It’s a cold January evening in Edinburgh tonight but this hasn’t dissuaded the fans from queuing and waiting for the doors to open. It’s great to see so many classic rock and metal t-shirts on display from UFO, Scorpions, AC/DC and I was happy to see some Rainbow and Dio shirts among them too. I’ve never been to Edinburgh’s Queens Hall for a gig before and I have to say I was impressed with the place. It’s a good medium sized space, friendly staff, and a bar that serves some decent beers, what more do you want from a venue. It surprises me more bands don’t play here.
First up tonight is Los Angeles based Venrez. It’s been said many times in previous articles but I’ll reiterate it here and mention that vocalist Steven Berez has a remarkable resemblance to the American shock jock Howard Stern. If someone had told me that it was Howard Stern on stage I would have believed them. That aside, when the band take to the stage they have a pretty respectable turnout to see them. The band draw heavily from their latest album Children of the Drones but it’s also interspersed with material from their previous two albums. Throughout the set vocalist Berez (Venrez) tries to get this Edinburgh crowd to raise their hands in the air and clap along but looks visibly frustrated with his results. Like myself, the crowd here tonight, don’t appear to be overly familiar with the band and I suspect many are just impatient to see the Michael Schenker. Hats off to the band though who give it their all and deliver a set of songs whose style can sometimes be difficult to pin down. They’re a band that seem to draw from quite a wide range of influences. Their material is well received by the crowd and by the end of the set they had won over a few more fans here tonight.
2. Intellectual Drool
3. Children of the Drones
5. Devil’s Due
6. Can’t Find My Way Home
7. Yesterday Has Gone
8. Sell the Lie
9. Hang the Predator
I have to admit when the intro tape for Michael Schenker started, earlier than the expected 9pm start time, I was enjoying the hospitality at the bar just next to the main hall. Carrying my beverage of choice into the hall I quickly realised the place was absolutely jam packed and really struggled to get back in, so much so I had to rush upstairs to the balcony area to watch the gig where, to be honest, I got a better view anyway. This is the third date of the UK tour, and even though the band was here supporting Judas Priest only a couple of months ago, it looks like the venue is either sold out or very nearly so.
The familiar strains of the classic UFO track “Doctor Doctor” fill the hall and there’s a palpable excitement and anticipation among the audience. Michael’s plays a beautiful intro solo to the song and when the main riff kicks in the crowd are jumping. It’s a classic track that never seems to age. The crowd lap it up and the upbeat tempo gets heads nodding and hands clapping in time.
This is the first time I’ve seen Michael live and I’m immediately impressed. It’s great to see him playing his iconic black and white flying V guitar and the whole band sound flawless. Scots born singer Doogie White pauses now and again letting the crowd sing the lyrics that everyone in the hall knows, while Michael, Wayne Findlay (guitar) and Francis Buchholz (bass) line up on stage and swing their guitar in time with the music Scorpions style. I can’t help thinking Doogie must be absolutely roasting dressed in his leather studded jacket, it may be winter outside but with this number of people in the venue it’s getting pretty warm. It really is heartening to see such a large crowd gathered to see this masterful display of musicianship.
“Live and Let Live” is the first song to be played off the outstanding new album Spirit on a Mission. If you don’t have it already then grab a copy as the band treats us to quite a few off the new record. These tracks sit alongside the classic tracks perfectly and work amazingly well live. There is of course plenty to keep the old schoolers happy and included in the set list are old favorites from UFO and the Scorpions, songs that really are some of the best rock anthems ever written.
It’s nice to see the band pay tribute to those rock musicians that are sadly not with us any more and Doogie dedicates “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” to Ronnie James Dio, Cozy Powel, Lemmy and others.
“Getting into 50’s now….you know your old when people buy you chocolates and socks for Christmas” quips Doogie before reminiscing about various Scottish bars that the audience recognises, “this is called Good Times”. The crowd can clearly empathise with him as there can’t be many people in here under 40. It doesn’t stop us from rocking out to this track from the new album though.
The band are functioning like a clearly well oiled touring machine tonight. Doogie holds his mic stand over the crowd for sing-along’s and Michael throws all his well known guitar shapes. The showmanship and level of musicianship is mesmerizing. Someone warned me that the last time they saw Michael play that his guitar was too quiet but tonight his guitar tone and playing is superb and really cuts through the mix. The songs are delivered with such precision and professionalism and the band are really on form tonight.
It’s difficult to pick a highlight from the set-list as there are so many but I really enjoyed the Scorpions instrumental “Coast to Coast” and the storming version of “Rock you like a Hurricane”. I also loved the extended solo on “Rock Bottom” where Michael demonstrated why he is so revered as one of the best rock guitarists around. His guitar prowess and experience was clearly evident tonight.
The last song of the night is the Scorpions classic “Blackout” and it’s a great finish to a great evening. There were lots of smiling faces leaving the venue tonight and I think everyone would agree that we witnessed something special. As mentioned previously this is only the beginning of the UK tour so if you can then try and catch the show at a venue near you.
1. Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
2. Live and Let Live
3. Lights Out (UFO song)
4. Where the Wild Winds Blow
5. Natural Thing (UFO song)
6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
7. Victim of Illusion (Michael Schenker Group song)
8. Lovedrive (Scorpions song)
9. Coast to Coast (Scorpions song)
10. Vigilante Man
11. Saviour Machine
12. Too Hot to Handle (UFO song)
13. Good Times
14. Lord of the Lost and Lonely
15. Rock City
16. Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions song)
17. Rock Bottom (UFO song)
18. Attack of the Mad Axeman (Michael Schenker Group song)
20. Blackout (Scorpions song)
Reviewed by Martin Patterson and photographed by ishootmetal.com