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Michael Schenker Group @ Sony Hall (10/22/2022)

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The music scene of many cities is finally getting back to more of a normal sense of business in this post-pandemic world and while the scourge that is/was COVID-19 is still very much a thing, there is more safety thanks to vaccines and precautions. This let’s artists that have sat at home get back to work and the venues that house their performances get back to business. Sony Hall in Hell’s Kitchen off of Times Square has been bringing in some cool acts and it was fantastic to find that the Michael Schenker Group was one of the artists making a visit. I was in attendance at this much anticipated show which found the lead off band of Images of Eden starting off the night but traffic into the city was horrendous due to a nearby street festival. When I walked into the venue the band was closing it up with a cover of the Triumph classic “Fight The Good Fight”. It’s a great number and perhaps the way we should all be living nowadays as we strive for normal once again. I will hopefully catch them at some other time.

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The direct support for MSG would come care of an acoustic performance by Eric Martin of Mr. Big who had assembled Pj Farley (Trixter, Fozzy), Paul Pesco (Madonna, Live From Daryl’s House) and Jason Hartless (Ted Nugent) as his band. Eric and the guys sounded great and I’ve always enjoyed the stuff I heard from Mr. Big but I never caught them back in the heyday and only when they would play over at the now shuttered B.B. King Blues Club. Many of the readers know that the owners of that venue now run the Sony Hall so we get a lot of the same kinds of shows here which is a very good thing. There wasn’t a bad song in the set and Eric was quite engaged with the audience as well during the numbers. He even dedicated “Alive and Kickin'” to the late great Pat Torpey who passed away in 2018. I was happy to find a lot of the audience in place during Eric’s set since you can never tell how they will be. Some shows like this MSG one find the crowd getting in just in time for the set to begin for the main but it was rather crowded while Mr. Martin and the guys were doing their thing. I did have to chuckle when he hoped to get the women in the audience to sing a particular verse to only find a small gathering of them in the place. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but the Michael Schenker Group mostly draws a male audience who also play the guitar. I really enjoyed this all too brief set and will hopefully catch him again when he returns and maybe plays a little bit longer. Now it was time for The Mad Axeman to take to the stage.

Eric Martin Set: What If We Were New? Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song), Alive and Kickin’, Take Cover, Wild World, Dancin’ with My Devils

So according to my memory and a little research, the last time that Michael Schenker was in New York City was during his “solo” tour under the Michael Schenker Fest banner back in May of 2019. Truth be told I never understood why he didn’t just keep that as Michael Schenker Group but no one asked my opinion on it before launch so we move on. It was a good time for sure and no one seemed unhappy with the set list and now Michael would be returning with a very different company of players under the classic MSG branding. Thanks to COVID-19 times blanking a lot of memories from so much nothing for so long, I was pretty certain I didn’t see any of these members with him the last time around. Joining him would be Barend Courbois (bass), Steve Mann (guitar, keyboards), Bodo Schopf (drums) and singer Ronnie Romero. Michael and company hit the stage with the classic MSG instrumental “Into The Arena” and judging by the smile on Michael’s face you could tell that he was feeding off of the energy coming back at him from the crowd. The setup up the crowd was a little interesting this evening because you had people standing at the barricade for about ten to fifteen feet and then there were tables right behind them on the floor level. You could see the band from this vantage point of course but I personally prefer standing in this kind of situation and not getting knocked into by any member of the audience who is too excited which does happen from time to time. After the instrumental, Michael said hello to NYC and introduced singer Ronnie who joined everyone else for “Cry For The Nations”. This was followed by a UFO classic “Doctor Doctor” and from here I saw all of the phones go up as people sent images and some clips to their friends who didn’t come out or were too far away to join in on the fun.

The Michael Schenker Group signed to Atomic Fire Records not too long ago and released the album “Universal” and it features this lineup so that’s a very good thing. Now I must admit that I have slacked on listening to the whole thing but that wouldn’t matter for tonight’s performance as only one song would be played from the new release in “Emergency” and one from the previous release “Immortal” in “Sail The Darkness”. They broke into another UFO classic with “Lights Out” which is one of my very favorite numbers from that era in Schenker’s career and after two more perennial MSG classics of “Armed and Ready” and “Assault Attack” it was back to the UFO era which would be the case for the rest of the set. The band was super tight and I think that this was some of the best playing that I have seen Michael do in a long time. “Rock Bottom” was a very extended number as usual but no one complains about that since Michael just lets it all out in the song. There is no real “solo break” for him with no one else on the stage and I don’t mind that. There was no extended talking to the audience which often slows the pace down and is unnecessary. This was the first time that I had seen singer Romero in action and while I didn’t love how he sounded on the Rainbow stuff I had heard I was enjoying him quite a bit with the Schenker stuff. To be fair, its not easy to do material that was done by Dio, Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet in one clip and he was quite energized by the crowd who seemed to like his delivery as well. During “Too Hot To Handle” we got a little lead guitar from Steve Mann which was nice. The whole thing was wrapped up with “Only You Can Rock Me” the final UFO number and the close of the set. Now I know a lot of the fans close to the barricade were hoping for some guitar picks, but I had to say that I’ve never seen Michael throw these things out to the audience. He seems to play with a single pick the entire night which makes me wonder if these are even branded with his logo. Maybe back in the day but this doesn’t seem to be the case in the now. At the time of this writing I can say that only a few dates remain on the tour and if you need reference you can click HERE to see what’s left and if its near enough to your locality. I’d recommend you catch MSG in concert and especially if you are someone who plays Rock and Metal guitar because this performance is like a Master Class and something you won’t soon forget. Thanks to MSG for visiting the Big Apple. I hope you come back again soon and before I forget to mention we ran into some cool cats from the region in Angus Clark from Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Daredevil Squadron, Jimmy Kunes from Cactus and the newfangled version of Free and Joey Cassata from ZO2. Good to see them all in the same place after so long a time.

MSG Set List:
Into the Arena
Cry for the Nations
Doctor Doctor (UFO cover)
We Are the Voice
Looking for Love
Red Sky
Sail the Darkness
Lights Out (UFO cover)
Armed and Ready
Assault Attack
Rock Bottom (UFO cover)
Shoot Shoot (UFO cover)
Let It Roll (UFO cover)
Natural Thing (UFO cover)
Too Hot to Handle (UFO cover)
Only You Can Rock Me (UFO cover)


One thought on “Michael Schenker Group @ Sony Hall (10/22/2022)”

  1. Nicely said. BTW, Steve Mann and Bodo Schopf were in Michael’s band in 2019. I would have liked one, or two, more new songs but that’s the way things go these days.

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