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Monday, October 22, 2012

Michael Schenker Live at The Token Lounge, Westland, Michigan

Michael Schenker Live at The Token Lounge, Westland, Michigan
Temple of Rock Tour 2012
Most of my regular readers are of course already aware that Michael Schenker, is and has been my favourite guitarist for many, many years, so chances are you already assume that I am biased ... Er, probably right to a great degree.
Of course, I had also hoped to meet with Michael this time, without the pressure of knowing that I was going to be interviewing him one on one, as was the case last time, so the pressure was pretty much off.
This was also the first time that Rhonda had actually got to see Michael play, so I was praying for Michael to be on form and David to have his pipes in good shape!
I needn't have worried, as we all found out on a rainy night on Detroit's west side of the city.
For ages, for me it was always Ritchie Blackmore who was my favourite player through his work with Deep Purple and then Rainbow, but as time moved on, I realised that I far and away preferred the clean and precise playing that came from Mr. Schenker’s trademark Flying V, whether it was the original Gibson model or the Dean standard he played.
Every note, in every solo, crystal clear …, yet the guy could still rock out with the best of them and better most guitarists, hands down. End of story!
I always remember back to when I first discovered UFO, from listening to the BBC’s Friday Night Rock Show with Tommy Vance (RIP), back in 1978 and hearing ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ and then back tracking to stuff like ‘Light’s Out’ or ‘Too Hot To Handle.’
I was sold! This band had something unique, melodies, class and always the smooth vocal talents of lead singer Phil Mogg.
When they announced their ‘Obsession’ tour in ’78, I really wanted to go, I was 15 and set on wanting to see this band live.
Sadly, none of my mates at that time, recognised this fine band’s talents … So, with no one to go with, I missed out.
In ’79 UFO then release ‘Strangers In The Night,’ of course by this time, my mates were finally seeing the light I had spoken of constantly …, but Schenker had taken flight and was no longer in the band, having briefly rejoined the Scorpions in their ‘Lovedrive’ phase. I did see UFO with Schenker’s replacement Paul Chapman that year and for the most part it was good, but certain solos were just not the same, the worst one being on ‘Love to Love.’ It was always off.
I then got to see Schenker for the first time in 1980, with M.S.G. (Michael Schenker Group), which also featuring my favourite all time drummer in Cozy Powell (RIP).
What a great band, life was good again. Gary Barden was no Phil Mogg, but it worked at the time.
Since then then I have followed Michael Schenker’s activities and seen him live many times and always enjoyed it, even though I’m well aware of his ‘bad times’ through his various addictions. Thankfully, they seem to be behind him now.
I saw him play earlier this year in Detroit, at Harpo’s back in March, with Robin McAuley on vocals and that was great, but now in came David Van Landing, since Robin had to decline this tour, due to a hernia operation. What would this bring?
The Token Lounge is a very different venue from Harpo’s, easily half the size or possibly even a third of the size of that place, which was good and bad. Good from the standpoint of being closer to the band – No eight foot high stage for starters! – but instead a very low stage, about a foot off the main floor but it also has a very low ceiling, total headroom stage floor to ceiling was about eight feet!
Problem in here is bad lighting, so all night I struggled to get any good shots, but our good friend Dave aka TAPRAT was with us and his camera got some magic pictures!
Good job Dave! Rhonda got a few too.
Michael Schenker's band onstage at The Token Lounge, Detroit.
Photo - Rhonda Williams
They opened with a very strong version of ‘Lovedrive’ and then straight into another Scorpions number Michael played on, ‘Another Piece of Meat.’
The band was rockin’ and David Van Landing actually came across as quite close to Klaus Meine in his vocal performance. Impressive!
Then a McAuley Schenker period track in ‘Save Yourself’ and once again, David’s voice really did remind me of the Scorpions front man.
Good strong version indeed.
Michael Schenker and his merry men - L 2 R: David Van Landing, Wayne Findlay, Elliott 'Dean' Rubinson and Michael Schenker. - Photo: TAPRAT
Michael was certainly making a lot of eye contact with the crowd and seemed to be grinning a lot, even playing with the crowd at times too. Must’ve caught him on a good night!

Michael Schenker live in Westland, Michigan - 'Detroit, I can't hear you?!'

