Michael Schenker @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 31 May 2013

During a 40 year career of highs and lows, Michael Schenker has continued to perform, record and maintain a following of fans, to become a legendary figure in the history of metal guitar.

Tonight’s gig is billed as a double header, encompassing Schenker’s “Temple of Rock” and the “Lovedrive Reunion Tour”. The celebrated line-up boasts ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass), MSG stalwart Wayne Findlay (guitar and keyboards) and Scottish vocalist Doogie White (ex-Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen) and spans Michael Schenker’s career with The Scorpions, UFO and MSG.

The classic 1979 Scorpions album ‘Lovedrive’ kicks off the show, with the title track followed by ‘Another Piece Of Meat’, before a string of MSG numbers, including ‘Armed and Ready’ and ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’.

I may not have had my first fix of these bands until the mid-eighties, (a few years after Michael Schenker had departed the Scorpions and at the end of the initial formation of MSG) but boy I know these tunes well. As do the majority audience tonight – that being men of a certain age, some proudly attired in cut-off denim jackets, adorned with sew-on patches, still throwing the shapes, wailing the tunes, and either transporting themselves back to the day, or having never left there.

Schenker himself, now in his late fifties, shows signs of a man who has lived the life of rock ‘n’ roll excess. His short blonde hair hidden under a beanie hat sits atop a somewhat gaunt frame, which has taken on a hunched playing style over the years. But the power, melody and tone of his guitar work is unmistakable – that killer wah and Marshall tone remains sublime, as he swaps and changes a series of his trademark Flying V’s throughout the show.

Doogie White, perhaps not known as well as some of bands he has fronted, is vocally powerful with a dominant presence. Between songs he comess across as a really amiable fella, but for anybody who isn’t sure – he can only allay concerns when he dedicates ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ – a new Temple Of Rock track – to Ronnie James Dio.

Back to ‘Lovedrive’ for the instrumental ‘Coast To Coast’ – a desert island disc of a tune that has virtually everybody in the room mouthing the main guitar lick throughout. All of this before: ‘Shoot Shoot’,  ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Let It Roll’, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ and the ultimate set-closer ‘Lights Out’, all clearly identifiable to those familiar with UFO’s pinnacle period.

There are two massive encores, the first of which allows Buchholz and Rarebell to really enjoy their place in metal history, with a trio of classic Scorpions tracks. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire sings along loud and proud to a beautifully pitched version of ‘Holiday’ by White, before there’s a total Waynes World-esque rock out to ‘Blackout’ and ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’.

Returning for two UFO monster tunes, Schenker unleashes a mesmerising solo during ‘Rock Bottom’ – itself illustrating that one of rock’s all-time great guitarists is still on top form – before wrapping up with ‘Doctor Doctor’.

Whatever the incarnation of MSG may be – Michael Schenker surrounds himself with a precision team of musicians and entertainers. Amid it all, Schenker does no wrong, delivering a masterclass and remaining one of rock’s greatest guitar heroes.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

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