Despite the association with Cleggy, Compo and Foggy, Holmfirth's Picturedrome has been playing host to many top rock artists; Asia are frequent visitors and the likes of Joe Bonamassa have also played the venue. I got into the town at around 8:15 after a journey through some very steep hills to reach the place and found the venue reasonably quickly. Finding the way in was another matter! The front door was closed, and a sign told us to 'enter down the side of Lloyds TSB' (a nearby bank) Entering the venue down a dimly-lit side alley, we had to go past a bar first and negotiate the way past the hordes of drinkers to another room, where the door to the theatre itself actually was. Not the easiest of access, then but once in my impression of the place improved rapidly. The entrance was actually to the side of the stage, so once entering the floor the stage was immediately to my right and, even better, was not yet full! This despite it being close to showtime and the crew were already setting up for the headliner. The main hall is a reasonable size, about the same size as Manchester's Academy 3 but less cramped. There was a bar to the back of the hall, and a balcony, and the place looked appealingly old-fashioned despite being converted from a cinema to a rock music venue.
Glenn Hughes and his band came on just before 9pm, to generous cheers from the mainly 40-something crowd. Opening with the Hughes-Thrall favourite 'Muscle and Blood' he was right on top of his game from the word go; that voice in tip-top shape and his playing excellent. I often found myself watching his fingers - he's a very accomplished bassist although more renowned for his throat than his skill on the four-string. He had with him guitarist and (Scott Gorham circa 1978 lookalike) Søren Anderson, new drummer Pontus Engborg and keyboard player Anders Olinder. The latter looked somewhat out of place at the side of the stage in his white jacket, almost like a fan watching from the side while the other three gave it everything, but there was nothing wrong with his playing. A former colleague of Hughes may well have described that as 'a side order of keyboards' but unlike other side orders, he was fully visible and not placed behind a curtain.
Hughes promised us a 'rock and roll set' as opposed to previous tours where he pledged to be more funky, but when he rocks, he is funky and when he's funky, he rocks. That's just the way he is, whatever he plays his soulful influence is never far from the surface. It's probably that which keeps him popular too; he is a very intense, dynamic performer and your attention is always totally focused on the slightly-built bloke on the bass. He may be the Voice of Rock, the funkmeister, or whatever, but the sheer power of his delivery hits home harder than many current Metal bands who think that just being LOUD is enough.
The set delivered was a real mixed bag; including solo tracks from several albums, a few Purple favourites, a Trapeze number dedicated to former bandmate Mel Galley and even a track from the new Black Country Communion album which he made with such heavyweights as Joe Bonamassa and Jason Bonham. It seems odd that he's touring solo just as the album from his new band is hitting the shelves, but this tour was arranged months ago and Glenn seems to be on a mission to get out as much music as he can do. To quote from one of his own songs, he 'cannot stop the flood'. I would like to see him live with that stellar line-up at some point too, but the guys he had with him tonight gave great service. The drummer was even affectionately described by Hughes as 'Chad Smith's Son'!
The band played for almost two hours and ended with a fiery (pun intended) rendition of 'Burn' where Søren Anderson got to do a terrific impression of Blackmore's solos. He would stand out in most other bands, but here, it's all about the man from Cannock.
So, an excellent performance from the 58-year old Hughes. In a year where we've lost so many greats it's heartening to see someone from that era still at the very top of his game, and let's hope there'll be much more to come.