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O2 Academy, Islington, London
Saturday 30th January 2016

Joe Geesin
Photos by John Bull and Laurence Harvey

joe geesin

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©John Bull

A very emotional night for many, as today would have been the second of two Hammersmith shows headlined by Motörhead, prior to Lemmy's passing. That event would always overshadow this, yet consequently the show was packed to the rafters, with many a Motörhead and Saxon t-shirt enjoying a night out.

The hall, on Upper Street in Islington is a great venue and is becoming increasingly popular for bands of a certain size, especially since the demise of the Astoria. I first discovered it in 2012 when I saw Bad Manners (yes, really) and it is now appearing on more and more tour schedules for bands across genres.

Michael Schenker is one of the most legendary guitarists in rock and Metal, and aside notable work and acclaim with German band Scorpions and also UFO, he formed MSG (Michael Schenker Group, sometimes McAuley Schenker Group with singer Robin McAuley) and in the early 80s worked with the likes of Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Cozy Powell and former SAHB's Chris Glen and Ted McKenna.

A career of many ups and a few alcohol driven downs...

Article continues below...

Schenker formed Temple of Rock in 2011 and has recorded some fantastic and consistent material. The band features singer Doogie White (Rainbow), bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell (both ex Scorpions) and guitarist/keyboard player Wayne Findley; there's a lot of pedigree here.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©John Bull

The venue was slow to fill, with opening band Venrez,featuring two members of Juliette & The Licks, and Billy Ray Cyrus' bassist Cynthia Gillet, playing a chunky sleazy rock with some melody, but to be honest I found rather plodding. Time for cider and pain killers, largely due to a back injury.

By the time the PA was blasting out AC/DC's Highway To Hell, the venue was filling up to capacity; the classical music (Temple Of Rock theme) built into some synth work as the lights dimmed and Temple Of Rock came to the stage. Ten past nine – bang on cue.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©John Bull

The spotlights came on, and the first chords from Schenker brought a cheer, leading into the UFO anthem of 'Doctor Doctor'. It's a rousing start, and it felt like it needed to be to pick the crowd up. It worked.

'Live and Let Live', from the most recent set followed, and the crowd certainly livened up with the excellent guitar solo.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©Laurence Harvey

Doogie White was animated on stage, and Michael kept his trademark hunch over his guitar, rocking side to side as he riffed and shredded. The classic 'Lights Out' followed, and 'Where The Wild Wind Blows' before the first of many guitar changes.

Doogie took the opportunity to talk to the crowd, his Scottish accent sometimes coming to the fore. Findley switched from guitar to keyboards for 'Before The Devil Knows You're Dead', for me a stand-out track.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©Laurence Harvey

There was a guitar solo intro for the Scorps classic 'Lovedrive', the first of several and not surprising given the Scorpions' rhythm section in the band alongside Schenker.

The heaving crowd were motoring now, as were the band, both much more energetic than the start of the evening. 'Vigilante Man' saw Schenker whip out his twin neck, 'Good Times' was another melodic standout.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©Laurence Harvey

'Rock You Like A Hurricane' saw an extended singalong, for part of which drummer Rarebell was given the mic. The main set then finished with 'Rock Bottom', which featured quite an extended instrumental workout. Given the lack of Deep Purple-styled interplay, the sound here became a little noodly, but the audience loved it, especially the guitar techy types.

With the dressing room too far away to go to and return, the band stayed onstage for the encore, which kicked off with 'Attack Of The Mad Axeman', a classic and my own preference would be for a lot more from that original MSG period. The screaming 'Blackout' finished and closed night at a blistering pace.

Schenker was on good form, much better than of a few years ago, and his band matched. Doogie's a great frontman and engaging the crowd in a conversation about football, something he confessed he knew little about, added to the band/crowd interplay.

michael schenker temple of rock
Photo ©Laurence Harvey

It was a good show mixing material new and old, and Temple Of Rock do appear to mix in more Scorpions and UFO material than in Schenker's earlier MSG days.

Nothing could have made up for the cancelled Motörhead / Saxon / Girlschool triple bill but the best shot was certainly given.

Doctor Doctor
Live And Let Live
Lights Out
Where The Wild Wind Blows
Natural Thing
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Victim Of Illusion
Coast To Coast
Vigilante Man
Saviour Machine
Too Hot To Handle
Good Times
Lord Of The Lost And Lonely
Rock You Like A Hurricane
Rock Bottom
Return Of The Mad Axeman

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