Michael Schenker Group
February 6, 2014
Works by Dan Wall
Photo by Brad Neville
Set List: Neptune Rising, Where the Wild Wind Blows, Armed and Ready, Cry For the Nations, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Assault Attack, Attack of the Mad Axe Man, Rock My Nights Away, Into the Arena, Love Drive, Another Piece of Meat, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Horizons, Shoot Shoot, Only You Can Rock Me, Let it Roll, Too Hot to Handle, Lights Out. Encore: Rock Bottom, Doctor Doctor. 1 hour, 45 minutes.
If you want to write a book on the career of Michael Schenker, be prepared to pen a lengthy tome. The 59-year old guitarist has quite a celebrated history with bands (Scorpions, UFO, MSG) and a solo career that has seen many more lows than highs.
Despite those lows, which included substance abuse problems and just plain not showing up to perform, here he is in 2014, healthy and sober, still touring heavily, and playing the songs from his career that have made him a classic rock guitar legend.
Those of us who have followed his career in the Bay Area know of his problems well. Schenker went AWOL from UFO in 1977 and made his return to the band at a Winterland show, opening for Rush. He has missed UFO and MSG reunions shows in the area, and for years fans were weary as to whether Schenker would show ready to play, or show up at all.
Fast forward to 2014, and it’s easy to see that the guitarist has cleaned up his act. Onstage in Oakland, he was in a good mood (and anytime he shows up in a good mood is a great thing for his fans), sounded great and seemed to enjoy himself. The set list was fantastic, the band was pretty good and the sound in the venue was marvelous.
This was by far the best working band that Schenker has assembled in years, but the musicians in this act are nowhere near as talented as the original monsters that he played with. Comparing these guys to classic UFO and MSG is simply not fair--there is nothing particularly wrong with the guys that Schenker has picked to join him on the road, but no one here is going to be inducted into the R’N’R Hall of Fame, either.
Drummer Pete Holmes can bang, bassist Rev Jones is a hammer and guitarist Wayne Findlay is a seasoned pro. The biggest name in the band now, outside of Schenker, is vocalist Doogie White, and he is a very good singer. His voice is more suited for a Dio/Rainbow/Whitesnake type of sound, however, so he struggles to hit Phil Mogg’s (UFO) notes and to emulate Gary Barden’s (MSG) power.
The good thing about this-it doesn’t really matter in a small club setting like Yoshi’s, because the crowd practically drowned out the band when the group performed MSG gems like “Armed and “Ready” and “Cry For the Nations,” the two Scorps tunes and anything by UFO. It just goes to prove that Phil Mogg, the legendary vocalist for UFO, simply can’t be duplicated as far as stage presence and vocal talent. No fault of Mr. White’s.
Aside from the songs, the real star here is Mr. Schenker. When great guitarists are mentioned, Schenker is often referred to as ‘underrated’ or a guy who should have been better known, but fans and musicians alike know that his guy is the real deal. His sharp, biting solos are still note-perfect, and he has written some of the best songs and riffs in the rock era. My buddy Brad says he is the best rock vibrato guitarist wprking without a whammy bar.
If you haven’t ever seen Schenker, this is a good time to go, since he is sober and energized… and will probably show up. The songs still sound great after all these years, regardless of who sings them or how well Schenker is shredding that night… and Schenker is currently playing as well as he ever has.