MICHAEL SCHENKER - Michael Schenker Fest - Live
March 12, 2017, a year ago
Great nostalgic idea, reuniting the ex-Scorps/ex-UFO guitarist with the trio of singers from his MSG (in its various guises) days: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Where else could this take place, but Japan (also home to the One Night At Budokan album, which helped justify his solo effort, three decades ago). In addition to this double CD, there are also DVD/Blu-Ray options, separate, or as part of an all-encompassing package. Proven they can (finally) inhabit the same stage without killing one another, a couple of Euro festivals are already confirmed for this summer and rumors persists of select 2017 North American shows for this line-up. Chris Glen, who played bass on the first four MSG discs is also part of the band.
After an instrumental intro (that had nothing to do with live show), Schenker walks onstage, introduces himself and starts “Attack Of The Mad Axeman”, another voiceless showcase. Afterwards, he brings on Barden, the singers appearing in chronological order of their membership with Herr Guitar. Although Barden is youngest of the vocal trio, a mere 61 years old (a tyke compared to Bonnet, who will turn 70, by year's end), his voice shows the most wear, during the five chestnuts on which he appears (each can also be found on the aforementioned Budokan testimonial). Not terrible, but obviously strained. As such, keyboards are more prominent in the mix than they were, back in the early ‘80s. Wisely, he gets the crowd to offer up the titular chorus on “Cry For The Nations”, an overused title, but one of my favorite Schenker tunes. “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” is not one of the blazing tracks in the Schenker canon, but a fretboard workout nevertheless.
The Scorpions “Coast To Coast” instrumental is something of an intermezzo, clearing the palette for the next course. The real treat is Bonnet (once more replete in dark shades, dress shirt & skinny tie), who lasted with MSG for just one album, and just as many live shows! Thus his inclusion in Tokyo, last August, was something of a coup. Sounding better than he did on his own outfit's Escape From Alcatrazz (also recorded in Nippon), the title cut from Assault Attack and moody, synth enhanced “Desert Song” are his lone solo moments, backed by the other two for the poppy “Dancer”, which closes the initial CD.
Like the first piece of Mylar, Disc #2 starts with an instrumental, “Captain Nemo”, before calling on Robin McAuley for five songs, a trio from MSG and a pair of UFO classics (“Shoot Shoot” & extended solo “Rock Bottom”), before everyone's onboard for the closing “Doctor Doctor”. Stylistically, the last Bonnet tune, through McAuley Schenker Group material (apart from “Save Yourself”), is a far cry from the debut and sophomore effort: the old European/underground vs. Americanized/commercial syndrome. Not sure how much this reunion means to anyone under 30 (who'd be better served checking out the original versions), but for old-timers, it's a blast from the past.