Whitesnake’s Coverdale casts spell on Korea
By Ines Min
The crowd was packed in tight, with sweat dripping down their faces, fists pumping the air. Possibly the largest group of long-haired Korean males ever to gather in one setting, fans of Whitesnake were serious business.
In the two hours David Coverdale and his posse of guitar shredders and drum deity conquered Ax-Mellon Hall in southern Seoul, Wednesday night, as more than 1,000 hard rock fans reveled in the moment many of them had been waiting for the better part of three decades: Whitesnake’s first concert in Korea.
Fans ranged from veteran broadcaster Bae Chul-soo — spotted sitting in a cool second-floor back row seat — to local rockers Apollo 18 and even the occasional girlfriend brought along in the sea of leather jacket-wearing males. But the energy emitting from the mass was tangible in the intimate performance space, where the entire first floor was packed with a throbbing standing audience.
From the moment Coverdale’s crown of lush blonde hair entered the lights, the rock n’ rollers visibly pushed forward, fists thrust into the air and echoed by their roars of appreciation. Backed by lead guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach, drummer Brian Tichy, bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Brian Ruedy (each with their own resume of hard rock authenticity), Coverdale immediately took control of the stage.
Opening with “Best Years,” a newer track from their 35-year oeuvre, Coverdale punctuated the number with sensual dance moves as Aldrich broke into his first of many solo riffs. The 60-year-old front man proved instantly that his legendary vocals were still just as legendary, though his voice was somewhat muffled by the instruments. The crowd cheered on, but it wasn’t until their next song that they went wild.
“Give Me All Your Love,” from Whitesnake’s eponymous 1987 hit record, drew the crowd as one voice to unabashedly sing along to the lyrics — the first time this reporter has ever seen such a large Korean audience passionate about the music enough to know all the words (and this phenomenon was repeated throughout the concert).
Intense bouts of guitar sex ensued from Aldrich and Beach, the former showing his propensity for shredding, the latter for his clean-cut techniques. But both were outshone by the pure endurance and playfulness of Tichy, who held his own in a minutes-long solo where he dominated the double-bass and entertained with drumstick antics.
Though the set list was dominated by older classics, including a quickened “Fool for Your Lovin”’ and the favorite “Is This Love,” Whitesnake included some of the singles from their latest album “Forevermore.” Each musician was visibly in their element, roaming the stage and jamming on their guitars or effortlessly, almost unconsciously twirling drumsticks through the air. Down below, the crowd moshed and screamed at the stage.
However, the highlight of the night was undoubtedly when Coverdale gave a rendition of his former band Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune,” doused in a single spotlight and singing with no instrumentals.
For all the talent of the band, it was Coverdale that you couldn’t take your eyes off of. His movements — now fluid through 35 years of performance — were simultaneously dated, somewhat cringe-worthy and yet totally authentic, and his enthusiasm particularly infectious. At one point, Coverdale even took a shot on stage, showing just how snug he was in his niche.
Throughout the concert, he pulled out props to keep the audience engaged, from traditional Korean masks to a rubber snake. But for all the cheesy play, Coverdale demonstrated the reason for Whitesnake’s continued success and why these toughened long-haired men in the audience seemed overwhelmed with emotion: heart.
He was giving them a reason to relive some of the good old days. “Well, it took a long time, but we’re here now. Let’s sing together, baby.”
Ines Min is a contributing writer for The Korea Times.