Glenn Hughes talks about Kings of Chaos show Saturday
Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons are probably the most recognizable. And there are three integral Guns N’ Roses members from the days when that was the biggest act in the world. Next, throw them all together with Steve Stevens — who co-wrote most of Billy Idol’s most memorable tunes — and you’ve assembled a formidable supergroup of folks forged by decades of friendships from various touring routes all over the world.
The band is called Kings of Chaos and, for the sheer enjoyment of hanging out and playing together, they’re doing two shows only — one in Los Angeles and one, Saturday, in the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Oh, wait! Who’s missing — and why is the poor bass player always the overlooked element?
In this case, though, Glenn Hughes may be the secret weapon in the whole Chaos lineup. A bassist and songwriter who’s played in Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and, more recently, Black Country Communion with Joe Bonamassa — and who has one of the greatest voices in rock history — Hughes is a musical giant who often flies under the radar until he opens his mouth and decades of rock listeners exclaim, “Oh, THAT guy! He’s amazing!”
This will be the case Saturday. The set list template for the Kings of Chaos is a sort of round-robin recitation. Each artist will in turn present a tune associated with his respective band — or, in the case of Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan and Gilby Clark, their GNR catalog — and go in carousel fashion, spinning around and around, backwards through the hit-clustered past. Presumably, then, you’ll hear Zander do “Dream Police” and “Surrender.” Gibbons will throw down “La Grange” and “Sharp-Dressed Man.” Expect “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding.”
As for the British-born Hughes? Prepare to freak when it’s his turn and he shreds the hall with Deep Purple’s “Burn” and “You Are the Music ... We’re Just the Band” or “Coast to Coast” from Trapeze and — arguably the finest in a career full of stunning moments — the Hughes/Thrall anthem “The Look in Your Eyes.”
“Folks will hear a lot of songs that are magical for the average rock fan and, from our perspective, it’s a lot of fun to do this together because we all bring something a little different to it. Plus, we’re all like family,” Hughes says, calling earlier this week from his longtime home in southern California. “I’ve known Billy since ‘71 when Trapeze toured Texas for the first time. I’ve known Robin almost as long. And I’ve been friends with the Guns N’ Roses chaps since they started.”
Part of the Kings’ kinship is that they’re all rock survivors in a bigger sense than long-lived musical success.
“I wasn’t wise when I was 20 and now I’m 63 and I’m a lot wiser,” Hughes laughs. “I think all of us went through some very wild times and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to still be on the right side of the grass. I’ve been sober a long time. It’s when you start to figure things out that you realize we all have musical gifts, and that maybe we’re blessed like that so those gifts can help carry you through life.”
Hughes’ vocal power and range and an innate talent for melodies are all things he nurtures. Too, while his rock influences started with the Beatles, he also immersed himself in American soul and R&B — distinctive flavors that marinate his impeccable rock structures. Solo albums like “Feel,” “The Way It Is,” “Soul Mover” and “Play Me Out” display a wildly creative musical fusion, all anchored by his distinctive voice.
“I guess I do have my own thing, stylistically,” Hughes says. “I always try to move forward, but at the same time I never try to turn my back on my roots. Sometimes I hear other artists repeat themselves or maybe try to latch onto whatever’s happening at the moment. That’s fine but I want to be true to my own work.”
It’s been 45 years since Hughes first came to America in Trapeze, and his experiences and stories are more than enough to fill a book, although his memoirs, “Glenn Hughes The Autobiography,” certainly captures a lot of those elements. Included are loving accounts of friendships with folks such as Trapeze guitarist Mel Galley, Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin and Quiet Riot vocalist Kevin DuBrow, all of whom are now dead.
“You lose people like that and it can’t help but change you,” Hughes says. “Trapeze was close to my heart, and when Mel got esophageal cancer, I realized that none of this is forever. He was such a sweet man. And Kevin. I knew he was struggling with an addiction problem and I tried to help ... He was like a little brother to me.”
Of all the musicians he’s known and worked with, though, Hughes perhaps felt most strongly about Bolin, an American guitarist who auditioned to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple.
“Tommy was my soul mate and that’s something both of us recognized the instant he walked in to that audition. I just sensed a great kindness and humanity about him.” Hughes laughs. “At the same time, he had this wild hair dyed purple and red and green. And I said, ‘Even if you don’t get this gig, you and I are going to do something.’” Bolin died of a heroin overdose in 1976, and the thought of it makes Hughes go silent for a moment. “I miss him every day and can’t help but wonder what we’d be doing,” he finally says. “Making music. That’s what I do. I have no fear when it comes to music, and it keeps me fresh.”
Who: Kings of Chaos
What: Rock supergroup with Glenn Hughes, Robin Zander, Steve Stevens, Billy Gibbons and members of Guns N' Roses
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Grand Theater, Foxwoods
How much: $60-$85
For more information: 1-800-200-2882
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