The band were very tight and longstanding keyboard/guitarist/vocalist Wayne Findlay was true to his great talents too, although at times the keyboards weren't as prominent as they could’ve been, to some songs original format but still good.
Elliott ‘Dean’ Rubinson on bass was solid and then with Pete Holmes drumming it's makes for a class solid line up.

David left the band to let them rock the joint with ‘Into the Arena’ next, a magic track for Michael to show off on, like he needs any other opportunity!
Every track sounds as good as it gets!
Mr. Van Landing introduces ‘a new track of the Temple of rock album, this is ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.’
If you’re familiar with the song, feel free to skip a line here!
It’s funny, when I first heard Doogie White (Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow) singing this on the album, it kind of reminded me of Dio and a very strong song it is too!
It’s well played here tonight, David Van Landing really pulls this one off well too and while I had my doubts as to how good he would be these days, as he has toured with Michael in the past, but I needn’t have worried he’s still got it and sounds good.

David Van Landing alongside Elliott 'Dean' Rubinson, Wayne Findlay far left 
(Ed: Wow! Does that guy in the crowd look a little like RJD?! ) - Photo: Rhonda Williams
Next up, ‘Rock My Nights Away’ that is such a great song, always loved this one, but I think everyone that has sung it since Gary Barden has done it better and David is no exception. Brilliant!
It’s UFO memory lane next, as we get back to back magic memories in ‘Shoot Shoot’ – Even if David did forget the words at one point! – then we get ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ and ‘Let It Roll.’
It’s fantastic!
I can remember talking to Michael back before the Harpo’s gig last time and he was saying that he’d still like to go out and do a tour, playing the full ‘Strangers in the Night’ album.
I hope you do Michael, as based on the reaction tonight and I’m sure everywhere, the UFO material is an absolute winner!
I don’t mean that to take anything away from Michael’s own material as I love it all, but my point is on the possibility that Michael possibly misses playing more UFO material, but then by the same token he is tied when billed as Michael Schenker or M.S.G. to play a large cross selection of material.
If he was to announce a ‘Strangers in the Night Revisited’ tour, he could be on his UFO trip for a while.
I for one would relish such an event!

Michael Schenker in Temple of Rock pose - Photo: TAPRAT
David then speaks up saying, ‘You know we get to do some really cool stuff and some of great stuff I get to sing is UFO …,’ huge cheers, ‘That’s right, and this happens to be one of my favourites that we do all night, ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you, on the keyboards …, Mr. Wayne Findlay … Here we go!’
Wayne then proceed to play the opening notes to probably my favourite live UFO track that both UFO and Schenker play live today, ‘Love to Love.’
It’s just a magic track, it really is! Starts simply, then big old power chords and cymbal crashes, then chugging guitars before then it eases back into the beautiful verse and then chorus and goes back and forth with the light and heavy.
It’s just perfect and tonight once more, they play it just great! Thank you guys!
How do you follow that?

David says, ‘Shall we keep going?’ The answer is a resounding yes, cue ‘Natural Thing,’ from UFO’s ‘No Heavy Petting’ album and also the track that opened the UK version of the ‘Strangers in the Night’ album.
Another magic moment as it brings back great memories of that storming release.

 We’re clearly going out with a bang, as Michael and the band continue with the classics, UFO’s ‘Lights Out’ raises the roof followed by a storming ‘Armed and Ready,’ then without hardly a breath, Michael starts jamming his intro to ‘Rock Bottom,’ so will we get an encore to follow that tonight?
The answer is clear, no ..., as they wrap up ‘Rock Bottom’ it’s straight into the intro of ‘Doctor Doctor.’
Thank you and goodnight!
A very happy Detroit crowd indeed and yes, Michael is indeed playing very well this year and so is his band.
 A very, very good show indeed, I really loved it just as I did back in March with Robin McAuley and I have to say, I was thinking how will David Van Landing follow that?
No worries at all, he did just fine even if he did forget some of the lyrics in ‘Shoot Shoot,’ he held it together well.
Some of the sound wasn’t greatly balanced, but with a house P.A. in a small’ish down and dirty bar, what do you expect?
Great experience for all from Michael Schenker and band too, rock solid!
Michael’s ‘Temple of Rock’ remains intact!
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Michael Schenker, leaving us with a smile! - Photo: TAPRAT

 Big thanks to Feli, Peter and Tommy for setting things up.
Thank you also to both Dave and my better half, Rhonda for photo's!
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