On arriving at the venue with only a few hours to go before the door opened the car park was practically deserted.. certainly no sign of a tour bus equipment, which looked a little suspect. We needn't have worried though, after a pointless search for a nearby pub consisting of loads of roads inexplicably blocked off at one end, and Battttty getting more and more stressed with my erratic driving we returned to find a bus, equipment, and most of the band. Michael Schenker arrived a little later, relaxed and in good spirits, and the soundcheck of Rock n Roll Believer, Arachnophobiac and Let It Roll showed us that we were in for a good evening. Indeed, this was the first time in recent memory that I have witnessed Michael participating in the soundcheck, which was wonderful to see, and a taste of things to come.
Eventually the doors opened, I positioned myself in front of where Michael would be and waited as the venue gradually filled up, until it must have reached capacity. Given our close proximity to Manchester this was slightly unexpected, but certainly welcome. The time passed quite quickly as I caught up with old friends, made new ones, and suffered abuse for not updating my site (!) and at just after 9:30 (there was no support band) the lights dimmed, the intro tape started and onto the stage came MSG.
I don't know if it was me, but the intro tape seemed to go on forever, until to rapturous applause Michael acknowledged the crowd and they broke into 'Ready To Rock'. Now from where I was stood Michael was sometimes too close for my camera to focus on him (I would been in trouble if a guitar string broke) and his monitor was angled at 45 degrees to the stage so was going straight into my ear. Therefore I cannot be objective about the rest of the band (I couldn't hear them!) except to say that they all gave 110%. Chris Logan was warmly welcomed by the crowd, Rev Jones was just crazy, Wayne Findlay got a guitar solo and the 'invisible man' Pete Holmes bashed merry hell out of his drumkit!
But no offence to these guys, tonight was about Michael Schenker. Throughout the gig he was smiling, interacting with the band, with the crowd.. and his playing.. it was flawless. The set moved effortlessly through classic UFO songs (it surprised me that they played as many as 7), old MSG ditties and tracks off the current album, Arachnophobiac. Also nice to see was Fat City, one of my faves off Unforgiven.
The crowd were fantastic throughout, which was certainly not lost on the band.. indeed it seemed as if the crowd's support was fueling the spectacle on stage to dangerously high levels.
The evening was then rounded off with the only song that they could have ended with, a perfect rendition of Rock Bottom which, if any more proof was needed, showed that Michael Schenker is most certainly back.
I also feel compelled to mention Michael's guitar tech (sorry, didn't catch his name) whose support of Michael throughout the gig was excellent. Give the man a pay rise!
After the gig Michael then must have been signing autographs for well over an hour, after which he was still in good spirits. It is a remarkable transformation from the shell of the great man that we witnessed in Manchester, in what seems eons ago. It is a wonderful reflection of his guts and determination to sort himself out and tonight, witnessing this performance, was nothing short of a miracle which I felt privileged to be a part of. Welcome back Michael, and thanks for rewarding our faith in you in the only way you could have.
Dave Wood, March 2004.
Back to UFO home page