"A superb document of, and tribute to, a brilliant band in its prime": Whitesnake: Live... in the Heart of the City Album Of The Week Club review

Before all that hairspray, David Coverdale created Whitesnake as a blues-based hard rock band in the classic tradition – and this live album was their greatest moment

Whitesnake: Live... In The Heart Of The City album art
(Image: © Liberty)

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Whitesnake: Live... In The Heart Of The City

Whitesnake: Live... In The Heart Of The City album art

(Image credit: Liberty)

Come On
Sweet Talker
Walking in the Shadow of the Blues
Love Hunter
Fool for Your Loving
Ain't Gonna Cry No More
Ready an' Willing
Take Me with You
Come On
Might Just Take Your Life
Lie Down
Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City

Long before David Coverdale set the controls for the heart of America, he created Whitesnake as a blues-based hard rock band in the classic tradition – and this live album was their greatest moment. 

Released in November 1980 as a double-disc set, Live… In The Heart Of The City was in effect two albums in one: the first disc recorded in June 1980; the second cut two years earlier. In both cases, the venue was the same: London’s Hammersmith Odeon. But by 1980, the band had its definitive line-up: Coverdale on vocals, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody on guitars, Jon Lord on keyboards, Neil Murray on bass and Ian Paice on drums.

It’s what Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire likes to call “proper Whitesnake”. There is a deeply soulful quality to the band’s version of Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, the R&B song made famous by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, its chorus taken up with gusto by the fans – ‘The Whitesnake Choir’, as Coverdale called them. 

Equally, there is pure hard rock power in tracks like Come On, Love Hunter and Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues. And best of all is the hit single Fool For Your Loving, introduced by Cov in immortal faux-Cockney style: “’Ere’s a song for ya!”

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Other albums released in November 1980

  • Hawks & Doves - Neil Young
  • In the Flat Field - Bauhaus
  • The Black Album - The Damned
  • Eagles Live - Eagles
  • Kings of the Wild Frontier - Adam and the AntsSong of Seven - Jon Anderson
  • The Turn of a Friendly Card - The Alan Parsons Project
  • Greatest Hits - Aerosmith
  • Double Fantasy - John Lennon & Yoko Ono
  • Grotesque - The Fall
  • Foolish Behaviour - Rod Stewart
  • Gaucho - Steely Dan
  • Hi Infidelity - REO Speedwagon
  • Bird Noises - Midnight Oil
  • Yesshows - Yes
  • Autoamerican - Blondie
  • Laughter - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
  • Sound Affects - The Jam
  • Toyah! - Toyah
  • Strong Arm of the Law - Saxon
  • Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers - Motörhead
  • The Birthday Party - The Birthday Party
  • Silent Knight - Saga
  • Stagefright - Witchfynde
  • Taking Liberties - Elvis Costello


What they said...

"Like Lizzy's other '80s releases, filler is present – Someday She Is Going to Hit Back and Heart Attack and disappointingly, guitarist Scott Gorham abandons his trademark harmony leads of yesteryear in favor of '80s-era high-tech shredding. Not Lizzy's best release, but a definite improvement over their other '80s studio output." (AllMusic)

"At its hardest and heaviest, this is the most aggressive and wild that Thin Lizzy ever was. Tracks like This Is the One and Cold Sweat make this very evident. And yet, the band does not sacrifice the more melodic and soulful elements of their sound either; The Sun Goes Down is a slower-paced masterpiece that ranks as one of the band’s last great songs." (ZRockeR)

"The group’s hard rock had hinted at metal over the years, but with Sykes on board, Thin Lizzy pushed more fully into the genre. The playing comes closer to thrash at times, and the guitar tone in general shifts into early ’80s metal. Cold Sweat provides the clearly example of the shift, with the squealing guitars and fast runs. The group didn’t fully go there; shredding remains an enhancement to the songs and not a focal point, and the pop sensibilities remain strong enough to keep them even from settling into that side of the metal spectrum." (Rock and Roll Globe)


What you said...

