Michael Schenker Sage Gateshead 25 Jan 2016
It was a Friday night over 40 years ago, probably 1974. A group of us were standing on the dancefloor marveling at the young guitarist who was strutting his stuff a few feet in front of us. The band was UFO, who had just released their third album Phenomenon, and their new member was German guitar wizard Michael Schenker. Schenker was every inch the young and perfect rock god; long blonde hair, skinny jeans, a scoop neck t-shirt covered in stars (I think; my memory plays tricks). And he could squeeze some tryly amazing sounds out of his Gibson Flying V. The stand-out track was Doctor Doctor. Amazing. We all went home and practised some more on our guitars.
Roll on 40 something years. It’s been a long time since I last saw Michael Schenker; probably in the 1980s when he fronted his own MSG. Today his band is Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock and the members are ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass), ex-Rainbow’s Doogie White (vocals) and Wayne Findlay (guitar & keyboards).
I make my way to the front and stand (probably too) close to the PA stack. Schenker and the guys take to the stage and launch straight into a blistering rockin’ Doctor Doctor. Schenker looks great: skinny, fit, and he’s walking the stage with a wild glint in his eye and a massive grin across his face. His playing is amazing; still the guitar hero who blew me away all those years ago. The band rocks and is LOUD; Doogie White does a fine job singing those classic UFO and Scorpions tracks. The new songs sound pretty good too.
Setlist: Doctor Doctor; Live and Let Live; Lights Out; Where the Wild Winds Blow; Natural Thing; Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; Victim of Illusion; Lovedrive; Coast to Coast; Vigilante Man; Saviour Machine; Too Hot to Handle; Good Times; Rock You Like a Hurricane; Rock Bottom
Encore: Attack of the Mad Axeman; Communion; Blackout
Postscript. By the time I drove home I couldn’t hear a thing. Just a dull ringing in my hears. Now when I was young it was great fun if my ears buzzed for days after a gig. This time it sort of scared me. My hearing isn’t that great anyway, and I was thinking “What if it doesn’t come back?” Well luckily it has. Lesson learned: when you are an old guy like me you take the earplugs they offer you at the door.
Schenker is still a legend.
Posts Tagged ‘heavy rock’
Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
Things come full circle. The touring band known as Jethro Tull seems to have been shelved, with Tull frontman and our manic flautist hero Ian Anderson touring under his own name, and Tull guitarist Martin Barre doing likewise. But Ian Anderson couldn’t keep away from the Tull moniker and concept for too long. So, as “a tribute to the original 18th Century agriculturalist” whose name the band borrowed back in February 1968, our hero has “imagined a scenario where the pioneering pursuit of improved crop-growing and farming methodology might apply to the world of today and tomorrow”. This led to the development of “Jethro Tull: the Rock Opera”, the delights of which Norm, Will and I experienced a few days ago at the Sage Gateshead. Anderson’s rock opera concept is this: take the story of the original farmer and inventor Jethro Tull and bring it up to date; tell that tale through the songs of Jethro Tull the band (and a few new ones written especially for the occasion), and create a theatrical stage show which takes the audience through the story. The show is very much just that; “a show” rather than a concert. The band provide the music, playing in front of a giant HD video screen. On the screen appear a cast of “virtual guests” who play the parts of Mr Tull and his family, narrate the story and sing segments of the songs. Anderson explains it thus: “Instead of spoken introductions to the songs in the show, there will be the use of that operatic device, the “recitative”, where the links are made by short sung vocal segments in a usually-simple musical backdrop”. So the songs are sung in part by Anderson live, and in part by virtual singers on the screen. The songs flow from one to the next with short video segments as bridges.
The show started at 7.30pm prompt. Parking problems made us a little late, and we had to wait outside until first song “Heavy Horses” was finished (“a suitable break in the performance”). The first half was around one hour and there was a short interval before “the show” resumed. How did it work? Very well actually. The video was high quality and the sequencing between Anderson and band and the virtual singers was faultless. Anderson’s voice may not be quite as strong as it was “back in the day” so the use of video allowed him some vocal rest, and gave welcome variety to the performance. However, I must say that Ian’s flute playing remains as excellent as ever, and his stage presence and antics are undiminished. The virtual sets were as you might imagine; we were transported onscreen to Preston station for “Cheap Day Return” and deep into the forest for “Song from the Wood”. Great Tull fun. Special mention to Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir whose vocals were exquisite and made for great reworkings of Tull classics, particularly “The Witch’s Promise” and Florian Opahle, whose guitar playing was tremendous. A very different and highly enjoyable Tull evening. Great to see old friend Doug and other fellow Tullites.
What next Ian?
Part 1: Heavy Horses; Wind-Up; Aqualung; With You There to Help Me; Back to the Family; Farm on the Freeway; Prosperous Pasture; Fruits of Frankenfield; Songs From the Wood
Set 2: And the World Feeds Me; Living in the Past; Jack-in-the-Green; The Witch’s Promise; Weathercock; Stick, Twist, Bust; Cheap Day Return; A New Day Yesterday; The Turnstile Gate; Locomotive Breath
Encore: Requiem and Fugue
The Musicians: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar), Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (piano; Hammond organ), Greig Robinson (bass), Scott Hammond (drums, percussion).
