Sunday, March 25, 2018

Michael Schenker Fest - Lights Out in San José!

photo by Robert Lio
Michael Schenker Fest played to a nearly sold out, loving crowd at the San José National Civic Center on Saturday night, but as much fun as the audience had belting out lyrics with their favorite Schenker vocalists and being mystified by their hero's heavy licks, I think the most fun was actually had by the eight hard rock legends who make up the Fest.

I don't believe that I've ever seen a band have more fun onstage. The four singers (Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, and Doogie White) came across more like a hard rock version of the Four Tops than competing metal myths, and their fun was both contagious and inspiring.


With the exception of some one off shows, it is most unusual to see a working band featuring both singers and musicians from various eras of a popular band's career, the Michael Schenker Fest is a hell of a template for future tours. This tour sees Schenker and company playing for crowds that are four times as large as we have been seeing in recent years, and this band was tailor made for large rooms. They are incredibly powerful and melodic.

Michael Schenker has seen more lives than the average cat, and he's never played better or been seen having such a great time onstage. The night's setlist featured a mini-set by each vocalist in the order of their time with MSG that is parsed with an instrumental number strategically placed between each singer's appearance. At various times, each singer is joined by their contemporaries, and their ribald humor often evokes a memory of Marx Brothers' road shows. No egos, no competing, just collaboration and sharing the love between four veterans who have served well.

Geoff Ketler/Aces High Photography
Schenker is playing like a man possessed, and he's on the short list of the greatest guitarists of his era. His dexterity and speed are not hampered by the years (or the ravages), and he is now improvising more than he has in the past, and seems to be having great fun doing so. There has never been a better time to be a Schenker devotee!

Four sets of solid history from Barden, Bonnet, McAuley, and White, are followed by an excellent set of UFO classics from the band's legendary live album, Strangers In The Night. Also, the tracks the band plays from their new Resurrection album fare very well in a live setting.

Kirstine Walton Photography
I'd be remiss if I didn't speak of the band. This is truly a greatest hits version of various Schenker ensembles, and the Fest features the always excellent Steve Mann (Lionheart, Sweet) on second lead guitar, vocals and keyboards (and it was great to see the band perform the hit "Anytime" from 1989), drummer extraordinaire Ted McKenna (SAHB, Rory Gallagher), and on of my favorite rock 'n' roll bassists, Chris Glen. These fellows rage through the setlist (see below) like a runaway train, and their power and precision is majestic.

If you have chance to see this tour, DO NOT MISS IT! I've been closely following Michael Schenker since the mid-70s, even working for the band as a guitar tech for a brief time during the McAuley/Schenker years, and I must say that there has never been a better time to see this man weaving his six-string magic, and to have him joined by so many brilliant musicians from his storied history might just make this the tour of the year.

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  7. (Scorpions song)
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  26. (UFO song)
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  27. Encore:
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  29. (UFO song)
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  30. (UFO song)
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  31. (UFO song)

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