Updates will be as frequent as possible... i.e. when I can get to a computer! Hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I will (hopefully) enjoy writing it!
1:30pm Southwaite Motorway Services on the M6! 200 miles driven, another 100 to go.... bowl of soup (Heinz tomato) a cup of tea and some sandwiches.. surprisingly good... outrageously overpriced (not very surprising)! Thoughts always drift towards this evenings gig.. will Uli live up to expectations ater his stunning sets on the G3 tour.. and will UFO make any changes to the setlist they have been playing thus far? Not long to wait now....
5:00pm Quick entry... been to venue.. got pass for tonight (thanks Antonio and UTM!).. found hotel.. seems OK... need food and BEER!
11:55pm Back to my hotel after an enjoyable evening! Uli's set was absolutely stunning... no setlist, but included stuff from his new one (Transcendental Sky Guitar), old Electric Sun stuff and even some old Scorps stuff. Highlight was almost certainly all four of Vivaldi's seasons. If you are planning to go to any UK gigs.. make sure you don't miss Uli.. the rest of the band (Shane Gaalaas, Barry Sparks and Don Airey) must also get a special mention, they all performed magnificantly, despite Ulis frequent unannounced improvisations. The only criticism.. at 45 minutes, far too short!
A little about the Ballroom... it's a great little venue and seemed to be close to capacity (all standing). Crowd was on the whole very good.. a great amount of appreciation of Ulis set despite most people having come mainly for UFO.
Then on to the main event... for the first gig I thought I'd get myself to the front and brave the crush, and was ideally positioned to get the best possible view. The set list was the same as has been previously noted, although there was only one encore. The performance was not flawless, but good and solid with plenty of interaction between all band members.. Pete put in his usual antics, made all the more amusing by taking several numbers to realise that his flies were undone! (US translation - 'flies' are the proper English for 'zipper'.) Phil looked fit and well but seemed to be straining a little at times.. but was nevertheless on good form. Michael, as in the German gigs, wore a black vest and baggy shorts, exposing what on closer inspection is actually a quite extensive range of tattoos! He didn't seem happy with his guitar for most of the evening though, not sure what was wrong but despite several attempts to get it fixed the impression was that it did not improve. This was certainly a reason for only the one encore, but to be honest he seemed a little off the boil. To summarise.. a good performance overall, but not a stunning one.
After the show purchased this Odd Trio CD.. to see what it's really like.. but won't be able to listen to it until I get home at the weekend! Then hung out for a little while with Shane, Barry, Phil and Joanna (Petes wife) before heading back to my hotel room quite early ready for a long day tommorrow. From the horses mouth.. the long awaited Mogg/Kollman/Gaalaas collaboration has four songs totally finished, with the others awaiting vocals.. the January release cited recently looks unlikely... Oh.. also had first encounter with Petes dog.. picture to follow! The most pampered and loved little dog I have seen for a long while...
23rd November 2000
8:50am Ears ringing a little still, but won't stop me going to tonights gig! Codger is keeping me up-to-date with what's being posted on the Net and apparantly Rob Glendenning was at last nights gig.. giving SG and BS a lift after the show.. which means we must have just missed each other.. anyone going to the gigs please do look out for me, and come and say hi! It's always good to put faces to names... Time for another coupled of hours in the car.. next stop Newcastle. Won't do the following all the time, but if somewhere I stay warrants it then they get a free advert:
12:44am What a day! After only three hours of driving this time arrived in Newcastle around lunchtime to meet up with Alan (Walsh) and David (Thompson, guitarist for 'Lost Weekend') at the venue. The afternoon was then spent doing a mixture of record shopping, drinking and eating (found a copy of Edwin Dare, "My Time To Die") .. .. arriving back at the venue in plenty of time and then Ulis set.. but before doing so finally managed to meet up with Mike Pincher (MGAB, UFO Appreciation Soceity)! We've always managed to miss each other before so it was good to put a face to the voice I've been talking to for years!
As for Ulis set... I thought that last night was good.. but boy oh boy! Tonight they were on fire, and you could see from all thier faces that they knew it. At the end of the set myself and David were walking backstage as Don (Airey) was coming off... and his face was beaming! When you think of all the great gigs he's done in his time.. and you could see just how much he'd enjoyed the previous 45 minutes.. it says it all! Even better, for those going to more than one gig this tour the set tonight was significantly changed from last night.. pure delight!
