MICHAEL SCHENKER SHOWS HIS CLASS ON FEST LIVE TOKYO DVD
'Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo' – 2CD + DVD combo
Release date: 24th March 2017 (inakustik) 24th March 2017
Words: Liz Medhurst
Michael Schenker has earned the title of maestro many times over and demonstrates exactly why in this very tasty CD and DVD package.
Billed as Michael Schenker Fest, this gig was filmed in Tokyo in August 2016, so could be described as a sequel to 1982s 'One Night At Budokan', with only five shared tracks. The guitarist is reunited with three previous MSG vocalists – Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley - backed up with Steve Mann on guitar and keyboards, and the fantastically weighty rhythm section of former Sensational Alex Harvey Band alumni Chris Glen and Ted McKenna.
There's a large mix of former colleagues Schenker could have chosen, and for the setlist here he appears to have got it absolutely right. The vocalists perform the songs from their original eras, although there's nothing from Schenker's current project, Temple Of Rock (featuring another ex-Rainbow vocalist, Doogie White), bar the instrumental 'Searching For Freedom', played as an intro before the band take the stage.
First up is the earlier catalogue with Gary Barden, who is looking fine and striding around with a fantastic energy. 'Attack Of The Mad Axeman' and 'Cry For The Nations' sound particularly striking.
Instrumental 'Coast To Coast' - the only Scorpions song in the set - marked a change in Schenker's guitar and a change in vocalist as Graham Bonnet is up next. He has the fewest solo tracks of the three, but they are good ones, and the richness to Bonnet's voice is still there, even if slightly tempered now.
Moving into the more melodic rock period of the band, with a slight name change to McAuley Schenker Group, it was so great to see Robin McAuley again. The songs from this era have stood the test of time really well and the amount of hands in the air and singing along from the audience showed they would probably agree.
McAuley also takes the lead for UFO numbers 'Shoot Shoot' and 'Rock Bottom' before everyone Is back on the stage for 'Doctor Doctor'.
It's Michael though who is the undisputed star of the show, looking so happy and relaxed and taking delight in every note. Tis recent run of form has lasted so long now it's difficult to remember a time when he wasn't at the top of his game.
There's not many guitarists that can hold being the centre of attention for an entire set, usually deputising this task to the vocalists, but Michael Schenker is the exception. He's stunning throughout, but 'Rock Bottom' is the pinnacle, with that stunning riff and an extended solo which is truly breathtaking.
The package itself is impressive, with a fantastic sound mix on the DVD and the accompanying CDs. It's great to see all this happening close up and the camera work is pitched pretty much perfectly. There's not too much jumping around at speed yet still plenty of views of all the band members, capturing the atmosphere and the little touches of communication between everyone.
Even with no 'Lights Out' or 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' this performance is so strong that they aren't missed and this stands as an excellent package in its own right. One of the DVD bonus features is a montage of clips from the soundcheck and this shows how comfortable the interactions are between Schenker and the band. As he says himself: "It felt incredibly natural, as if it was always like this... no problems, just pure fun."
A worthy addition to the collection - and there's another chance to see this line-up in action, with these recently announced UK dates:
Thursday 2nd November: O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Friday 3rd November: O2 Academy Sheffield
Saturday 4th November: O2 Ritz, Manchester
Sunday 5th November: Hull City Hall, Hull