A sell-out show audience greeted me as I walked into the Robin 2 for the Temple of Rock ‘Bridge the Gap’ show; Michael Schenker is making a habit of it here in Bilston.
This was part of the ‘Bridge the Gap’ tour to promote the release of the album of the same name late in December 2013. Despite the tour title the setlist relied heavily on historic, and memorable, songs rather than his individual work post UFO/Scorpions. Not that this was a bad thing, all the songs were wildly applauded, but let’s face it, Michael Schenker could play ‘We are the Ovaltineys’ and the crowd would go mad!
Hailing from the South of England hard rockers Western Sand opened the show with their brand of southern style rock which was played at pace and very loudly. I’ve seen this bunch of lads a few times but here they excelled and the crowd reciprocated with well deserved, and generous, applause as the band ran through a lively set drawn mainly from their first two EP’s, ‘Western Sand’ released in 2013 and ‘Cut You Down to Size’ released earlier in 2014. This was a definite case of ‘no ballads allowed’ as each song was full on rock and roll. If you like your rock southern fried then check these lads out, they’re going to be big.
After a short recess the congregation re-assembled as the Temple of Rock ‘choir’ opened with ‘Doctor, Doctor’ then got right up to date with ‘Where the Wild Winds Blow’ from ‘Bridge the Gap’. After these openers we heard a mix of songs from Michael’s previous bands including UFO, Scorpions and MSG then got back on track with ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ (‘Temple of Rock’, 2011) and ‘Lord of the Lost and Lonely’ (‘Bridge the Gap’, 2013). The remainder of the set was another mix of UFO, Scorpions and MSG with just one new song thrown into the mix; ‘Vigilante Man’. No, this wasn’t a homage to veteran band Nazareth, but a new song due to appear on the 2015 album ‘Spirit on a Mission’.
The main set ended with another UFO anthem, ‘Rock Bottom’. Was that enough? Certainly not and the crowd let the band know that they hadn’t heard enough. The band returned with ‘Lights Out’ and finished with ‘Blackout’.
To say that Michael Schenker was on form is something of an understatement, he seems to be playing better now than he has done for a number of years and if he can maintain this level of guitar-playing skill and songwriting then Bilston can look forward to plenty more sell out dates for the Temple of Rock and the congregation can again worship at his feet next time around. Tonight he seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time on the stage even taking time to shake hands with the crowd. Having the same line-up as last year with Doogie White on vocals, the enigmatic Wayne Findlay on guitar and keyboards, Francis Buchholtz on bass and utter nutcase Herman ‘ze German’ Rarebell on drums has provided the band with the necessary stability along with vast experience…and it sounded good, very good!
The new album is due out in March 2015 and if ‘Vigilante Man’ is anything to go by it will be another cracker.