that appeared on Slip Of The Tongue, and it is a killer update to the original classic. The only time they take you back a bit is during the live concert staple, “Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City,” from 1978′s Snakebite album.

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