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Michael Schenker Fest - "Live" Tokyo (Album Review)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Emili Muraki

The most surprising thing about this concert isn’t the fact that reformed wild man Michael Schenker is still alive to celebrate his musical legacy. Nor is it the appearance of three vocalists who enjoyed some interesting experiences fronting the guitarist’s band throughout the 1980s. The biggest shock is that, with Schenker’s immense fretwork posing something of a fire hazard, Tokyo’s International Forum wasn’t evacuated the moment he struck the first note.

Where most of his peers are seemingly content to live out their days as touring nostalgia acts, Schenker usually performs a healthy amount of new material at his gigs. Which is one of two reasons we can forgive him for revisiting past accomplishments during these historic shows. The other being that, judging by this release, said concerts delivered a masterclass of fan-pleasing, guitar-powered hard rock from his ‘80s heyday as a solo artist.

Who’d have thought frontmen Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley would one day belt out some of the finest material they recorded with the guitarist on the very same stage?  

Add former MSG bassist and drummer Chris Glen and Ted McKenna, as well as McAuley Schenker Group guitarist and keyboard player Steve Mann, into the mix and it’s no surprise Assault Attack, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Save Yourself boast a level of authenticity Schenker’s usual touring band can’t quite muster.

Barden was never the greatest vocalist and doesn’t always hit the high notes these days, but delivers a strong performance as the band rip through Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Victim Of Illusion and a typically rousing Cry For The Nations. Bonnet, meanwhile, has always had a love-it-or-hate-it delivery, but the Dio-esque mystical metal of Desert Song and poppier Dancer prove those marmite pipes are as scalding as ever.  

From the moment This Is My Heart’s sweeping synths and cries of ‘oh baby’ begin, it’s clear we’re in late ‘80s McAuley territory. Unfairly stigmatised by way of association with the hair metal scene, the Whitesnake-worthy anthemics of Love Is Not A Game highlight how underrated this era was for Schenker. McAuley is mightily impressive too, delivering strong renditions of UFO classics Shoot Shoot and Rock Bottom during the encores before all three singers unite for a rough ‘n’ ready Doctor Doctor, with the joy and camaraderie between everyone on stage genuine for all to see.

Schenker is clearly loving every minute of it, his former shyness a thing of the past as he bounces around the stage beaming from ear to ear while prefacing each singer’s set with a classic instrumental number.  The leviathan riffage of Into The Arena, sneering metal swagger of the Scorpions’ Coast To Coast and neo-classical finesse of Captain Nemo are gold standards for the form and have rarely sounded better. Boasting a near supernatural combination of groove, flash, flair, melody, technique, attitude, power and tone, every one dimensional rock shredder should be legally obliged to study his playing to learn the nuances of six-string dynamism from the undoubted master.

The DVD of the gig is well shot and certainly captures the sense of occasion, energy of the performances and fun being had by everyone at the Forum. The only complaint is that the show isn’t two or three times as long. But with more dates on the horizon and Schenker having promised to keep the set list fresh, and bearing in mind the growing list of rock ‘n’ roll casualties, this is one stroll down memory lane you’ll want to take.

Michael Schenker Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu November 02 2017 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Fri November 03 2017 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Sat November 04 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Sun November 05 2017 - HULL City Hall

Click here to compare & buy Michael Schenker Tickets at Stereoboard.com.





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