Gary Claydon: Those were the days. When a tour meant just that - a tour. No namby-pamby, six-dates-max then out. No shirking for the big names, either. A proper UK tour, winding in and out of the Shires, stopping off at every city, playing a plethora of City Halls, the odd Mayfair or Apollo and – more often than not – finishing with one, two or even three nights (depending on band status) at the Hammy O. There were so many dates on a typical UK tour that reading the back of your eagerly acquired, proudly worn tour shirt would take longer than the average Cozy Powell drum solo.

Then, of course, every self-respecting rock band would need a chronicle of those times - a live album. Nay - a double live album, a best-of-til-now document of the band at the height of its powers.

The titles of the very best of those live albums trip off the tongue like a list of your oldest and dearest friends and among them, deservedly is Whitesnake's Live...In the Heart Of The City.

I make no apology for saying that this was the real Whitesnake. Oh, those poodle-haired darlings of MTV might have enjoyed a great deal more success but they were mere imposters. No, the real Whitesnake were the late-70s/early 80s blues-rock band par excellence and Live...In the Heart Of The City finds them at their very best.

The album is, essentially, two live albums from performances separated by around 18 months. The earlier concert - but the 3rd & 4th sides of the album - being the Live At Hammersmith Odeon set previously only released in Japan. The band for both gigs was the same, though, apart from the drummers. Dave Dowle occupied the tub thumper's seat in 1978 (and, in fairness, doesn't lose too much in comparison to the great Ian Paice on these recordings).

This was a band on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest, most popular and, simply, best bands in the UK. For the next couple of years, they could do little wrong. And just how do you pick the highlights out of an album chock full of them?

Lovehunter, Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues, Ready 'N' Willing, Fool For your Loving, the absolutely stonking Purple covers, a magnificent Ain't Gonna Cry No More. Then there was the song they made their own, Ain't No Love In The Heart of The City a hard rock band doing blue-eyed soul to stunning effect. My own memories of joining in the audience participation section in places such as Sheffield City Hall, Queen's Hall, Leeds, Manchester Apollo, Donington and a few more besides, come flooding back, each and every time the audience raising the roof.

I don't think it's unfair to say that David Coverdale was the star of these shows. And he was (is) just that, dear old Cov: a star. One of the truly great rock vocalists but one who has soul. The band he had around him were all top notch - Paice, Lord, Moody, Murray - with a sureness of touch and a great deal of groove but I'll make special mention of the man whose sad passing prompted me to suggest this album, Bernie Marsden. Never the 'star', never flash, Bernie was, nonetheless, a superb guitarist. Like all masters of their craft, he made it look all so easy. He was a team player as well, never seeming to crave the limelight but underpinning everything that was good about Whitesnake and adept at leaving space for his bandmates to work in. He was a decent songwriter and no mean vocalist in his own right – witness his lead here on Might Just Take Your Life – as well as his backing vocals. R.I.P. Bernie.

I doubt Live...In The Heart of The City will have many detractors in this group. Do I think it's perfect? No, not quite. Like many of its ilk, there are the odd periods of self-indulgence but that was how a rock show was at the time. That apart, this is a superb document of, and tribute to, a brilliant band in its prime.

Adrian Smith: This was the first Whitesnake album I heard. Brilliant then and has stood the test of time. The title track and Standing In The Shadow Of The Blues are standouts, but not a duff track on there. A fitting legacy for Bernie Msarsden - although there's so much more. Maybe not quite up there with the all time great live albums, but close.

Andrew Cumming: For many, Whitesnake will mean the big late 80s hits and videos - Here I Go Again, Is This Love, Still Of The Night. Knowing Whitesnake through those songs is a bit like knowing ZZ Top through the Eliminator hits. Fine, good, but misses the real beating heart of the band. This is the real beating heart of the band. Initially an evolution of later Deep Purple (including most of Mark III line up) the band became a brilliant blues rock band. But never glamorous. In fact they were a million miles away from the late 80s version. 

