At the world’s largest music festival, Whitesnake proves performing rock n’ roll isn’t just for the young.
In 1987 at the age of 14, I wasn’t allowed to listen to rock music (or have posters, or even own Teen Beat magazine). In my first act of defiance, I took my hard-earned babysitting money, broke away from my grandmother during a trip to the mall, and purchased my first rock music ever,Â Whitesnake‘s self-titled album. I can still remember ingesting every single musical morsel that album had to offer – repeatedly and in secret – for months and months on end.
AÂ group of people obstructing the area between the stage entrance door and Whitesnake’s dressing rooms were asked to clear the way, and I was face-to-face with David Coverdale. He looked directly at me as he spoke in a genuine manner, not one of rushed platitudes. However, the interaction was way too short, although I’m not quite certain I could have maintained hold my breath for much longer. I ascertained that just the opportunity to have a few brief words was more than enough for me.
Not even ten minutes later, when the striking Joel Hoeskstra came on to the scene, you’ll completely understand my elation at the opportunity standing before me. On stage, Joel has a larger-than-life, booming personality that explodes the moment he steps out to perform, and in person, he is precisely these things as well. He approached me, in his striking tallness with a 10,000 watt smile and the most sincerely kind eyes imaginable. After I stuttered, “Misssster Hoekstra,” he very gently took my hand in both of his as we spoke.
Whitenake’s opening band from Ireland, The Answer comprised of Cormac Neeson (vocals), Paul Mahon (guitar), Michael Waters (bass) and James Heatly (drums), took the stage with huge instrumental power and were on fire with their heavy “nitty gritty” rock ‘n’ roll sound. Paul Mahon’s guitar riffs were sharp and powerful, and the set list was rife with huge, catchy hooks that had everyone in the crowd interacting with head bangs that continued from song to song. Frontman Cormac Neeson even jumped off stage and into the crowd towards the end of their performance, much to the delight of the fans.
After a short break of building anticipation, rock n’ roll royalty David Coverdale along with his SNAKES (Tommy Aldridge on drums, Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra on guitars, and Michael Devin on bass) detonated onto the stage, jamming to Coverdale-era Deep Purple’s classic Burn as the set opener. Hoekstra provided picture-perfect guitarist poses while shredding his beautiful instrument, adorned with the signature Whitesnake logo. Posed in front of a huge Whitesnake banner placed stage left of the overwhelmingly massive drum set belonging to Tommy Aldridge, the members were ecstatically performing and releasing contagious energy.
Pure enjoyment emitted from every angle, and only continued to grow as the band led their fans through an array of re-imagined Coverdale-era Deep Purple hits such as “The Gypsy,” “Mistreated,” “You Fool No One,” “Slide It In,” “Is This Love,” and their encore “Here I Go Again.”
And finally, 63-year-old David Coverdale had not lost a beat over the years and still knew not only how to connect with his fans, but also exhibited the showmanship necessary to continue successfully selling out tour dates. His continued choices in only-the-best cohorts ensured that Whitesnake will remain a massive force in the music industry.