UFO at Cambridge Corn Exchange 11th February 1998.

Given the recently posted statements concerning UFO at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday 11th February, I thought you might like to share my experience of the event.

Early on in the uncommonly warn evening a couple of colleagues and I meandered from our small software company in the city centre around to the concert venue. After the obligatory pre-show couple of beers we arrived at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in good spirits. For some reason, we were ushered in through a back entrance through which we emerged right by the stage. We were immediately blasted by an onslaught from the support band, Dirty Deeds, already in full swing. We quickly sized up the situation and after weighing up our options, promptly headed to the bar to calm our nerves.

The bar was absolutely packed with an interesting blend of clientele who ranged in age from about 25 to 50. I'd guess around 25 percent were female, which was nice. There was a surprisingly high quotient of middle aged, leather clad guys with long hair, some of whom we noticed had perms. We couldn't help from wondering what they did in their day jobs, Bank Managers, Accountants who knows?

Before I go any further you should know that the other members of my party knew virtually nothing of UFO except for regularly giving me jip about the widdling noises coming out of my headphones distracting them from their work. So this was an irresistible opportunity for enlightenment.

So back to the show. Time was getting on and having stocked up on beer to safeguard against possible dehydration in a hostile environment, we made our way to the stage. The place was pleasantly full, about 75 percent I'd say. The capacity at Cambridge is 1800. The P.A. set-up was medium sized but clearly more than enough for the hall. We successfully negotiated our way to within about 10 feet from the front of the stage and over to the left. On stage a roadie was fine tuning the gear and it was only when he produced a white flying V that I realised just whose bit of the stage we were in front of...

The lights went down and then they hit the stage.

I was half expecting some sad old rockers trussed up in ridiculous outfits. Thankfully this wasn't the case, well not entirely anyway. No, it's fair to say the boys looked mature, very fit, smart and pretty cool, even at their age. The exception being of course Pete Way who was wearing some kind of leopard skin effect type thingy, which was OK because it's clear to me that he doesn't take it seriously, its just part of his outrageous stage presence.

They ripped into Natural Thing and just kept on going. The power was awesome, but being so close to the front and to the left we were getting a very biased version of things. It was like, well imagine someone turning up the lead guitarist's amp until people start to convulse and then some. So, we thought, no problems here then.

Without wishing to single out any individual, the band were totally tight. To my ears, for a live show, they were absolutely spot on. I know they say practice makes perfect but this was ridiculous. How Pete Way maintains such precision when he's rolling about is beyond me. Even so it seemed to me that apart from Pete Way's antics it was indiscernible as to whether the band were really getting much out of the occasion. Doubtless there was a titanic effort of deep concentration required to achieve this performance level which could account for the apparent lack of interaction with the audience, but there was little eye contact from anyone else. Even between songs I can't recall any banter, they just hammered on into the next number. In particular, Phil Mogg seemed to spend a fair amount of the time back by the drum kit. Maybe it's a matter of survival what with Pete "Pinball" Way and all.

The effect on my friends? One, who would never consider himself as being into "that kind of music" was totally blown away, utterly speechless or had I just gone deaf ? As for the other, well she just went mental but then she is German. Since the show I've had no more jip about widdling noises in the office but I seem to be occasionally missing the odd UFO CD. Mission accomplished.

About an hour into the set Phill Mogg announced that they were going to finish after one more number, which they duly did. Afterwards the crowd went through the usual prerequisite tribal rituals and incantations to get the band back for an encore. Eventually, Paul Raymond emerged alone onto the stage and started to play a little on the keyboards. After just a few notes he quickly disappeared back stage. What's this, we thought, some teasing ploy to wind up the tension? Not so, as it turned out because a couple of minutes later a roadie came onto the stage and announced that UFO would not be reappearing because Michael Schenker had a problem with his hand.

Well, instant silence and a state of shock ensued. I thought for a moment the crowd was going to turn ugly, well perhaps a little more ugly. Instead, heads dropped, shoulder sank, backs turned and the hall quickly emptied. Now you can imagine that speculation was rife, to say the least. I know that many guitarists suffer from RSI and anyone could have tripped and hurt themselves in the darkness surrounding the stage. These things do happen. However, there are many other ways of disabling oneself and judging by the unjustified sceptical comments and theories that I heard from disgruntled punters I doubted that they found the explanation convincing.

Anyhow, we did get to see, hear and feel a technically brilliant performance of the already well documented set list barring the encores. Having waited an age for this privilege I wasn't going to complain too much, although I really missed Rock Bottom. So no Doctor Doctor for us but possibly a considerable session for Michael Schenker. Since the Cambridge show I've read that the boys played a blinder at Glasgow, so the prognosis is positive.

With any luck I'll catch the band again in my old home town of Sheffield next week where I'm attending a reunion of old friends at the City Hall. We last met there at a UFO concert performed by Messrs Mogg, Way, Schenker, Raymond and Parker some 20 years ago!

Bill Wilkins.

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