Review by Paul Quinton, photos by Mark Lloyd
It’s always a pleasure to see one of the illustrious names in Classic Rock play a gig in the more intimate confines of a venue like The Robin, and when it’s a name like Michael Schenker, you can’t help feeling it’s something of a privilege. This gig was part of the warm-up for the band’s festival appearances this summer, including the Planet Rock Steelhouse festival in Wales next week and this was the same Michael Schenker Group line-up as played the Wulfrun Hall last year, with vocal duties undertaken by La Paz and ex-Rainbow singer Dougie White, additional guitars and keys by Wayne Findlay and, best of all, a rhythm section reunited from Schenker’s days with the Scorpions of Herman Rarebell and Francis Bucholz.
At the end of one of the hottest weeks we’ve had in the UK for years, a packed Robin had many of the features of a sauna, even with the doors left open in the hope of encouraging some kind of draft into the room. Unusually, Schenker entered the stage first and alone, although Herman Rarebell had followed close behind to get settled behind his drums. The guitarist walked along the front of the stage, nodding at the front row, playing some oddly jarring chords, before being joined by the rest of the band and going straight into ‘Lovedrive.’ The sound was superb, pretty loud, but crystal clear, although occasionally Doogie White’s vocals were a little lost when the band were at full power.
After the set opened with two Scorpions songs, a furious ‘Another Piece of Meat’ following ‘Lovedrive’, it was interesting how the band chose to structure what might otherwise have been a predictable set list. You would expect them to play songs by the Scorpions, UFO and MSG, but although the Scorpions songs were sprinkled over the whole set, both the MSG and UFO were mostly played in blocks. After the opening Scorpions salvo, the next five songs were all from the MSG catalogue, and in fact these were the only MSG songs played on the night. Perhaps it was a little surprising that they added a comparatively obscure song like ‘Rock My Nights Away’ rather than something like ‘Lost Horizon or ‘On And On’, but credit to them for not taking all the easy options.
Unlike the MSG songs, the UFO songs were broken up a little, although they were mostly played in a block in the second half of the main set. It should also be mentioned that as well as the selections from the various chapters of Schenker’s career, there were also two newer songs played. ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’, from last year’s ‘Temple of Rock’ album and dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio, and ‘Horizon’, a song from the band’s forthcoming ‘Bridge The Gap’ album, a welcome sign that this line-up aren’t just content to tour as a heritage act. ‘Horizon’ was a fairly fast song that could easily have fitted into a ‘Blackout’ era Scorpions set.
Of the classic songs, it seemed that the UFO material went down best with this crowd. ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ had the crowd in full voice, there was an exuberant ‘Too Hot To Handle, and the main set ended with an absolutely mesmerising ‘Rock Bottom’, with Schenker playing at something like the peak of his genius. Even Herman Rarebell could be seen lost in the music, transfixed by how brilliantly the guitarist was playing. In the encores, comprising the Scorps’ ‘Blackout’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’, it was the UFO song that got by far the biggest reaction, including the genuinely jaw-dropping moment when he borrowed a camera to take some footage of the crowd, while continuing to play a flurry of notes one-handed.
It would be too easy to dwell on Schenker’s past personal problems, but suffice to say he played some utterly superb guitar on the night and that the whole band looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in the Robin, reacting with the crowd and playing a brilliant show. All in all, this was an absolutely terrific gig, which, alongside those from Danny Vaughn and Spock’s Beard, was among the best I’ve seen the Robin this year.
Another Piece Of Meat
Armed And Ready
Into The Arena
Rock My Nights Away
Attack Of The Mad Axeman
Before The Devil Know’s You’re Dead
Coast To Coast
Only You Can Rock Me
Let It Roll
Too Hot To Handle
Rock You Like a Hurricane
See more of Mark’s photos here;