Review by Woody, photos by Rich Ward
Openers Western Sand have been causing a stir in hard rock circles recently but tonight was my first taste of the band and based on the feedback I’ve heard I had high expectations. They came onto an intro tape of some Ennio Morricone music from classic western For A Few Dollars More personally I think Morricone is always an awesome choice for intro music ’cause the guy is a legend! They came on stage all bluster and energy with swirling hair and a heavy hitting drummer.
As the set progressed I became really disinterested with them; they are very generic and they have nothing about them that makes them stand out and interest me. Every song blended into the next, no choruses, no hooks, just a roar of energy. The classic rock genre is flooded with bands of this ilk and these guys just fade into the background – Black Stone Cherry they are not! The crowd seemed to lap them up though and they got a warm reception and plenty of audience of interaction but for me at best they were OK – I’ve heard worse, far worse musicians, but I can’t talk about their music cause to me it’s as if they played the same song for forty minutes. Not impressed at all!
Michael Schenker’s career has had many ups and downs and not that long ago that he was playing much small venues, but interest in his music and his live shows has been on the rise in recent years. Last time I saw Schenker he had fellow German Michael Voss on vocals and he played a blinder to a reasonable sized crowd – tonight though it was extremely busy and very close to a sell out which was great to see but unexpected. Schenker’s current band are called Temple of Rock and feature Scottish powerhouse vocalist Doogie White on vocals, Herman Rarebell on drums, Wayne Findlay on guitar and keyboards and Francis Bucholz on bass.
The packed crowd were treated to another top notch show from Schenker who clearly loves the renewed interest and adoration from his fans, and tonight was far more energetic moving round the stage smiling all night long and singing along while never dropping a note or riff. It’s really awesome to see this legendary musician back to his best and obviously enjoying himself, and the crowd made their voices heard at every opportunity to let him know how much they were rocking out!
The set list I suppose consisted mainly of what you’d expect, but when you have classic UFO and Scorpions tracks you can drop into your set are you really going to leave them out?! I think this crowd may have lynched him if he had if the roaring reaction to set opener ‘Doctor Doctor’ is anything to go by! They did put a few Temple Of Rock era songs in the mix ‘Where The Wild Wind Blows’, ‘Before The Devil Knows Your Dead’ which is dedicated to Ronnie James Dio and other fallen rock heroes and the rambunctious ‘Lord Of The Lost And Lonely’ and for me these were real highlights of tonight’s show; they are great songs with a strong sense of melody and lots of unchained energy, and I do enjoy Schenker’s recent albums so it’s cool to hear a few of these numbers live.
We also got a preview of a track from their forthcoming album in March in the shape of ‘Vigilante Man’ which went down really well considering most here will be hearing this with virgin ears and I have to say if this energetic rocker is anything to go by, the new album promises to be another worthy addition to Schenker fans collections.
I’m a big fan of Doogie White and he doesn’t disappoint tonight; he delivers every song with energy and power and he works the crowd with ease. Anyone who has seen Doogie live will know he has a strong Scottish accent which surprises me as his accent never emerges in his singing, he even jokes with how some places they have been on this tour have fans have struggled with his accent. He has a personable interaction with the crowd which helps draw you in and of course mentioning you have fond memories of performing at The Robin is always going to get the locals cheering – I liked that a lot of Doogie’s banter was tonight specific I know many singers say the same things every night, but it’s cool to hear Doogie be more personal. He did cause some controversy early on though asking an audience member to switch of the light off on his camera as it was annoying him – he didn’t mind people recording it was just the light was distracting him. He then turns and states incredulously to us all ‘all you guys are living in the moment, that guy is busy recording the whole show’ and shakes his head disbelief. I know opinion on people recording shows on their phones is divided – personally I have no interest in watching a gig through a screen when I’m busy rocking in the here and now. I think modern technology has made people obsessive in capturing every moment but never really living that moment to enjoy it properly! I also think it is quite ignorant to the musicians performing – nothing wrong with a few photo’s and a couple of video clips but it always shocks me the amount of people who stand with their phones in the air for the duration of a show, put it down and get your rock on!
The rest of the set was composed of UFO, Scorpions and MSG classics – ‘Armed and Ready’, ‘Natural Thing’, ‘Victim Of Illusion’, ‘Lovedrive’, ‘Coast To Coast’, ‘Let It Roll’, ‘Shoot Shoot’, ‘Into The Arena’, ‘Too Hot Too Handle’ and ‘Rock Bottom’. I’m a total sucker for legendary Scorps’ classic ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ and I loved every minute of this song; Doogie did a fantastic job vocally bringing it to life! We had two encores and it was great to hear the crowd cheering in between both gaps imploringly without stall or lessening of the volume – Rock ain’t dead in the Midlands that’s for sure! So encore one was ‘Lights Out’ and they wrapped it all up with ‘Blackout’.
It was a fantastic performance from some awesome musicians playing at the top of their game alongside a rejuvenated and bonafide rock legend. It’s easy to see exactly why people are talking about Schenker with renewed respect and why they are eager to get out to his shows and enjoy him and his band’s performances. If you’re yet to jump back on the Schenker band wagon, now’s the time to do it!