The “Blonde Bomber” burst onto the Robin 2 Bilston stage last night (20 January 2016) to impress and excite fans on the first leg of his “Spirit” mission in the UK. He’s a modern evangelical white-priest … Armed only with his trusty flying V and a superlative talent … He is spreading the joy of music (through pure expression) from place-to-place, as he travels around our realm.
Schenker has consistently ranked as one of the worlds greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists. And, on this tour, he is flanked by Doogie White, the former Rainbow voice. And, in addition, the original rhythm section of the Scorpions.
If anyone in the Midlands crowd was maybe a little anxious that the classic songs from the combined Scorpions, UFO and MSG song-books might be missing on this cold January night, their fears were unfounded. Those superb Schenker classics, the sounds that we have grown-up with and that mean so much — were about to be spilled-out in all their glory and celebration. This show was destined to be an incessant cascade of talent, emotion and fond reminiscence.
So, after the ‘Highway to Hell‘ curtain-raiser the redoubtable and über-accomplished band went straight into ‘Doctor Doctor’ — which is presumably the most familiar UFO song in the arsenal and was written by Michael with singer Phil Mogg way back in 1974. This was at the time when the British band was ready to leave behind their “space rock” days and suprisingly willing to follow young Schenker’s lead to become the hard-rock band that we know and love today. In any case, we knew that ‘Doctor Doctor’ had been a staple for the band for so many years (and a crowd favorite) but we never expected it to be played so early … If they were willing to start with such an outstanding song — we thought — then what riches were awaiting us in the next two hours of virtuoso performance?
‘Lights Out‘ taken from the 1977 album by UFO (Schenker left the band in ’78) also came early, and started with those familiar bursts of guitar-light that illuminated the characteristic rhythms like torches in the wind. Schenker fully employed those rhythms… weaving his guitar-magic around the beats and leaving us gasping and yelling for more.
I still vividly remember getting my bubblegum-sticky hands on my own copy of ‘Lovedrive’ back in’79. I had just moved into my own apartment, so I was able to play the fuck out of this fresh album… The whole disc was dazzling … (naturally enough I loved the 12 inch cover) but I particularly remember that I could not quite get over the stunning brightness of the musicianship. So I was deliriously cock-a-hoop when the Temple of Rock played ‘Coast to Coast’ at Robin 2. This instrumental piece was eloquent and harmonious. Perhaps it was written as a celebration of the brothers reacquaintance? Maybe Michael and Rudolf were putting their differences aside for the good of their music? Whatever, the guitarwork was expressive. And the lines of lead guitar were intoxicating. “Like that, do you?” The crowd was asked after the song. The question was meaningless. The song gained the biggest whoop! of the night.
The inclusion of the growling and immense ‘Saviour Machine‘ was timely. The idea and the formula was first used by David Bowie on his 1970 album — The Man Who Sold the World. On the Temple of Rock ‘version’ played at Bilston, Doogie’s voice was diligent and controlled. The occasional flame-hearted ribbon of guitar leaked out across the agitated rythms till that wonderful break-open moment in the third half, when the true glory of the passion is revealed. Yes, the concepts are disquietening. But this rock number was a filled with exultation.
‘Too Hot to Handle’ from the Lights Out album had yell-out lyrics, and caused the crowd to bounce along enthusiastically to the infectious riffs. This was a party-number and it brought the crowd out of themselves and together, as one. That is what good rock does. It unifies. And it empowers. Of course, Schenker’s liquid guitar pierced the atmosphere from time-to-time with its extraordinary brightness. And those sounds brought the loudest screams of joy.,
The brand new single ‘Rock City’ was played towards the end of the stunning show. This ever-moving number had a steady chug and some heartfelt vocals. Rhythmically, this number hit the spot and sounded very Rainbow-ish to us… in terms of consistency, ambition and expression. Although it was not the end of the night (by a long-chalk … there were more than three songs to be heard once the ovation cooled …) when it was all-over, the crowd seemed reluctant to leave. New friends were made, more pints sunk in Noddy’s Bar, and more memories were exchanged with happy loved ones.
This was a night of masterful interpretation and wonderful abundance.
Thank God these musicians are still with us. Still on their mission. Still giving us hope…
See our 3-part interview with Michael Schenker, conducted the day before the tour started: