If Phil Mogg ever fancied an alternative career, he could surely make a good living as an after-dinner speaker, a raconteur or perhaps even a DJ on Planet Rock.
The UFO frontman loves a good old chinwag and on Saturday night at a packed O2 Academy, he indulged in his favourite hobby, entertaining the audience with his witty banter, even if he still has the habit of forgetting which studio album his songs come from.
Thankfully, 63-year-old Mogg is still very much a rock n’ roll singer – one of the best in the business on this evidence.
And UFO are a band still at the peak of their powers with Vinnie Moore’s guitar licks the perfect complement to Mogg’s bluesy voice.The boy must be doing good – I swear I didn’t hear Michael Schenker’s name mentioned once throughout the 90 minute set!
If Pete Way’s showmanship means this isn’t quite the UFO we remember from their heyday, the musicianship remains exemplary with long-serving drummer Andy Parker, the versatile Paul Raymond and guest bassist Rob De Luca building a solid platform for Mogg and Moore to strut their stuff.
And what of the setlist? For years, UFO have been damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to sticking so rigidly to the Strangers In The Night formula which has been their trademark now for over three decades.
Parker revealed in a recent interview that there was almost a riot during their recent US tour when they had the audacity to drop Love To Love from their set and no doubt, the Newcastle audience would have been similarly upset if any their SITN classics had been omitted here.
In the end, they played 11 of the 13 songs from the greatest live album ever made with Love To Love an inevitable highlight along with the beautiful I’m A Loser and of course, Rock Bottom, a song which Moore has stamped his own identity on while at the same time, performing an impressive impersonation of Schenker at his classy best.
From new album Seven Deadly, UFO restricted themselves to just the opening two tracks Fight Night and Wonderland with the latter in particularly taking on a life of its own in a live environment.
Saving Me from 2009’s The Visitor stays on the setlist along with Hell Driver, which you sense is a particular favourite of the band’s while there’s a welcome return for the keyboards-led Venus from Walk On Water.
Personally, I’d have liked at least one song from the Paul Champman-era UFO of the early 1980s – perhaps No Place to Run or Professions of Violence and a ballad thrown in such as Try Me, Baby Blue or the new Waving Good Bye but for a band with such a huge catalogue of crowd-pleasing anthems, it’s an impossible task trying to please all the people all the time.
Maybe, Moggy and the boys could tamper wit the running order which during the closing stages of the gig is a little too predictable.
There is nothing wrong with keeping the best till last and few bands can produce such a classy finale as Too Hot To Handle, Lights Out, Rock Bottom followed by encores Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot.
But if memory serves me right, Shoot Shoot has been the final song they’ve played at every UFO concert I’ve attended since the late-70s – and that’s quite a few.
So next time lads, don’t change too much but keep us guessing just that little bit more.