LIGHTS OUT IN SAN FRANCISCO
The Independent, San Francisco, CA, USA
March 26th 2016
If ever there was a night that should have been recorded for a live record, it would have been this one.
UFO have been rocking American audiences with much regularity for some forty years, and I've never seen this iteration of the band put on a better performance. The sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco was in great voice for the last show of the band's current US tour and the walls reverberated as loudly as ever as they sang along on most choruses. This evening was an unabashed love fest, the likes of which I hope we will soon see again.
Phil Mogg may have lost an incisor, but he's lost nothing else - he still managed to put on the best performance I have ever had the pleasure to have witnessed, and his long standing band kicked some serious, serious ass all night long. Paul Raymond is the secret weapon that has always separated UFO from the chaff of less interesting hard rockers with his thoughtful keyboards and chugging, moving rhythm guitars.
On the drums you have original member Andy Parker, and even at the tail end of an American tour with its usual ravages, Mr Parker drove the tank with great skill and enthusiasm. Lead guitarist Vinnie Moore tosses off blistering shards of hard rock energy, and makes it look like child's play as he acts as Mogg's musical right hand man. Relative new guy Rob De Luca cuts a dashing figure on the Firebird bass, and rounds out the lineup superbly.
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But really, it's down to the songs, and UFO's catalogue is superb. With twenty studio albums from which to choose it's an embarrassment of riches, and while we can all clamor about the tunes we love being left behind, there is not a weak song in the set, and the audiences have been grateful to see a shift away from another rendition of 1979s 'Strangers In The Night', in spite of it being much of the rock world's favorite live album.
I mentioned frontman Mogg's having lost nothing, and while that is true, the inverse to that is that he has become over the years ever so slightly less acerbic, and in fact, much more gracious to his fans. He laughs now instead of smirking, and his voice has aged as well as any singer of his vintage. He hit every note, and his passion was palpable - he had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the night. What most don't talk about when discussing Phil is his outstanding lyrics and his incredible way with a melody. He's always been one of rock's best street poets, and his ironic, sardonic delivery has never failed to enchant. One of rock's greatest living vocalists.
One of the great pleasures of going to see UFO at this stage of their career is that you no longer get the folks who only wait to hear 'Rock Bottom', you have an audience that is there to see the band they love, and they know full well why they are there. They sing along, they clap at all the right moments, and nobody shouts for Schenker anymore, no matter how much we may wish that he were.
As great as this show was, the only thing that could top it for me would be an album and tour of the band's classic lineup in 2017. Wishful thinking, but both factions are at the height of their considerable glories, and I'm not one to ignore the 800 pound gorilla - I give it a name.
Fact remains, I have never, ever seen a better performance by this version of the band, and if there were any justice in this world (I live in the US in 2016, so I'm doubtful), this group would join Cheap Trick and Deep Purple in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as the people's bands.
Long live UFO! They came, they conquered, and they are now back home. Thanks for the fantastic show and the hospitality!
Special thanks to Helen Raymond for help getting me out to this show. Great to attach a face to an internet identity!
We Belong To The Night
Run Boy Run
Too Hot To Handle
Only You Can Rock Me
Burn Your House Down
Love To Love
Messiah Of Love