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  MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST PROVIDES THE PERFECT ASSAULT ATTACK ON SHEPHERD'S BUSH
Michael Schenker Fest, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

andy rawll
Words Andy Rawll, Pictures: Robert Sutton
5th December 2017



michael schenker fest

It takes no more than the dozen notes of opening instrumental 'Searching For Freedom' for Michael to remind a packed empire why he's revered as a master of his craft.

The sweet, searing, soaring and simply sublime sound of Schenker has influenced and inspired many players and remains a potent melodic weapon.

Tonight, the rich tone, emotive vibrato, razor-sharp rhythm and lightning-bolt leads are as emphatic as ever. It's also notable that almost ten years have passed since his return to sobriety and that first tentative but euphoric UK come-back show at the Boom Boom Club in Sutton.

The past five years have witnessed Michael reborn, delivering new music of increasing quality, playing with verve and consistency and exuding positivity and contentment on and off stage.

michael schenker fest

The current tour is a celebration of the first decade of his post-UFO career, accompanied by the three vocalists that cemented their reputations fronting Schenker's band in the 80s: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McCauley.

Originally assembled for a handful of Japanese dates in 2016, one of the Tokyo shows was released on DVD to share the experience with fans further afield. One year later, UK fans finally had the chance to witness this celebration of the man's music in the flesh.

michael schenker fest

As per the DVD, the set is chronological starting with 'Into The Arena' from MSG's 1980 debut and leading to 'Bad Boys' from 1989's 'Save Yourself'. Given the passage of time, all three vocalists performed admirably.

michael schenker fest

Gary Barden retains his signature warm vibrato, but did struggle to find his range on demanding songs like 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie'. As ever, Graham Bonnet remains a force of nature, straining every sinew to squeeze implausible notes with impossible power from that still mighty larynx of his. The very embodiment of vocal 'Assault Attack'.

By contrast, Robin McCauley was effortlessly pitch perfect on later period songs like 'Love Is Not A Game', but also acted as the prominent lead voice on the five UFO songs that tail-ended the set.

michael schenker fest

It was superb to see the sensational rhythm section of Chris Glen and Ted McKenna reunited, particularly on groovily powerful songs like 'Victim Of Illusion'. With early 80s keyboardist Paul Raymond still ensconced in UFO, it fell to McCauley-era multi-instrumentalist Steve Mann to provide misty colour to the songs, including the iconic accompaniment to 'Doctor Doctor'.

Which brings us back to maestro Michael himself. His playing was exquisite, passionate and supremely melodic and made the familiar extended solo on 'Rock Bottom' sound as fresh and fiery as the first time I heard 'Strangers In The Night'.

michael schenker fest

In his recent interview with MetalTalk, Michael mentioned that this was both the first and the last time that UK audiences would see the three-vocalist line-up of the band. Next year, he plans to return with Dougie White as the fourth singer and an updated set-list that will include new songs from a forthcoming album, based on this latest line-up.

Based on this most memorable show, that'll be well worth waiting for.

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michael schenker fest

michael schenker fest

michael schenker fest

michael schenker fest

michael schenker fest










 


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