The (virtual) Players: Ryan O’Donnell (the younger Jethro, and Jasper son of Jethro), Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir (Susannah, wife of Jethro), David Goodier (Jethros’ father), Ian Anderson (Narrator and the older Jethro), John O’Hara (scientist and choirmaster).
Local heroes: Brass Alley & Lucas Tyson
I couldn’t finish my blog project without saying a few words about these two bands.
Brass Alley and Lucas Tyson (along with Beckett who I have already covered in earlier posts) were arguably the top North East bands in the early ’70s, playing in ballrooms and clubs around the region.
Brass Alley were a heavy rock band with a bluesy edge, fronted by singer Dave Ditchburn and featuring Barry Alton (guitar), Frankie Gibbon (bass), and Howard Martin (drums). They were heavily influenced by Free, and always included a few Free covers in their set. I saw them loads of times at Sunderland Locarno (Mecca), Newcastle Mayfair, in several working mens’ clubs and supporting touring acts at the City Hall. I remember that they had, for a short period, a Sunday night residency at Sunderland Top Rank. I can picture us all now, standing on the tables chanting for “The Hunter”; which was their encore at the time. The guitarist would do a great instrumental version of the “Theme from Exodus”.
Lucas Tyson were a much more guitar-oriented band fronted by the excellent, Hendrix-influenced, Pete Barclay. Pete played a Fender Strat, made heavy use of wah-wah and fuzz, and was a guitar hero for many of us young guys. I also saw Lucas Tyson play at Sunderland Mecca, Newcastle Mayfair, Sunderland Poly, and at the City Hall. Pete would do great Hendrix covers (“Voodoo Chile”, I think) and other guitar-led tracks. I remember seeing them support Edgar Broughton one night at the Mecca, when they played an awesome version of the Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”.
Brass Alley and Lucas Tyson both feature on the single pictured above. I still have a copy and it’s a gem of early ’70s rock psych. The 45 EP features four tracks: “Daylight Child” by Lucas Tyson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57TSW5w1j6s&list=PLRBjLK_SZFghJcBolYpCMkTVt9L60TtCv&index=1 ; “The Hobo Song” by Yellow; “Pink Pills” by Brass Alley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeR7xmNupF8 and “I Know You Well” by Trilogy. The single was released to promote Hart Rock, a 1971 rock festival held at Hartlepool football ground which featured these four local bands, plus others and was headlined by Arrival and Beggars Opera.
Four days to go.
Baker Gurvitz Army Newcastle Mayfair 24th November 1975
Ginger Baker formed the powerhouse rock band Baker Gurvitz Army with brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz (formerly of The Gun and “Race with the Devil” fame), former Shark’s singer ‘Mr Snips’ (I recall seeing Sharks at Sunderland Mecca and they were excellent) and keyboard player Peter Lemer. They recorded their first album ‘Baker Gurvitz Army’ in 1974. The album was very much in the mould of Cream; “This album’s a strong, decisive statement, and if hard rock’s what you crave, you won’t be disappointed.” (Ralph Heibutzki, All Music Guide). In 1975 the band went out on tour. I saw their show at Newcastle Mayfair on 24th November. I’d always regretted missing out of seeing Cream first time round, and had made every effort to see their three members in concert. I’d seen Clapton and Bruce, and this was my first chance to see Ginger Baker. I remember enjoying the concert and that they played “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love”; and being delighted that they did so. Ginger had a massive drum kit which took up much of the stage; Adrian Gurvitz was an excellent guitarist and Snips, who I had seen before in Sharks, was a cocky punky character with a bluesy soulful voice.
A 1975 concert at Derby was recorded and released as a live album many years later. The tracklisting is: The Hustler; Space Machine; Remember; White Room; Neon Lights; Inside Of Me; Memory Lane; Sunshine Of Your Love; The Artist; Freedom; Time; Going To Heaven. I would imagine that the set at the Mayfair will have been similar to this. Baker Gurvitz Army were a great and now largely forgotten part of heavy blues rock history.
Chris Salewicz reviewed a gig in Watford on the same tour: “Okay, so there’s no phasing on the drums and he must be one of the only drummers currently working the rock and roll circuit who doesn’t take his shirt off on stage, and occasionally his style may still smack of ’67 And All That, but nevertheless Ginger Baker’s drumming is a positive joy to listen to. Baker’s playing oozes power. As such it blends in with and propels along the sheer energy which the Baker-Gurvitz Army seem to have cornered for themselves. Snips’ singing … is a direct utilisation of the lead singer’s voice as sensual instrument. Adrian Gurvitz, though not perhaps the most athletic lead guitarist around, certainly ain’t no slouch when it comes to the old brain power necessary for searching out those squealing, fleshy guitar notes or those near-psychedelic indented blues runs.”
Baker Gurvitz Army split in 1976 in part because “Adrian’s guitar playing was just too loud” and he was “getting off with every chick that I fancied!” (Ginger)