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By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 @ 6:20 AM

At The Worcester Palladium Friday May 10th, 2019

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All Photos By George Dionne

You've got to have a long and relatively prolific career to have the wherewithal to stage a festival that simply features yourself. Michael Schenker sure seems to qualify for that as the MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST rolled into the Worcester Palladium on Friday May 10th.

The tour features the width and breadth of Schenker's musical output across nearly five decades. Even more impressive is how he has gathered four of the singers that he has worked with throughout his career to tour with him. The show is laid out so that each singer is spotlighted during the material they sang during their time with Schenker, but they are also threaded throughout the show either singing lead on some of the SCORPIONS and UFO songs that are performed or providing backing vocals for whomever is singing lead at a given time.

For all his rock bonafides, the show started off on a very low-key note. Michael Schenker came out on stage to introduce the festival. It kind of reminded me of a circus ringmaster. He took a moment to remember the passing of the MSG drummer Ted McKenna and UFO keyboardist Paul Raymond and then started the night of music with the SCORPIONS song "Holiday". I love that song but this was the one real mistake of the show in my opinion. I say this because Schenker chose to sing the lead vocal and I gotta be honest here, as a singer, he's a great guitarist. It was more than a little rough to listen to.

Now, I should point out that while the majority of Schenker's fanbase comes from his time with the SCORPIONS, UFO and the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, I have a different starting point with Schenker. I am an unabashed huge fan of the MCAULEY-SCHENKER GROUP. Their Perfect Timing album was my introduction to Schenker and made me a huge fan of Robin McAuley's singing as well. Besides the best known songs of his time with the SCORPIONS and UFO, I've never really been all that familiar with his other material. Try not to breakout the pitchforks with that bit of musical blasphemy because there's a nice bit of redemption on my part as the night went on.

Because you see, after Schenker finished playing "Holiday" and introducing the band (drummer Bodo Schopf, guitarist/keyboardist Steve Mann and bassist Chris Glenn), he set about a nearly three hour set that featured 31 songs and since most of them were songs that I either never heard or barely remember, it was a night of musical education for me. And as luck would have it, I was quite the receptive student.

Kicking off the set in full sonic attack with UFO's "Doctor Doctor" (the song I best remember as the track played right before IRON MAIDEN comes on stage at their own concerts), Schenker and company blew the doors off the place. The crowd wasn't quite a large as I would've thought it would be but those in attendance got their money's worth and more. With Graham Bonnett, Gary Barden and Robin McAuley taking a verse on the song, this became a kinetic wave of energy that the crowd continually lapped up.

After "Doctor Doctor", the revolving door for the singers started off in earnest with Gary Barden taking point on songs like "Are You Ready To Rock" and "Rock My Nights Away". He got some backing. Along with McAuley, he ran through "Attack of the Mad Axeman" as well. These songs were pretty good though they didn't quite capture my interest.

It wasn't until the song "Messin' Around" that I really found myself rocking along, deeply immersed in the music. "Armed and Ready" was fantastic as well.

Serving as a marker to where the singers would change up who sang lead, Schenker went into the instrumental spotlight with the SCORPIONS song "Coast to Coast"...though not before taking another in a long line of shots at his brother Rudolf Schenker. I know there are issues between the two of them, but I just felt it could've been left unsaid. Regardless of that, Schenker's teaming with Steve Mann on the song was outstanding. Whether spotlighted inside an instrumental or within the framework of the lyric based material, Schenker's playing was outstanding throughout the night. I am far from an expert on playing ability, but even a neophyte like myself can tell when someone is just above and beyond the crowd. And Schenker is definitely in that kind of guitar god stratosphere.

Graham Bonnett's turn as the lead started off with "Dancer" and "Screaming For a Reason", but it wasn't until "Desert Song" where I really found a groove with his vocals. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in that because I've loved a lot of stuff Bonnett has sung over the years (the IMPELLITTERI album Stand In Line being of particular fond memory for me). Even "Night Moods", which featured both Barden and McAuley on backing vocals kind of dragged. But a resounding rendition of "Assault Attack" kicked my butt and led into "Captain Nemo", another instrumental that also signaled it was time for what I hoped would be my favorite part of the show.