Then on to UFO... as with yesterday not a technically brilliant show, but this time something gelled, and as a band they were great! Phil was on really top form.. Pete was... well... Pete (on this tour I have come to the opinion that Pete IS rock-and-roll.. often imitated.. never bettered!) and the two 'new guys', Louis and Jeff, were having a good gig... playing very well and obviously enjoying themselves. Tonight you could really see that they were a good choice for the tour. Michael was playing better than last night, but you still got the impression that he wasn't firing on all cylinders. The most noticable feature (I'm pretty sure I would have noticed yesterday if he was using it) was a brand new flying V. There was a really good rapport among all the band.. and things bode well for the rest of the tour!
As last night, they didn't deviate at all from the set list of previous shows, but unlike last night came out for both encores. There were some nice touches during the show... one such being when Michael and Pete were checking their tunings Phils response was to say that it looked like a cookery program.. to which someone in the audience said.. to be repeated by Phil.. 'yeah.. Ready Steady Rock', and 'Lights Out in Newcastle' went down particularly well!
The City Hall at Newcastle is another great little venue.. this time all seating, which with security stopping people getting to the very front unless they had front row tickets made it easy with a pass to spend most of the set at the front, but also take the opportunity to listen to a couple of the songs from the back before going down to the front again! This I did for Doctor and Rock Bottom... and was surprised how good the acoustics were! Final encore went down well with the crowd. In fact the impression was that everyone had a really good time.. and went home with a smile on thier faces. Sure, Michael wasn't as good as we all know he can be, but tonight it didn't matter, tonight was about a band giving a good performance.
After the gig managed to spend a little time with Louis and Jeff, see how they were enjoying the 'experience'.. as with all the musicians that now tend to be associated with UFO or MSG, both were extremely cool, likeable and professional musicians.. and it was a pleasure to meet them both. Then managed to grab a couple of minutes to say hi to Michael after he had been signing autographs outside, before heading back to the guest house with Alan and David...
So, overall impressions... an enjoyable evening... Ulis set was amazing... and UFOs set.. as a band... was great.. all the energy you look for in a performance and everyone enjoying themselves on and off the stage. A well worthwhile evening.
5:00pm Not a bad trip to Manchester from Newcastle... at least we were fine until we actually reached Manchester but then despite having several maps it took over an hour to actually find the venue! If anyone reading this knows Alan... I was driving.. he was navigating...!!! Although to be honest the whole city seems to be geared towards people who live there and already know where they're going.. two words to Macnhester City Council.. "ROAD SIGNS". Guest house in Newcastle was cheap and cheerful... and apart from the hairs in the baked beans at breakfast was OK... and only 10 mins from City Hall. Once at the venue a wait for Michelle, Alans better half... who took even LONGER than us to navigate Manchesters roads.. how on earth do footballers manage it?
1:30am Stopped off at motorway services on the way home... this time of the day need to make some stops so I don't fall asleep at the wheel. Not all that follows was wriiten at this time, and has been rewritten several times over a couple of days. Why? Read on......
Before the show started met up with Mike Pincher again who had made the trip down from Newcastle too... and also finally met up with Wendi from the UFO A to Z site who has made the trip from the States to see this gig! Was great to finally meet her in person after years of correspondance... also discovered that the UFO tribute band 'Force It' were at last nights gig (see link on Links Page). Before the crowds came in took the opportunity to buy a tour t-shirt... ironically 'just in case the tour didn't last til London'...
Before anything started the venue was particularly sparse.. but as Ulis set went on, it steadily filled up... apparantly 1700 tickets were sold.. not quite sold out, but enough to make the place look reasonably full.
Those people that didn't come in until after Uli had finished missed a fantastic performance. Again the set was changed from last night.. this time also including a keyboard solo by Don Airey, but more to the point, tonight the sound was perfect.... every instrument was crystal clear.. every beat of Shanes drum... every key stroke from don.. every strum of Barrys very scary six string bass... and every note of Ulis even more scary 7 string 'Sky Guitar'. This set was four very talented, very professional musicians doing what they do best... performing, backed up by a great job by the sound-desk.
Unfortunately, this made what happened next even more difficult to believe... tonights UFO performance was almost beyond belief, even now I find it difficult to really convince myself that what I am about to relate really happened.
As last night, tonights venue was all seated so again it was easy to get very near the front with a pass, so as soon as the lights went down I positioned myself to the left of centre in front of the stage. The lights went down 15 minutes after the scheduled time for the set to start.. and then there was a very long delay before anything happened, so it was obvious that something wasn't quite right already. From my vantage point the first I saw of Michael for the night was him being helped to put his guitar on be his tech.. he seemed very unsteady.. and I had a very bad feeling about what was about to happen.
What happened over the next hour was... I can't find one word to describe it.. dissapointing.. sad... there aren't the words to really express the emotions.. but emotional it certainly was.
