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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.

“Judgement Day” is my favorite Slip Of The Tongue track, and it sounded even better live. The stuff that always does it for me, though, will always be the early ’80s Saints & Sinners and Slide It In Whitesnake material. Many people may not even realize that two of the biggest and best Whitesnake songs, “Crying In The Rain,” and “Here I Go Again,” were originally released on Saints & Sinners, just as “Fool For Your Loving” was originally released on 1980’s Ready an’ Willing. That always seemed like a strange move, to me – couldn’t they just update the songs when they played them live, if they weren’t satisfied with the originals?

I already mentioned how terrible most of the video looked, but to be more specific, the colors are almost non-existent, the picture is extremely soft, and many of the shots are out of focus. Almost all of the shots are close-ups of one guy, and never really show the entire stage, or any of the 70,000 fans in attendance. You have no idea what their stage show even looked like for this momentous event. This lemon stinks of bootleg.

If you are able to get past all of that, then you can feast your ears on a couple of great Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1 Surround audio tracks that do not disappoint. A 20-minute “The Making of Slip Of The Tongue” documentary is also included.
This DVD certainly isn’t perfect, but it is still worth getting if you are a big Whitesnake, Steve Vai, or Adrian Vandenberg fan. And seeing that you can pick it up for about ten bucks now on Amazon.com, the price is right too.

Set List:
01. Slip Of The Tongue
02. Slide It In
03. Judgement Day
04. Slow & Easy
05. Kittens Got Claws
06. Adagio For Strato
07. Flying Dutchman Boogie
08. Is This Love
09. Cheap & Nasty
10. Crying In The Rain
11. Fool For Your Loving
12. For The Love Of God
13. The Audience Is Listening
14. Here I Go Again
15. Bad Boys
16. Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City
17. Still Of The Night

Performance – 7/10
Production – 4/10

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