The Michael Schenker Group
Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK, Nov. 30, 2023
A special review written and photographed by Meathook Mike
This tour celebrating a 50 year career by the legendary Michael Schenker, a guitarist cited as being a major influence on them by so many guitarists of different genres is a gig I've been looking forward to since buying my tickets many months ago. Guitarists such as Steve Vai, Kirk Hammet, Gary Holt and Michael Amott, have stated he influenced their playing styles.
I've been a massive Schenker fan since hearing him for the first time in 1980 when he released his first solo album after leaving UFO in 1979. So this being a celebration of his 50 year career it comes as no surprise that the set is heavily laden with songs from his early days. I missed the opening band as I was running late so apologies to Night Demon.
Opening with the classic instrumental Into "The Arena" it was a gig filled with quality and great musicianship from a great band on form. The unmistakable Schenker stance with his Gibson Flying V tucked between his legs and the great man himself leaning over it and letting his fingers do the talking is one I first witnessed, I believe in 1983 at Hammersmith Odeon and is as much a trademark as his playing style. The sound is clear and loud with the whole band being audible. Schenker is in top form and he is clearly enjoying himself on stage delivering the riffs and solos with ease. Going straight into one of my favourite songs "Cry For The Nations" and an effortless vocal delivery by Robin McAuley lets the crowd know they are in for a great evening. An early appearance for the classic UFO song "Doctor Doctor" and the crowd are singing along and it's clear that they are won over. The old songs are flowing with "Looking For Love" and "Lights Out" (with a great solo), then "Red Sky" from Built To Destroy, an album I enjoyed despite the production letting it down (my opinion) makes an appearance; the opening riff itself is a classic. "Shoot Shoot" follows before a newer MSG song "Emergency" is aired.
Back to the older material with "On and On" and some more UFO "Let It Roll". McAuley really does nail these songs and it's no wonder that he is the choice vocalist for this tour. He's also a great frontman and has the crowd eating out of his hand. It's a shame that there are no McAuley era songs in the set as "SAVE YOURSELF", "BAD BOYS" and "ANYTIME" would have sat very comfortably in this set. Oh well that's another tour. "Attack Of The Mad Axeman", "Natural Thing" and "Armed And Ready" all flow superbly in this set. Schenker's playing is effortless with his mastery of the guitar, his fluid playing laden with great articulate runs and phrasing all drenched in melody show why he is held in such high regard by his musical peers. "Desert Song" is up next before the song everyone is hereto hear "ROCK BOTTOM" is introduced by that galloping riff that leads into the classic riff and extended solo showcasing all that is great about Michael Schenker's playing. The show is closed out by 2 more classic UFO songs, "Too Hot To Handle" and "Only You Can Rock Me" leaving a very happy reviewer with more memories of one of the all time great guitarists of our time.
Meathook Mike, HMS