Concert Report by James Schenker/Barden - Acoustic Project at Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA, U.S.A. December 30, 2009 Added on 01/01/2010
I attended the show at the Coach House last night and what a treat. There was a little mess up with the sound at the beginning of the show and we had to wait, a little bit, while Roberto tinkered with all the cords. This venue is very intimate and has a seated dinner type of arrangement. It was very different, but very enjoyable. Gary Barden helped out, by clowning around during the electrical "SNAFU". After the repair, MSG jumped into Are You Ready To Rock and I immediately noticed how much better the sound is compared to some of the posts on YouTube. Gary Barden's voice seemed to be strong. Michael Voss was playing rhythm guitar and singing back up vocals, which really sounded excellent. Wow!!! Wayne is really playing nice keyboard parts. He has captured Paul Raymond's sound and has added some slight improvisation that is not "over the top" and blends in well with the natural flow of the songs. Roberto was playing with the tambourine and stomping his feet, in time, adding a very acoustic and folk type feel to the arrangement. I think Roberto had some kind of device under his right foot that made a bass drum sound.
I do not remember the entire set list or sequence of songs, so I will try to highlight some of the stand out numbers. But, I Want More - was a tune I had not heard live for a while. The acoustic version is great. Michael S. was improvising and the quiet parts of the song were just phenomenal. Michael S. really captured the mood of the song and Michael Voss' back up vocals really made the song complete. Gary was very animated and really put some emotion into ALL of the songs.
Songs from Acoustic solo project Gypsy Lady - This album is just great and the live versions were flawless. It was nice to see the total arrangement of the acoustic parts. So much is lost if they do not add all the multi-tracked sections. At times, Michael S., Michael V., and Wayne would play acoustic at the same time. Schenker's solo sections were flawless. On this album, I have noticed how selective Schenker has become in adding his fills and solo sections. Maybe it is the acoustic nature of the songs, but I really like his selections and arrangements. The songs on this album are full arrangements and Schenker's solos are exactly what is needed and at the appropriate time. I think they played three songs from this album which are; Another Melody, Fight For Freedom, and Dance Lady Gypsy. My only criticism of this song set is that they did not include the song Hungry. Roberto added some sticks and acoustic percussive instruments which really added a nice touch to the mix. Michael V., again, backed up Gary superbly.
UFO songs- These songs sounded great acoustically. At times, the feel of the songs took on an old time campfire setting that kindda reminded me of Gene Autry songs. Schenker's improvised solos with the acoustic displays a versatility that is not always captured during his electrical sets. He added double stops, partial chord voicings, and his signature vibrato while maintaining the core melody of the songs. Lipstick Tracings and Between the Walls were stand out numbers for me. Only you can Rock me featured a beautiful solo with Michael Voss playing an exceptional and emotional back up rhythm guitar part. I wish that Michael S. would add some of the more esoteric UFO songs like - Getting ready, High Flyers, or Just Another Suicide. In my opinion, these songs would sound great acoustically with this line up of musicians.
All n' All - this was a great acoustic show. I liked the new look that Schenker had - I am a radiographer and Schenker reminded me of the German guy that puts on those Body Works shows. Michael Voss!!! He really added some nice back up vocals and really helped to "fill up" the mix that is sometimes lost in live settings. I think they need to add him to the MSG line up. He added back up harmonies during Only You Can Rock Me that I have never heard done live, even by UFO. You know? that section where they go WEEE Can... It was just awesome. Gary's voice really sounded great during Michael Voss' back ups. Add him to the line up - he really knows how to do vocal harmonies! He has a wide range and seemed to know what was needed. He even got that Stephen Stills sound on the MSG stuff. Michael Voss also had a lot of emotion that was equally matched with Gary and Michael Schenker. He seemed to thoroughly like and know all the songs. A great addition to MSG who also adds a stage presence that blends well with Schenker.
Gary Barden's lyrical prose is great and captures an all "original" classic rock sense of meaning. These songs are not just "girl meets boy" and 'boy loses girl" stuff. At times, his writing seems to be profoundly deep. I think it was the acoustic setting, but I really noticed the lyrics and the meaning behind the songs. I have always payed attention to the lyrics, but last night my eyes kept focusing on Gary's story telling. He was animated and made gesticulated references to key points of the songs. He even made the UFO stuff his own. He brings emotion and meaning to MSG. His voice still has that unique British feel that makes him immediately recognizable.
Mr. Schenker!!! He is the glue that holds this all together. He seems to be taking on a producers type of role here. His playing is flawless. I, and others, have already mentioned his greatness when it comes to guitar, but he is allowing others to really shine here. Watching him over the years, I have noticed his adjustments and maturity. He is not what some of the critics have complained about. Life is learning and we learn by our mistakes. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to learn from others. I am a basketball fan and I sometimes compare rock players to sports figures. Right now, Schenker reminds me of Kobe Bryant in a career sense. Schenker is allowing other team members to play and is doing what it is needed to make MSG successful. At times, I can not believe that I am sitting three feet from this Guitar great. I can not believe that this guy is not as popular as other guitar greats. It is a secret, I guess, to my advantage... Otherwise, I would be a guy sitting in the bleachers with binoculars.