Michael Schenker Group has returned to the NY Area once again, and this time the appearance is all the more special. Seeing MSG is always a guaranteed good time for fans of the Guitar God for he is a leader in the field of hard rock guitar. However, this time he would be supported by the one and only Uli Jon Roth who many will remember as the guitarist in Scorpions many years ago. While Uli has been a solo performer for a long time it was not until discussing this appearance with fellow fans that we realized that while Michael does not tour here often, Uli had not been to the United States in almost 20 years.
Tonight Uli Jon Roth would perform his set with a rhythm player and a keyboardist. Many of the drums and lush orchestrations that are on his albums needed to be programmed and performed via computer for these particular live shows. One cannot travel a small club tour overseas with a full company of string instruments. His backdrop was a unique sight as behind Uli was a projected movie screen that showed wild psychedelic images or the orchestra accompaniment. Uli dresses very Rennaissance styled with a large feathered hat, and a shirt that matches this era, it actually went along well with his orchestra compositions. It’s a very Hendrix manner of dress.
Sadly, shortly after his set began something went amiss with the computers. It disrupted his playing so much that he ran to it and disconnected the cable from it. While the keyboardist and other techs worked out the issue Uli made a funny comment about what happens when we trust technology and he began to play again. He was a true pro at all times jamming on some things the audience was yelling for and some that he could do without the computerized musicians helping out for the song. You could tell by the smile on his face that he was enjoying his warm reception at the club and the fact that despite the difficulty he did not lose the attention of the crowd. For those in need of reference, the set was pretty much lined out by “Sky Overture”, “Spring” from Vivaldi's Four Seasons which he calls “Venga La Primavera”. Then he did “Metamorphosis” which is the Title track from the latest album and his own interpretations of various themes from Four Seasons. When the system crashed he jammed such songs like "Little Wing" (Hendrix) and some music by the Scorpions such as “Sails of Charon”, “Virgin Killer”, “Fly To The Rainbow”. Then only complaint voiced was the fact that he did not play complete songs at this time and just several minutes of each. He also did a song from his “Beyond The Astral Skies” album ( the 3rd Electric Sun Album) but I can't remember the name. He also did Hendrix's “All Along The Watchtower” and the Hendrix-inspired bit with the bar and effects. I was happy to see a large amount of die hard fans in this audience and especially since this was a weeknight and the club at an out of the way location rather than someplace easy to find in Manhattan.
Next up would be The Michael Schenker Group and these guys always play a full set of killer numbers. For those that saw The MSG in an earlier run of the area this year, there was not much difference in the set as you will see. It makes sense that it was the same especially since this was the second leg of the tour for his record “Arachnophobiac”. As expected once again the large focus on the material would also have a lot of notable UFO songs. Joining Michael onstage once again would be Chris Logan (Vox), Wayne Findlay (keyboards/guitars), Rev Jones (bass and mayhem) and Peter Holmes (drums). Sadly I felt the venue worked against them a little bit, because there is a high and apparently metal ceiling. Some sounds were bouncing off the top and when I spoke with Michaels soundman he said they were having a heck of a time getting a great sound from the place. Some things were too loud in the PA, which made the vocals sometimes hard to appreciate and the keyboards of Wayne were almost absent. Michael sounded great as always and the drums were clear. Bassist Rev Jones adds a lot of fun to the performance since he is absolutely crazy onstage and his sound seemed pretty much level more than the others were able to have.
Chris Logan, while a great front man does not do much talking and instead leaves the time for the songs to be performed. This is what the fans that were in attendance (who were mainly guitar players) wanted anyway. There was a brief drum solo by Peter Holmes which is very impressive for those only familiar with his work in Black And Blue. He is a lot better than he was able to showcase in that group from the 80’s “Hair Metal” craze. After the sets were done the club did not run people out the door and you were able to have a few beers and mingle with the bands as they were stopping to talk to you and pose for pictures. It seemed like Uli was taken back by the devotions shown to him now that he was in the crowd as everyone wanted to speak to him, or shake his hand and get him to sign something. This had to feel good especially since it was such a long time since Uli had been here. Sadly, far too many people do not know of the level of playing he is capable of and as a result his gigs suffer from it here in the US. This might be the last time he plays over here for years once again, but I am hoping this will not be the case. I really recommend trying to catch him when he comes around again for it is really great to see one of the players who influenced more guitarists than can be named on one web page. Schenker also came out after his almost two hour set but he stuck by the merchandise booth while the fans lined up. He would be signing his CD’s and DVD’s and also posing for some candids. I saw a couple of guitars there to be signed and while I think that is cool, I never understood it since the guitar was not actually his so why make him sign it. To each his own I guess. I even took a shot with him and got to talk a little more with the band while my friends met their guitar heroes. I have to say that if Schenker ever comes around again or Uli for that matter that you owe it to yourself as a guitar player especially to support them. Schenker is one of the greatest and he does not do long extensive tours, its wise to get in to have some fun when it first gets announced. I’ve gone a couple of times so far and each time is a whole lot of fun.
Official Web Site: www.michaelschenkerhimself.com
Official Web Site: www.ulijonroth.com
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