It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had the guys in UFO touring here in the states but thankfully the wait is over and they have returned to us once again but since that last time there have been one or two modifications that the fans should be aware of. The first one is that gone is Jason Bonham from the drum chair but fear not because in his place returns the bands original drummer Andy Parker. Jason has gone on to do some percussive good as a member of a rebuilt Foreigner and he continues to kick ass along those lines and he also appeared with a reunited Led Zeppelin a few months ago holding up the memory of his legendary Father. Most noticeable would be the continued absence to US touring by bassist Pete Way who still seems to be unable to secure a visa to enter the country to do his musical business. In his place we find Rob DeLuca who is most known for work with Spread Eagle and Sebastian Bach. The last time around the bass duties were handled by Barry Sparks, but he has been working with both Dokken and Ted Nugent of late. Fortunately for us all, Vinnie Moore is still on the guitar and he just seems the perfect fit for the role of guitar hero in the band as he continues the work began by Michael Schenker and the others who held that honor. As those fans that caught them the last few times around can attest to, Vinnie does some serious justice to the long venerated classics and is an integral part of the bands new material. The appearance would once again be at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill which in my opinion is the perfect setting for a classic Hard Rock band such as this. In the event you couldn’t attend here are some of the gig’s highlights.
When I arrived at the club I found it already crowded and that was fantastic to observe because this is a band that deserves nothing less than a full room. The first time around I remembered that tables had been set up but there were no such hindrances of the kind to the audience’s Rock and Roll space this evening. Yes, there are some shows were the crowd is more of a sit down audience but this aspect still seems a little far away for the larger portion of those fans who enjoy the music of UFO. I felt this was a good thing because it also allowed for more fans to get into the venue and it was very early on that I discovered the event was sold out completely. Now we can get down to business in the best possible fashion. The band hit the stage to the song “Long Gone” and the classic “Mother Mary” soon followed and when you heard the sound of Phil Mogg’s voice you were amazed at how good he still was at doing this stuff. One has to commend him on this because even at sixty years old he is still rocking harder than many performers who are less than half his age. The band was on target tonight and I made sure to glance at the set list in advance to see what we were going to get treated to and this one appeared to be rather similar to the last few times and loaded with the bands classic numbers. This is never a bad thing based on so many songs in the UFO repertoire being integral to Hard Rock and Metal’s formative years. They would of course touch upon their most recent SPV Records album “The Monkey Puzzle” but it would only be for a couple of tunes with “Hard Being Me” and “Heavenly Body” being the picks. It seemed as though the audience was eating them up since there is a lot of the traditional UFO feel to them. It was right back into the classics for the band and when it came down to audience participation there was not a body in the room that wasn’t singing along to “Only You Can Rock Me” as Phil held the microphone stand over their heads. It has to feel good to a musician when he is on stage at an intimate venue like this one and the whole place is singing your song back to you.
While hits would be par for the course this evening they would also play a number from the album which preceded the new one and from “You Are Here” we found “Baby Blue” proving that no matter how long a group has been around that a soft and tender ballad can come from even the most seasoned of rockers. I love the tune actually and its one of my favorites from that release. The band was also celebrating the release of a greatest hits compilation that was coming out care of Capitol Records/EMI Music and it is very basically titled “The Best Of UFO”. According to research a healthy number of remastered editions of the bands back catalog will be coming out as well so fans should watch for those and newbie’s should begin to pay a little more attention. Musically the band was as tight as could be and I had to say that drummer Andy Parker was really impressing me as he delivered on the drums for the bands classics and newer tunes. It was great to see how easily he appeared to slip back into the role with the group and you just know that the crowd was enjoying having him back even though Mr. Bonham had been a very welcome addition to the lineup. Rob DeLuca was also showing his chops as if he had been with the group for years as opposed to being brought in just for the touring in this region. He has always been a solid player in my eyes and it’s nice to see him keeping busy as opposed to fading away into the back like far too many others do. Another thing I caught tonight was how Vinnie Moore seemed to be so much more comfortable in the guitar hero role as it applies to UFO. Let’s face it; even if you are regarded as a leader on the instrument, it’s not too easy to find yourself filling in the shoes once worn by Michael Schenker. Tonight it seemed as though he had lost any of the reservations he had and there was very little holding back. In the past shows he was Vinnie doing some great Schenker but now it seemed like this was Vinnie being himself as a part of the UFO of the future. I had to say that he was a real highlight for us during this show.
As I mentioned the set was primarily the hits and no one was arguing it from the crowd and the pleasers were all there to enjoy from “Too Hot To Handle” and “Lights Out” to a super extended version of “Rock Bottom”. I will state that I felt that this last one was done just a bit too long and started to become a little boring to me, but I am not a guitar player so while it annoyed me just a tad it had others around me slavering. The encores were “Doctor, Doctor”’ and “Shoot, Shoot” and the whole club was moving during them with fists in the air and screams as loud as could be mustered. The one thing UFO has always seemed to do in concert is end on a high note that leaves you begging for more. When the evening was all said and done I had to admit that I still wondered why such a legendary band is only getting to play venues like this when in my own area so many larger scale places can be performed in. Don’t get me wrong in this because I love going to B.B King’s, but instead my view is based on the bands overall impact on the whole Hard Rock genre and how in some fashion everyone who came after them used some of their signature “moves” as they climbed the ladder of notoriety themselves. Tonight was a great time and I was glad that they had as many folks in as they did since they surely deserve it. Perhaps the next time around we shall see them booking two nights as opposed to one and I can safely say this now that I shall definitely see you there. If you are a musician of some kind you should plan on getting those referenced albums and definitely a couple of the remasters. Find yourself influenced by the ones who influenced who you listened to. It’s a better educational model at the end of the day.
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Official Web Site: www.ufo-music.info
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