ufo-band@Newcastle O2 Academy, April 25 2015

It’s that never-to-be resolved conundrum that bands with the history and back catalogue of UFO are confronted with every tour.

For decades now, UFO have played it safe with  legendary live album Strangers In The Night forming the nucleus of their set list. 

Safe, sound and classy has been their mantra and generally, there have been few complaints from the fans.

But 2015 has seen a shift. Just six songs from SITN feature on this tour. Old favourites such as Mother Mary, Too Hot To Handle and This Kids are no more.

UFO even launched their Newcastle show with We Belong To The Night from 1982’s long-forgotten Mechanix album and later in the set, there’s another song from the Paul Chapman era – Making Moves – which hasn’t been played live since the band reformed in the mid-90s.

Throw in three from this year’s A Conspiracy Of Stars, a couple from 2013’s Seven Deadly and Venus from Walk On Water and it’s fair to say this is probably the most radical setlist UFO have performed throughout their career.

And did their new-found sense of adventure pay off? Well, yes and no.

The O2 crowd only really came to life when Lights Out was played fourth song in.

And the highlights of the 90 minute set were Love To Love and Rock Bottom when Vinnie Moore almost out-Schenkered you-know-who with his fret wizardry.

Phil Mogg had kicked off the night with some trademark crowd-baiting. “What was the score then?” he asked, knowing full well Newcastle United had crashed to a seventh straight defeat.

“We won 2-1,” shouted back one wag, celebrating Hartlepool’s great escape. But this wasn’t really a night for the unfashionable or the unheralded.

The Killing Kind, from their latest album, is one of the best songs UFO have written in recent years but on stage it lacked the crunchiness of the studio version.

Their choice of new material was strange. Run Boy Run and Messiah Of Love are hardly stand out tracks on Conspiracy of Stars, nor is Seven Deadly opener Fight Night.

So while UFO get top marks for trying something different, it’s only a conservative six for content.

No-one’s advocating a return to the days of performing Strangers In The Night almost in its entirety but over the past decade or so they’ve released material which deserves to be performed live far more than some tracks they’ve chosen.

Ian Murtagh