First gig of 2016 and I’m not sure I could be any more “ROCK” than to be at Rock City to rock out with rock icon Michael Schenker and his Temple of Rock!
Not only here to transport old rockers back to days of yore, but promoting the latest album ‘Spirit On A Mission’, Michael Schenker and his band of trusted acolytes descend upon Nottingham’s Rock City towards the end of their current UK tour. During this run there has been discussion regarding Schenker’s recent slamming of his old band Scorpions, with some folk insisting on attaching such commentary to his “eventful” past. But tonight nobody gives a stuff about all of that, as we wait to celebrate the music of a true rock guitar legend.
The big numbers smack us between the eyes from the get go, with UFO classics ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Lights Out’ sandwiching a new track ‘Live and Let Live’ during the opening salvo. Not too much work is required from vocalist Doogie White to get the Nottingham crowd going, but he puts in an energetic shift anyway, bounding around the stage and encouraging crowd participation when not letting rip his vocal prowess.
Wishing us all a happy new year, White moves on to mention the recent passing of Rainbow and Dio bassist Jimmy Bain, before dedicating ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ to his fellow Scot. For a song originally written in tribute to Ronnie James Dio, it becomes quite clear what time it is in Nottingham – it’s devil horns in the air o’clock – and everybody in the house knows it.
The set rolls on with a real one-off blast from the past – ‘Victim of Illusion’ from MSG’s 1980 self-titled album. I find myself nodding along, just waiting for the riff to fade and lead into ‘Bijou Pleasurette’. Of course it doesn’t, but hey I’m certainly not going to complain when next up comes Scorpions ‘Lovedrive’ and the epic instrumental ‘Coast To Coast’. Schenker, not for the first time joining fellow ex-Scorp Francis Buchholz on bass and Wayne Findlay (guitar/keyboards) for a bit of centre stage showmanship.
Co-writing ‘Spirit On A Mission’ with Findlay and his seven-string guitar riffs and Doogie White with his soaring vocals, Schenker has a bunch of new songs in the latter part of the set including ‘Vigilante Man’, ‘Saviour Machine’ and ‘Good Times’. With a couple of tunes from ‘Bridge The Gap’, it’s great to see the impact and appreciation the crowd have for the up-to-date material, even if it is the classics they have a real hunger for.
Buchholz and drummer Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell are given their Scorpion credentials introduction with ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ doing well to feed the masses. Mid-song Rarebell grabs a microphone while he hammers out a single kick-drum and screams “Here I am!” to which the crowd enthusiastically respond with a deafening “Rock You Like A Hurricane!”
UFO’s ‘Natural Thing’ and ‘Too Hot To Handle’ are given an outing during the show, but highlight of the night – an extended version of ‘Rock Bottom’ – comes towards the end, when over-zealous crowd surfing calls front-of-house security into action during a virtuoso performance by Schenker.
Tonight is only one of a few dates not quite sold out on this tour and as the 10pm curfew approaches, you have to wonder what better things Nottingham has to offer classic rock fans on a Friday night. Nevertheless, those of us here certainly get our fill, as Herr Schenker and crew storm to the end with Temple of Rock’s ‘Communion’ and Scorpions ‘Blackout’ – the hi-octane title track to a definitive album of early 80’s metal.
During what has been a pretty bleak January in the world of rock, tonight shines a light as the Michael Schenker resurgence continues. The guy is on fire, cleaner, leaner and meaner than ever – delivering a jaw-dropping exhibition of guitar shredding wizardry – along with a band and a show of comradery and exhuberance. It just rocks!
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston // Rock Music Photographer