Blu-ray, DVD, CD, Vinyl & Digital Download: Michael Schenker Fest: Live
When you’re knocking out killer riffs on your 1st album appearance at only 15 years old, you can be pretty damn sure that a guitar fuelled career lays waiting in front of you, and while Michael Schenker never truly sustained the career highs that his talent alluded to, the past 47 years have seen some incredible peaks, albeit with the occasional troughs.
Michael Schenker Fest: Live, captures some of those amazing musical peaks that he has blasted through in his incredible career, which included stints with Scorpions, UFO and forming his own band; Michael Schenker Group (MSG) which went through various iterations and line-up changes during its many years and whose history is showcased here in this fantastic live performance.
It’s been 35 years since the release of MSG: One Night in Budokan, a classic live rock album that I played very often and very loud upon it’s release, much to the annoyance of my parents. So what perfect timing (fellow MSG fans will get that pun) for this live celebration of Michael Schenker’s career to be released.
Featuring former MSG bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna, the nostalgia level is ramped up to maximum by the inclusion of former MSG vocalists Gary Barden, Robin McAuley and Graham Bonnet; who lay down the vocals for the 1982 Assault Attack album but was replaced before playing any live gigs with Michael Schenker. So seeing and hearing Graham belt out songs from that album while Michael is on stage next to him wielding his trademark flying V guitar is an absolute treat.
Recorded at Tokyo’s International Forum on August 24th, 2016, the bands enthusiasm, passion and musicianship comes blasting through the speakers from the opening chords of the intro, to the final drumbeat and power chord of ‘Doctor Doctor’ which ends the show.
Beginning with Gary Barden on the mic, who takes to the stage for ‘Attack of the Mad Axeman’, the show is a non-stop feast of classic guitar riffs and power vocals. The change in vocalists is signified by an instrumental piece as the former singer leaves the stage, and it was an absolute treat to hear ‘Coast to Coast’ played live once again; a tune which is an essential for any road trip playlist.
Graham Bonnet strides onto the stage wearing his usual un-rocker attire of suit and tie; something which I remember him getting wildly panned for back when he joined Rainbow in 1979. I hate to think what the furore would have been like back then if social media was as prevalent as it is now! Despite having more ‘miles on the clock’, Graham has still got the pipes to knock out a scream that will part your hair at 50 paces. His performance here just made me lament a little at what might have been should he have had a longer period with the band and had got a few tours under his belt with them.
As ‘Captain Nemo’ fades, Robin McAuley (my favourite MSG vocalist) takes to the stage. After completing 2 songs with the band, I then hear the familiar vocal intro to my all time favourite MSG song ‘Love is Not a Game’. That’s it, the amp is turned up as far as it will go without it making plaster fall from the walls, and I’m transported back to being 22 years old when I first heard the Perfect Timing album (now non-MSG fans will get the previous pun). It’s amazing how certain songs can act like your very own time machine.
Just when I thought that it could surely not get any better, all 3 vocalists grabbed a microphone and Michael Schenker started the first familiar notes of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’, a song so rifftastic and catchy, that even if this was your 1st time hearing it you’d be singing along by the end of the song.
This is not only an essential purchase for all MSG fans, but also for anyone who loves rock music. The combination of classic songs featuring a variety of top notch vocalists, all backed by Michael, open mouthed and wide stanced, knocking out riffs that will stick in your head long after the gig has finished.
While I began by lamenting that Michael never truly had the career that he could have had, this release more than shows that the peaks in his career burn far brighter than many never achieve. Here’s hoping for many more years from him.
Michael Schenker fest: Live will be released on Friday 24th March 2017 in the following formats:
- 2 CD + DVD Combo
- Vinyl LP
- Hi-res download
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a 2 CD + DVD Combo kindly supplied by Noble PR.