Spoiler alert: It was! Once "Captain Nemo" wrapped up, Robin McAuley strode onto the stage and it was time for me to really rock out. Singing along (badly I'm sure), cheering at the songs and just really appreciating finally getting to see these particular songs live had me in a little bit of musical nirvana. Spotlighting three songs from the MCAULEY-SCHENKER GROUP album Save Yourself, the band rocked out on "Bad Boys", an overwhelming fast paced "Save Yourself" and the power ballad "Anytime" which featured not only McAuley but Bonnett, Barden and Doogie White as the backing vocalists.

Something that made these particular songs even more special to see for me was that drummer Bodo Schopf and guitarist Steve Mann played on the Save Yourself album, so four-fifths of that album's lineup was on stage for these songs. As a real devotee of the band, it was just outstanding to see. The fact the songs sounded so great was even better.

The MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST album Resurrection album got a bit of a spotlight with McAuley singing "Heart And Soul" with the other three singers again providing vocals as well. I hadn't heard the song previously but I really loved it.

After a killer performance of "Love Is Not A Game" from the Perfect Timing album, it was time for Doogie White's turn in the bright lights as the band ran through "Vigilante Man" from the MICHAEL SCHENKER'S TEMPLE OF ROCK album Spirit On a Mission album. I remember when that song was first released online and I thought it was an okay track but during this concert, the song seemed harder and faster than the studio cut and I found that I really enjoyed it a lot more than I have in the past.

White also shined on songs "Lord Of The Lost And Lonely" and "The Girl With Stars In Her Eyes", the latter coming from the Resurrection album. All four singers were on stage for "Take Me To The Church" and the outstanding "Warrior" song.

The regular set came to a crushing conclusion with McAuley getting the initial lead on UFO's "Rock Bottom". By this point, I was calling out the chorus along with the audience. Gary Barden joined McAuley on vocals and then Michael Schenker went on a LONG solo guitar run that left my friend George and I looking at each other wondering if it was ever going to end. When it finally did, the band finished off "Rock Bottom" with Doogie White now onstage and a drum solo from Bodo Schopf.

After a quick break from the stage, the band returned and launched into a three song encore that featured three UFO songs to close out the night. Robin McAuley took the lead on "Shoot Shoot" while Doogie White got the mic for "Natural Thing". As you might expect, the ending came as the band laid down a blistering version of "Lights Out". The performance featured all four singers taking a turn on the lead vocal and bringing the show to a crescendo and finally and end. You'd think that with a show that was as long as it was, there'd be an issue with endurance both for the band and the audience. But I have to say that after not having much of a history with Schenker's music before the show, other than my one little corner of interest, I was still left wanting more.

For some reason, 31 songs just wasn't enough and I'm fairly sure that the audience would agree with me. Still, it was a fully satisfying night of music that opened my eyes that much more to just how great a guitarist Michael Schenker is and only whetted my appetite to hear more. This was a spectacular night of rock and roll music and while the lights came on at the end of the show, the MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST had delivered a LIGHTS OUT kind of performance that no one will soon forget!

Set List

  • "Holiday"
  • "Doctor Doctor"
  • "Into The Arena"
  • "Are You Ready To Rock"
  • "Attack of the Mad Axeman"
  • "Rock My Nights Away"
  • "Messin' Around"
  • "Armed and Ready"
  • "Coast To Coast"
  • "Dancer"
  • "Searching For a Reason"
  • "Desert Song"
  • "Night Moods"
  • "Assault Attack"
  • "Captain Nemo"
  • "Bad Boys"
  • "Save Yourself"
  • "Anytime"
  • "Heart and Soul"
  • "Love Is Not A Game"
  • "Vigilante Man"
  • "Lord of the Lost and Lonely"
  • "The Girl with the Stars in Her Eyes"
  • "Before The Devil Knows Your Dead"
  • "Take Me To The Church"
  • "Live and Let Live"
  • "Warrior"
  • "Rock Bottom"
  • "Shoot Shoot"
  • "Natural Thing"
  • "Lights Out"
CONCERT FUN FACT: During a couple of points during the show, there was a guy walking around on the floor in front of where I was located. Dressed in a kilt, he was interacting with a few people. You'd be forgiven if you thought that he was just another concertgoer reconnecting with his fellow music friends. However, as it turned out, it was singer Doogie White who wasn't scheduled to be on stage until the latter portions of the show.


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