Michael Schenker Fest

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Michael Schenker Fest

Michael Schenker Fest - Shepherds Bush Empire, London (UK) - 02 November 2017

A short while back, Michael Schenker announced he was to play a special show in Tokyo Japan, billed as The Michael Schenker Fest, featuring former MSG members Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley, Chris Glen, Ted McKenna and Steve Mann. The show was filmed for commercial release and it was so well received that fans demanded that it was to be extended into a full tour, of which it was.

Kicking off with the instrumental 'Into The Arena', Schenker is all smiles as he takes his flying V guitar around the stage, backed by Glenn on bass and McKenna on drums. The two ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band musicians are a mean rhythm section that keeps tonight's show tight.

Barden is first up as singer. The last time I saw this line-up they were headlining the Reading Festival in 1982, days after Bonnet had been relieved of his vocalist position and Barden reinstated! Starting with 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie', it truly is a trip down memory lane. Barden may not have quite the range he once had as a singer, but he does an admirable job nonetheless, and is still quite the front-man.

More often than not, when Schenker's name is mentioned, people talk about his work in UFO. It easy to forget the many classics Michael Schenker Group releases – 'Cry For The Nation' and 'Armed And Ready' stand proud against any of his earlier work. Schenker plays the songs with the same enthusiasm as when he first performed them, while Barden has the audience singing along to each song.

The Scorpions instrumental 'Coast To Coast' takes us into the Bonnet era of Schenker's career. Sadly, a power cut loses momentum mid-set, but normal service quickly resumes. 'Desert Song', 'Assault Attack' and 'Dancer' are next up, with Steve Mann supplying rhythm guitar and keyboards where needed. Bonnet's voice, at times, sounds more like he is shouting than singing these days, so it is with some relief when McAuley takes over duties. He tells us it has been thirty years since this Irishman has played England – I recall The McAuley Schenker Group supporting Whitesnake on the 1987 tour.

The band touch more on the AOR period of the band's time, with such gems as 'No Time For Losers', 'Love Is Not A Game' and the superb 'Save Yourself'. McAuley finishes off by taking on some of the UFO classics – 'Shoot Shoot' and Schenker's guitar-god moments in 'Lights Out' and 'Rock Bottom'. Both Barden and Bonnet join in on an all-star jam to bring this wonderful celebration to a climatic close.

Ray Paul

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