And when bands like Bon Jovi came along and delivered massive hits with ultra glamorous looks and style, it’s no wonder Dave’s head was turned. Bernie Marsden was part of everything great and everything that limited the early years of the band. Great guitar player and writer of some great songs. But no glamour. An easy discard when looks and style became essential. This album showcases the band at its best at that time and stands up well. The lyrics less than the music and can be pretty cringing to 2023 values. As a testimony to a decent band though, a decent record.

Gaz Lawrence: If ever a live album captured a performance it's this one... you can almost smell it.

Paulene Ashmore: I was really pleased to see this album suggested: I can’t remember the last time I played it, must be going on well over 35 years, I’m sure. So I took the opportunity, pulled out my vinyl copy and fired up the turntable. I was a huge Whitesnake fan back then (before they went hair metal) and hearing this took me straight back to my college days. It didn’t disappoint and I have to say that listening to it now with “grown up” ears, I appreciated the musicianship so much more. There was an inordinate amount of talent in this band at the time.

I was delighted to find in my album that I still had the original official merch flyer. Wondering if I send off a cheque, whether I will still get a t~shirt for £4.

Philip Qvist: While the Whitesnake 1987 album is still my favourite from them, I still think that their earlier late 70s / early 80s more blues orientated lineup was the band at their peak - and this live album is proof of it. David Coverdale was definitely at his peak as a singer here.

While Cov got the crowd going; guitarists Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden proved to be the perfect foils for the band's frontman.

Mistreated, Fool For Your Loving, Ready An' Willing and Lovehunter are my favourite tracks on this double live album.

While it won't fit on my Top 20 list of all time favourite live albums, Live... In The Heart Of The City is still a highly recommended live recording. Well worth the spin, thanks for the suggestion for this week.

Top contributor: I do like a good scribble, but this week it's pretty simple: Strangers In The Night, Live And Dangerous, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, All The World's A Stage [Insert your other personal favourites here...], Live... In The Heart Of The City is up there with the best of the very best live albums of its or any era. The epitome of classic blues-based hard rock. Sumptuous comes to mind, impeccable guitar playing, big shout out to Neil Murray, more solid than St Paul's foundations, and Mr C at his absolute finest. Essential, tout court.

Mike Canoe: A great live album - even if I'm not sure which of the many versions I'm listening to because the track listing on Spotify doesn't match any of those on the album's Wikipedia page. It most closely resembles the first disc of the 2007 remastered edition 2-CD set with an edited version of Ain't No Love... thrown in at the end.

Whatever version it is, it's just under an hour of great live hard rock. For the most part, it avoids the live album pitfalls that usually set me off. For the most part, when David Coverdale introduces a song it's at the beginning of the right track instead of stuck at the end of the last one (the intro to Love Hunter is the only misplaced one I noticed). The only songs with extra padding are Love Hunter with an extended Micky Moody solo that does include a lot of audience interaction. Again, the audience participation on Ain't No Love... makes it worth the couple of extra minutes of running time. After some mediocre searching, it also seems to be a live album whose reputation hasn't been besmirched like others by allegedly being more a studio creation than live.

I saw Whitesnake live in 2003 - and they were pretty great. But it was essentially Coverdale, journeyman drummer Tommy Aldridge, and three hired guns that hadn't actually played on any of the albums. Again, their set was great - and they were sandwiched between the Scorpions and Dokken (I think ex-Winger axe slinger Reb Beach played for both Dokken and Whitesnake that night) but it's great to hear them as a bona fide band in their '70's prime on Live... in the Heart of the City.

Alex Hayes: Ere's a song for ya! It's been quite some time now since I last contributed to the Classic Rock Album Of The Week Club. Life's been getting in the way, basically. What better time to jump back on board though than with my favourite live album of all time.

