MSG at House Of Blues, Chicago, USA

26th and 27th November 2001


After witnessing MSG's first two nights in Chicago, after reading the early reviews of said shows on Dave Wood's web site, and after gauging crowd reaction live at the venue, I think a lot of people expected to see MSG do a UFO tribute show. As I informed several complaining customers after opening night at the House of Blues, "It's MSG, not UFO. They had every right to play the set they did." That said, when you trot out UFO's bassist for four songs plus an encore, people justifiably expect more than one token UFO song, not four songs they've never heard. Had Pete Way's set included two UFO songs and two Plot songs, I think the Plot songs would have gotten more consideration from the audience.

Speaking of Pete, his set Monday was embarrassing. Pete can't sing, and he did seem, quite frankly, wrecked. Pete appeared sober Tuesday, however, and the result was a much better performance. Mike and Pete should realize, though, that when people see them on stage together, they're going to expect UFO.

As for Herr Maestro, he was very good the first night, excellent the second. It was funny when he sheepishly approached the mic Monday and said, "Sorry about the bum notes." There really weren't that many, Mikey. Schenker's playing rarely contains any improvisation. His creativity flows during the writing, not during the playing; Schenker doesn't jam, per se. Therefore, Schenker either plays the songs, solos and instrumentals well, or he doesn't. That should be remembered when evaluating his performance.

Schenker seemed happy and sober, and that was certainly reflected in his playing. Unless I'm mistaken, the set list didn't raid the McAuley era but otherwise contained most of MSG's classics. "Rock My Nights Away" was a somewhat unexpected and well-played pleasure, and the joint got shaking for "Armed and Ready." That said, it seemed like most of the crowd was standing around waiting for "Too Hot to Handle" or "Lights Out." I can see why a lot of fans were disappointed, but that's their fault. They had improper (although not unreasonable) expectations. The songs from "Be Aware of Scorpions" translated very well to the stage, especially "My Time's Up."

I loved it. When I go to see UFO, I expect to hear UFO. When I go to see MSG, I expect to hear MSG. I feel I got my money's worth, and I traveled from Pittsburgh.

With the exception of Chris Logan - who sounds VERY good; he has a very smooth voice and he had the lyrics nailed - MSG certainly destroys the idea that rock stars should look like rock stars. Herr Maestro has trimmed down since I saw UFO at Manchester a year ago, but his shock of blond hair combines with his long, scraggly beard to make him look like The Heat Miser from the "Frosty the Snowman" TV Christmas special. Bassist Rev Jones, meanwhile, looks like pro wrestler The Blue Meanie thanks to his extra-long goatee, his forehead-based braided ponytail and his beer gut. But MSG sounds good, and that's all that really matters, I suppose.

When Michael Schenker has his head on straight, he has the potential to be the best guitarist in the world on any given night. He displayed that potential in duplicate as far as I was concerned. As for Pete Way, well, he's still obviously working through some things. MSG's band members gave him as much emotional support as I've ever seen a musician receive on stage - constant hugs and high-fives all around - and that's good. Pete, as Dave says, is the ultimate rock star. He deserves everyone's encouragement.

A guy hawking Pete Way/Plot merchandise who seemed in the know says that Pete and Mike are talking about a UFO CD and tour in 2002. Has anyone told Phil?

Mark Madden

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