Concert Report by James Allman Michael Schenker & Friends at the Rigger, Newcastle Under Lyme, U.K. February 8, 2008 Added on 02/11/2008
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I would like to announce the return of the legendary Michael Schenker. Easter may be early this year, but this resurrection is another worthy of a chapter in the bible. After his despicable attempt at a performance at last year's Rock and Blues festival, an alcohol stricken Michael Schenker was on the brink of total collapse and in just about all circles of the rock press, he had finally been written off. Only 7 months later, it is a miracle what was witnessed tonight. Michael Schenker played an absolute blinder, note perfect throughout, he had a grin on his face like a Cheshire cat. Looking refreshed, focussed, and clean cut, Schenker fuelled only by a bottle of spring water, was in absolutely sparkling form.
Billed as MICHAEL SCHENKER & FRIENDS, this lengthy tour of tiny venues in the UK is intended to show Schenker fans that he's back on track. Of course, next on Schenker's agenda is a new MSG studio album featuring an all star lineup with Gary Barden returning on vocals. 'In The Midst of Beauty' is due out in April, with MSG expected to do a major world tour to support the record. If Schenker is in anything like the form he was tonight, that tour will be one hell of a spectacle.
Although all eyes were on Schenker, a word has to be said about the rest of his band, or his 'friends', so to speak. Vocalist Leif Sundin, keyboard player/rhythm guitarist Kjell Haraldsson, bassist Thomas Torberg and drummer Thomas Broman, teamed up to provide a perfectly adequate side show for the magician himself to weave his musical magic. The sold out 300 strong crowd gave a rapturous response to the performance. UFO classics like 'Lights Out' and 'Only You Can Rock Me' had everybody singing along, and it really did feel like the clock had been turned back 30 years.
The taster track from the forthcoming MSG album ('I Want More') was well received, but in terms of MSG material, it was the likes of 'Armed and Ready' and 'Ready to Rock' that predictably got the loudest cheers. Schenker was the star of the show throughout, but when taking centre stage to the instrumental 'Into The Arena', his classy guitar playing had the crowd in amazement. The crowning glory was the finale - a stunning Schenker special solo on set closer 'Rock Bottom' - a final confirmation that Schenker has indeed risen from exactly that - i.e. rock bottom.
At the end of the show, the clapping was unrelentless. Seeing such a legend in such close quarters was an unforgettable, jaw-dropping experience. You do have to wonder for how long Schenker will be on the straight and narrow, but anyone who saw his performance tonight will be hoping and praying that he stays well clear of the booze. Those who thought Schenker's only friends were Jack Daniels and Jim Beam were tonight proved wrong. Newcastle Under Lyme had been treated to the best guitar lesson they will ever see. We're not worthy... we're not worthy...
MICHAEL SCHENKER & FRIENDS Setlist:
Assault Attack Ready To Rock Let It Roll Angel of Avalon Lights Out Into The Arena I Want More Too Hot To Handle On and On Only You Can Rock Me Armed and Ready Attack Of The Mad Axeman Doctor, Doctor Rock Bottom