The Ali Clinton Band are one of those young rock outfits getting out into every nook and cranny they can to play their music to a live audience.
Words: Ian Sutherland
Pictures: Mark Holloway
Wandering on stage with a strange line up of Clinton himself on guitar, regular drummer Richard Kirk and Paul Rahme on keyboards, they launched into their opening number with little fanfare but soon got the crowd’s attention.
If you haven’t seen them before Ali Clinton is to us old rockers a very young-looking guy indeed but when he starts playing incendiary, imaginative guitar licks at high volume any thoughts about age are soon blown away.
He has the confidence only seen in those who are real masters of their instrument and all the guys like me in the audience with grey hair and loads of experience are seriously impressed with what this young man has going on.
Ably backed by Kirk and Rahme, the set wanders through some heavy blues rock numbers mixed with more standard rock fare and the odd hint of jazz rock maybe.
Clinton’s vocals are decent and ensure that these are songs first and foremost but it’s those searing extended lead breaks that stick in the memory at the end of a short but extremely enjoyable thirty-minute set.
Anyone who was wondering at the lack of a bass player with the opening act had their questions answered when headliner Uli Jon Roth hit the stage.
Accompanying the German guitar legend on stage was regular bass player and vocalist Niklas Turmann plus the three musicians who had played earlier in the evening.
When touring worldwide sometimes it makes more sense to pick up a band for a tour and this time around Ali Clinton and co have taken on the challenging job.
After a bit of joking around with the audience some of whom were trying out their German on him, Roth & co launched into regular live opener ‘All Night Long’.
Having recently toured with a ‘Tokyo Tapes Revisited’ set, the man playing those custom-made Sky guitars was happy to relive those halcyon days in the Scorpions again, but this time changing it up and including some songs which never made it onto that classic 1978 live album.
It was great to hear ‘The Sails Of Charon’, a song which really should have made the cut back in the day. Inevitably the classics had to get an airing too though and ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’ and ‘Fly To The Rainbow’ were greeted like the old friends they are.
Roth’s playing is a joy, despite his grey hair his hands have slowed down not a jot and his runs are fluid and seemingly effortless while Turmann, despite a cold, does those difficult Klaus Meine melody lines very well indeed.
Something I have noticed when seeing Uli live in recent years is that he likes to have a second guitarist with the talent to keep up with him and Ali Clinton does a fine job of that tonight.
Shifting to the centre of the small Bannermans stage when required the twin lead playing he took part in on songs like ‘Pictured Life’ and ‘Dark Lady’ was breath-taking. Thin Lizzy never got this complex, but the Roth/Clinton duo carried it off with consummate ease.
The crowd were loving it all and got a real treat for the first encore of another rarely played classic Scorpions tune in the superb epic balladry of ‘Yellow Raven’.
The treats continued in an unexpected direction after that when ex Rainbow and current MSG vocalist Doogie White was summoned to the stage from the audience and we got a terrific version of Deep Purple’s ‘Mistreated’.
White was in great form and after he hit all those big notes we got an apology from the main man of the evening that now ‘we’d have to listen to his puny voice’.
Anyone who knows Uli Jon Roth knows how big a Hendrix aficionado he is, so that comment indicated that the night would end in traditional style. We got beautifully put together versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Little Wing’ with the German master guitarist’s own take on the vocals as well as the axe work of Jimi.
I have to admit that I still can’t get used to seeing a rock legend like Roth in clubs this size. The fact that I can and that he is still so capable and impressive means that every time I get a chance like this I take it.
I recommend the experience to anyone with even a little of an ear for high powered seventies rock and superb musicianship. Great stuff.
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