When you’re known as The Voice Of Rock an inevitable level of pressure looms large over every live show.
That this tour was rearranged following a last-minute cancellation and messy break-up with co-headliners Living Colour only served to add to the weight of expectation.
But factor in a serious family illness affecting the man himself and it’s difficult to fathom just how Glenn Hughes managed to pull off a simply sublime performance.
For many the gravity of the situation would have been too much. Lesser individuals would have baled. Those without such a strong connection to the rock and roll community would have thought twice about laying their souls bare and fronting up in the face of adversity.
Not Hughes. Sharing the burden of his beloved mother’s health problems – dedicating You Keep On Movin’ to his mum – had the effect of galvanising musicians and fans. There was already a mutual respect between band and audience: suddenly there was a tangible and poignant connection that endured until the final, glorious notes of sumptuous set closer Burn.
On any other night Hughes’ decision to constantly praise those out in front might have sounded crass. But this wasn’t any other night. It was the night Hughes put the back end of 2016 – his annus horribilis – to bed. The night he rediscovered rock as the ultimate therapy. The night he did his mother proud by doing what comes naturally. In the context of such an emotionally charged 90 minutes Hughes’ frequent compliments came across as utterly genuine and refreshingly real.
Describing the Newcastle crowd as ‘probably the best in the country’ did, of course, keep his options open. But stare deep into Hughes eyes (squinting beneath those trademark shades) and listen to the feeling behind every note and it was impossible to believe he didn’t mean it.
My Town – the best cut from new album Resonate – further strengthened the unbreakable bond between band and fans. Black Country and Soul Mover teased and transfixed before the double whammy encore of Heavy and Burn brought a deeply affecting set to its passionate denouement.
Just how Hughes, now officially a pensioner, still has it within his power to perform at this level – maintaining such quality and consistency – may well remain an unanswered question. It’s all part of the charm. Part of the mystery. Part of the very fabric of rock and roll folklore.
Hughes embodies heavy music but no longer delivers it with a heavy heart. In spite of everything surrounding this potentially difficult first show, The Voice Of Rock triumphed. Don’t miss a musician in the mental and physical form of his life.