Friday, June 24, 2011

Live at Donington 1990 - Whitesnake - 2011

Live at Donington 1990A handsome package at a great price, Whitesnake's Live at Donington 1990 finally saw an official release this week thanks to Frontiers Records. Available in several iterations, the full show on two CDs may currently be had with a third DVD disc of the entire concert for under $15.00. The audio portion alone (reproduced in spectacular 5.1 surround on the DVD)  is worth twice the price and that's a good thing - as the visual portion of the DVD is a curiosity for completists only that will likely only merit a single viewing and an incomplete one at that.

David Coverdale acknowledges the DVD's shortcomings in the liner notes, describing it as "wonderful watchable Lo-Def Vision." What it appears to be is a decent edit of the video shot for the giant screens during the live show as we have quickly-changing close shots of solo band members alternating from black and white to color.

But - this is, first and foremost, an album. And, as an album, Live at Donington 1990 is a great success, documenting the Adrian Vandenberg/Steve Vai Slip of the Tongue-era in all its fiery glory. Captured during their headlining moment at the 1990 Monsters of Rock festival, Donington provides a snapshot of the metal edge of Whitesnake and balances the live picture which previously tilted in favor of the excellent, but bluesier Live in the Heart of the City.

The material the band performed at Donington drew heavily from Slip of the Tongue which, despite its controversial reputation among fans since 1989, was a platinum record with three Top 40 singles. After a couple offerings from the "new" record and "Slide it In," the band really ignites with "Slow & Easy:"

With two massive guitar stars onboard, Live at Donington 1990 is also a treasure trove of indulgent solos, with Vandenberg's "Adagio for Strato" and "Flying Dutchman Boogie" balanced by Vai's "For the Love of God" and "The Audience is Listening." Listening now - and despite my absolute adoration for things Vai - it's easy to see why Vandenberg was the better fit as Steve is simply on a plane all his own.

The full band efforts only stretch into the backcatalogue beyond Slide it In for "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City," but, really, Live at Donington 1990 is a testament to how strong the "hair era" material is. A rock-solid set with real teeth, this version of the band, rounded out with Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo on drums and bass, respectively, holds their own with any other Whitesnake lineup.

The real star of Donington, though, is the sound. This mix feels really, truly live. You feel as though you are actually standing among the crowd and the clarity with which all instruments are mixed is downright amazing. 5.1 on the DVD is very effective but, honestly, the stereo version is just as kickass.

In 1990 Whitesnake's brand of hard rock still reigned supreme. Now that the alternative wave has crested and ebbed and changed the landscape, Coverdale and company may keep a lower profile but are still going strong and, like all bands who weathered the storm, have evolved over the years. Regardless of trends that have come and gone, Live at Donington 1990 stands as validation that Whitesnake really have nothing left to prove.

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