Michael Schenker Fest is in full swing across the UK and Rushonrock lapped it up…
Four into one doesn’t go. Right? Well wrong, actually, as anyone who turned up to watch Michael Schenker and his latest band discovered.
Schenker has never been one to stand still throughout a rollercoaster career which has seen him in and out of UFO, twice link up (briefly) with big brother Rudy and the Scorpions, form, then disband, MSG before eventually evolving three decades later into the Michael Schenker Fest.
It features four vocalists who he has hired – and in two cases – fired yet the formula is proving to be an outstanding success.
Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, Gary Barden and Dougie White are all given their time in the spotlight and it’s inevitable they’re all judged alongside each other.
McAuley, who sang the bulk of Schenker’s UFO back catalogue, just edges out Bonnet when it comes to demonstrating the best set of tonsils though this was a duel par excellence with the ex-Rainbow singer particularly excelling on the unheralded Night Moods.
White, who this correspondent slaughtered on a previous appearance with Schenker’s Temple Of Rock, was much improved and seems to have expanded his range.
Barden, as anyone who has listened to the latest live album will already know, is not as strong as his peers but has a stage presence which makes him one of the stars of the show.
Actually, make that best supporting actor. There can be only one star and boy did Schenker himself enjoy himself last night.
The gig started at 7.12pm – a stupidly early time for a Friday night but thankfully the overwhelming majority of a very healthy audience were present to see the man himself match out on his own before introducing, then singing (!!) the opening song, Holiday, from the Scorpions’ Lovedrive album.
This is a very different Michael Schenker from the one we’ve witnessed over the years. He wants to show off his legacy, informing the audience that he wrote UFO’s Doctor Doctor as a 17-year-old and telling us his work on Lovedrive helped his brother’s band crack America.
What made this night so memorable was that everyone in the band was having fun. Watching three vocalists backing their rival could have looked ridiculous but it didn’t because the singing quartet were having such a good time. If there were any egos in the house it was impossible to notice.
There were countless highlights – the two instrumentals Into The Arena and Captain Nemo, Heart And Soul and Warrior from this year’s release Resurrection.
But of course, it was the UFO classics which sparked the loudest applause. Only You Can Rock Me and Too Hot To Handle were five-star foot-stompingly good and as for Rock Bottom…
Over the years, I’ve seen Schenker deliver some classic solos and I’ve listened in horror during a few duds too – particularly during his final days with UFO.
The Teutonic titan was at his mesmerising best last night with a quite breathtaking, note-perfect solo. Most of those present will have seen the guitarist many, many times in the past. Like me, they will struggle to recall him on better form.
Images By Gordon Armstrong and Carl Chambers