I don't intend to give a blow-by-blow account, I don't think it would really serve any purpose, but to give some idea, Michael was had obviously been drinking very heavily.. and continued to do so throughout the set. What started off as frequent mistakes, became totally missed cues, not applying enough pressure to the strings to make notes to long periods of hardly playing any notes at all. On top of this Phil came under persistant abuse, very often only not becoming too physical because of the intervention of Pete. Phil didn't have a perfect set.. he did make several mistakes but had the honesty to admit them, and make a joke.. (and in one case allow Louis to sing his lines for him!) but under very difficult circumstances he behaved admirably and didn't rise to the provocation being directed towards him. The looks on the faces of Jeff and Louis said it all.... the smiling faces from yesterday were replaced by the deadpan faces of musicians who were only there to do a job...
I came so close to walking out half-way through, something a steady stream of people were doing.. but stayed to the bitter end.. as the audience were becoming more and more hostile. By the time the set finished and Phil threw out his shirt into the audience (a nice touch.. perhaps trying in some way to apologise for what had happened) the mood was decidedly angry. Before the house lights came back up (no encores of course) Michael came back out to say goodbye and was booed off stage.. at this point I decided to make a hasty retreat from the main hall...
The cowd was getting angry.. getting hostile.. but that wasn't how I felt at all. What I had seem on stage this night was something that made me feel sad... very sad. Here was a band that had given me so many years of pleasure.. and a man that has played so much amazing guitar in his life-time. To see this man come out and, lets be honest, humiliate himself in front of nearly 2000 people was heartbreaking.. really heartbreaking. You know that feeling in the stomach when you suddenly realise you've forgotten to do something really important? I had that all the way through the set...
I will not try to make any excuses for what happened... but it was very obvious to everybody present that Michael has a very heavy drinking problem at the moment... that is affecting his ability to perform. We have all seen many of our 'rock idols' have thier lives runined, or in some cases ended, by drink related reasons.. which is why we should not make accusations and sceam and shout about what has happened.. but hope that Michael can pull himself out of it before it's too late. Forget he's a guitar idol.. forget you've spent loads of money on his albums.. remember that he's a human being like you and me with feelings and emotions..
Something people have also already commented on was Michaels black eye... to stop the speculation this was not caused by any of the band members, crew or relatives... just thought it was important to make this clear.
After the gig I found refuge backstage talking of the nights events with Alan, Michelle, Wendi and Mark Madden from Pittsburg, before catching up with Shane then up to the UFO dressing room where Phil was still around.. and rather surprisingly he was rather philosophical about the whole thing.. and was even happy to do a couple of photos.. a real gent..
Back downstage there was a real 'end of tour feel' and you got the impression that this was it... lots of 'bye... maybe see you again sometime' types of conversations... only Pete, and his dog (photo to appear soon!), seemed to be unaffected by the whole thing! With goodbyes said to all the guys (and nice to have finally introduced myself properly Joanna!) still around it was soon time to start the journey back home.. still not quite sure that the night had really happened.
26th November 2000
10:00pm Haven't done any updates for a while.. mainly because news was coming in from all directions.. and kept changing... but at this stage I can say that the Newport gig was, as expected, cancelled. Most of today was spent with news that the tour bus was at the venue and things were being set up.... but this did not tell us much because Antonio the tour manager is a pro and will keep doing his job until he has definate confirmation that the tour is definately finished. I have also been desparately been trying to stop my mailbox from exploding... think drastic measures will be necessary when I get into work on Monday!
Main news today came from Phil via Mike Pinchers.. he has been in London all day 'with no intention of going to Newport', other news was filtering from the venue and tour manager... which didn't bode well.. and eventually this afternoon the gig was officially cancelled amid rumours that some of the band had already left the country.
To be honest the news caused a little bit of relief.. we did not want a repeat of Fridays performance.. but on the other hand.. a good gig would have at least started to erase the memory of that same gig. On the plus side, at least instead of travelling to Newport and back I managed to do some training for the first time since Tuesday!
After a couple of days to think about it, several thought spring to mind.. first, I'm glad that I was present at the first (last?) three days of the UK tour... it was a real roller-coaster of emotions... culminating with near despair.. but in going through that it has convinced me of one thing.. my continued support of all of them through my site... Other random thoughts.. Uli and his band are incredible, Pete Way IS the most complete rock star ever, Phil Mogg has my upmost respect as a performer and everyone with an opinion on the events should remember that they are all human beings.. just like you and me.. and should be treated as such.
The future of the rest of the tour would seem to be fairly straightforward... it's over... but it is still not officially the case... so I guess tommorrow will be another day of rumours... news.. and uncertainty....
27th November 2000
7:39pm Seems that the story is not over yet... although loads of dates are cancelled.. with Phil being ill as the reason.. Wolverhampton and Astoria don't think they are yet.. surely it's because they haven't been informed yet....