Oh, man. RIP Bernie Marsden. Jesus, that one hurts. I was too young to see the original 'classic' Whitesnake in concert, another reason for me to treasure these delightful live recordings. I boarded the Whitesnake train on Christmas Day 1987, by coming downstairs that morning to find the band's commercial juggernaut of an album from that same year under the tree. There was a flyer inside the packaging, along with the inlay sleeve and vinyl. Alongside t-shirts and patches, it was also flogging the band's back catalogue.

That was quite a surprise to the not long turned 13 year old me. I'd previously assumed that 1987 was the band's debut, and here I now was, suddenly learning that it was actually just the tip of the iceberg. Happy as a pig in the proverbial, both myself and Alan Hayden, my best friend at school, then spent 1988 collecting and absorbing the likes of Lovehunter, Ready An' Willing and Come An' Get It. And, believe me, we got seriously hooked.

1987 is still an absolute monster of an album. When I see comments along the lines of 'Oh, David Coverdale hasn't recorded anything decent since 1982', I have to wonder what the fuck that person's on, other than sour grapes. Whitesnake have been an amazing group forever. Saying all that though, it's undeniable that there's something extra special about those early years of the band. Over time, it has managed to retain the residual affection of a generation of UK rockers in a way that the 'American' versions never came close to. That original iteration of Whitesnake boasted a level of musical chemistry, personality, and heart and soul that Coverdale never ever regained, however flashy a line-up he managed to put together.

And Live... In The Heart Of The City is the band's masterpiece. What you actually get for your money here are highlights from two separate concerts, both recorded at the same venue, the much beloved Hammersmith Odeon, but two years apart (1978 and 1980). Both discs share a version of Come On to kick proceedings off, and the remastered CD now indulges us with two versions of Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City, possibly the song that encapsulates the spirit of the original Whitesnake better than any other. How many line-up changes between discs? Just one. Ian Paice in for Duck Dowle on the drums.

The 1978 set is great, although the band are still very much in thrall to Deep Purple at this early stage. By 1980 however, Whitesnake live were a band in excelsis. Where to begin here? There are so many personal high points. The rip roaring versions of Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues and Take Me With You. Micky Moody's slide extravaganza during Lovehunter. The Whitesnake choir in full voice during the singalong in Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City. The truly majestic live rendition of Ain't Gonna Cry No More, the album's scintillating pinnacle, with an acoustic intro from Marsden that now cuts me up a little to listen to. To a song, these live offerings easily surpass their, already brilliant, studio originals.

I've seen Whitesnake live several times down the years. Of equal importance to me though was managing to see M3 (Marsden, Moody and Neil Murray) live at the Mechanics Institute in Burnley in 2003. Getting to witness these guys performing old Whitesnake classics almost felt like catharsis to me. And now, one of them is no longer with us. Bugger. (That M3 concert is freely available on Youtube by the way. I'm in that sweaty audience).

There can be no other ranking than 10/10 for this. 1987 may have been Whitesnake's biggest year, but 1980 was undoubtedly the band's best.

Keith Jenkin: A great live album that highlights the superb guitar playing of both Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. Despite the two discs being recorded 18 months apart there is only one track duplicated and the album acted as both a great document of the Whitesnake live shows at that time and also a damn fine one stop shop best of. My only grumble was the packaging where a gatefold sleeve would have made the whole thing perfect.

Mark Tucker: My go-to Snake album. Pure class from beginning to end. Effortless musicianship from the definitive snake line up. The band were always a live band and while I love their studio albums this shows them in their natural environment. I honestly cannot think of anything even slightly negative to say about this album. It captured a band at its peak with its best line up. Bloody fantastic.

Mark McCullagh: My go to album for this era of Whitesnake and taking that Bobby Bland cover to another level.

Pavel Ljubicic: My favourite live album. Perfect from start to finish. Great choice of songs, fantastic sound and no moments of exaggeration.

