Review by Dean Pedley, Photos by Rich Ward
One of the few advantages of Ramblin’ Man festival taking place such a long way from the Midlands is that we get to enjoy occasional warm-up shows from some of the artists performing across the weekend. Such was the case with this stop off at Town Hall by the hard rock stalwarts (and much loved) UFO along with the incendiary firebrand guitarist Jared James Nichols.
With his flowing locks, denim waistcoat and trusty Les Paul you could easily mistake Nichols for a 1970’s Ted Nugent. And given the top notch playing in evidence he certainly gives the impression of being a seasoned blues rock veteran as opposed to an up and coming relative newcomer. Every great power rock trio needs a reliable rhythm section and Nichols is ably supported by bassist Erik Sandin and drummer Dennis Holm and they tear through a forty-odd minute set that really ignites from the very beginning and climaxes with a scintillating cover of ‘Mississippi Queen’. Taking his inspiration from acts on both sides of the Atlantic, Nichols is a terrific talent and his vibrant on-stage energy is a pleasure to behold.
Edging ever closer to their fiftieth anniversary UFO remain a crowd pleasing delight. Consistency has been their friend over the past few years and keeping the line-up of Phil Mogg, Andy Parker, Paul Raymond, Vinnie Moore and Rob De Luca together for almost a decade has ensured they remain very much at the top of their game. Decent studio albums have kept the set list fresh and not overly reliant on the old classics and tonight is no exception with selections from A Conspiracy of Stars fitting comfortably alongside ‘Ain’t No Baby’, ‘Cherry’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ and ‘Love to Love’. Not that the Paul Chapman years are overlooked either with ‘Makin Moves’ and ‘We Belong to the Night’ ensuring this genuinely was a career-spanning performance.
Mogg remains an engaging frontman with numerous witty asides and between song banter but leaving that aside his voice truly is sounding in remarkably good shape as he draws every closer to his seventieth birthday. Nowhere is this more evident than during stand out sentimental and heartfelt ballad ‘Baby Blue’, arguably one of UFO’s very best moments. With the holy trinity of ‘Rock Bottom’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ ending the show this was much more than just a festival warm-up and was a vintage display from all concerned. Apparently, this marked UFO’s first appearance at Town Hall since 1978 and whilst much water has flown under the bridge for the band in the intervening years they remain an irresistible live act. One of the stand out gigs of the year.
We Belong to the Night
Run Boy Run
Ain’t No Baby
Only You Can Rock Me
Burn Your House Down
Love to Love
Too Hot to Handle
Messiah of Love