John Davidson: A classic. The live best of was a staple for many bands and along with Thin Lizzy, UFO, Deep Purple and Cheap Trick (to name but a few) this is a great summing up of their career to that point and arguably never bettered after

Uli Hassinger:  This one, together with Made in Japan by Purple, are the best live albums ever recorded. Both have in common that every song is stronger than its studio version, they both show the bands with their best line-up and on their musical peak and both albums manage to capture the live atmosphere perfectly. You are feeling like standing in the middle of the crowd interacting with David. It still makes me shiver every time I listen to them.

Every musician participating here is brilliant. But you have to lift up Coverdale over all the others. He is one of my favourite rock singers and what he is delivering here is out of this world. In my world this is the best performance of a rock singer ever recorded on a live album. Regardless of whether slow blues tunes or straight forward rockers, he is a master of his craft. I would rate his achievement on this recording higher than any other rock singer recorded live like Gillan, Dio, Plant, you name it. That's the masterclass.

The songs are all absolutely brilliant so it's impossible to point some out. There are the faster songs like Come On, Fool For Your Loving, Love Hunter, Ready 'N' Willing. Then you have the honky tonk Lie Down, the bluesy Ain't no love.., Walking In The Shadows.., Ain't Gonna Cry No More. All together it's a perfect mix and does not get boring for a single second.

It's a manifest of pure hard rock. I would suggest to expand the scale for this album please. In this case it would be a straight 11.

Tony Bickerdike: As live albums go, this is simply one of the very best. I can’t think of one better, a suitable epitaph to a brilliant guitarist.

Chris Elliott: It's one of the few live albums that deserves its reputation. Always had a soft spot for Whitesnake all the way to Saints And Sinners. This isn't the "great" album I thought back in the day but it's a damn good one.

Leslie Moyes: A belter of a live album one of my most played Whitesnake albums, no wonder.

Wade Babineau: Wicked live album that manages to get a semi-regular rotation on the player. Came to Whitesnake via the Slide It In and 1987 albums. Went back into the catalog was not disappointed. In some ways I prefer the old 'Snake with the bluesier playing of Marsden and Moody. This live album certainly pumps some extra life into tracks that were pretty good already on the studio albums. Not a bad number in the lot. 10/10

Greg Schwepe: First time listening to this album, and a fine one it is! Rockin’ bluesy vibe with the awesome voice of David Coverdale.

Time for my usual album backstory before I get to the actual review. I distinctly remember flipping past this one in the rack at the record store after it came out. Drawn by the concert pic on the front and knowing that Whitesnake “is some of the guys from Deep Purple.” Here in the US it seemed that most radio stations knew Deep Purple had the songs from Machine Head to play and maybe Woman From Tokyo. It’s like the Mk III version never existed. “Burn? What’s that album?” And I’m sitting here trying to remember when I finally heard Whitesnake on the radio before the 1990 “Whitesnake” album finally hit here in the US.

And backstory done… on to the review. Had I bought this when it came out, I can already say I would’ve played this over and over. Great band, great vocals, and the album has a nice flow. Totally dig the slide guitar section of Love Hunter. Marsden and Moody really bring it all through the album.

Having bought a compilation CD a few years ago, I was drawn to the section of early ‘snake songs on the compilation just as much, or more, than the later era stuff. And since all the songs on this album are from the early era, there are none I don’t like. I’m also a sucker for any late 70s/early 80s live albums like this. Since these type of live albums are essentially a “greatest hits” set, you can get introduced to the band, then go buy the studio albums leading up to the live one.

And one last reason I like this album is simply due to David Coverdale. One, his voice is unique and distinctive, and two, having heard him on radio station interviews and music shows, he is such a hoot. Great personality which also comes across when you see him live, which I got a chance to do finally on their Flesh And Blood tour. 8 out of 10 for a solid live rock album from start to finish.

Jeff Belval: I love attending concerts but not big on live albums. This one however is fantastic from start to finish. Maybe one of the greatest sounding live albums ever. Everyone should listen to this album from start to finish at least once.


Final score: 8.97 (252 votes cast, total score 2261)

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