A gig that has been over a year in the making, Michael Schenker has finally been able to return to London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire to celebrate his 50th anniversary in music. With lines of fans stretching down the street before doors open, it feels like a special gig and the fact that it’s both Halloween and a Sunday night only add to that.
Michael Schenker Group / Doro.
Shepherd’s Bush Empire. 31 October 2021
Words: Kahmel Farahani
Photography: Aggie Anthimidou
To open the night, the reigning queen of Heavy Metal takes the stage nice and early. Doro is herself marking almost 40 years in Heavy Metal, and tonight she brings all that history to bear in a superb, no-frills set that is the definition of old school Metal. Kicking off with the old Warlock classic I Rule The Ruins, Doro is in fine form.
Backed by a fantastic band that includes TSO and NorthTale guitarist Bill Hudson, they make short work of heavy riffing songs Burn The Witches and All For Metal. A real highlight is Doro’s tribute to her influences in British Metal with a brilliant version of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law that starts off slow before hitting ferocious speeds. Finishing her tight 45- minute set with All We Are has every fist in the air and leaves the audience wanting more.
Michael Schenker Group
After a short interval, the lights go down on a near full house, eagerly awaiting the return of the Mad Axeman himself. The last time Schenker performed here was with the Temple Of Rock, with many of his old singers from Bonnet to Mcauley taking turns on vocal duties.
Tonight, all the vocals are handled by frontman Ronnie Romero. Best known for his stint fronting Ritchie Blackmore’s reformed line-up of Rainbow, Romero never quite fitted comfortably there. In comparison, he seems to have found the ideal match with Michael Schenker. His voice is the perfect binding glue between all the different eras of the Michael Schenker group as well as UFO.
Starting with the instrumental song Ascension, the band quickly launch into the anthemic Cry For The Nations. The term legend is so often used it has lost some relevance, but as the beautiful guitar intro drift leads us to the UFO classic Doctor Doctor, it is clear there is no other honest way to describe Schenker. Still cradling his iconic black and white Flying V and tearing into his old solos with passion and excitement all over his face, it is a joy to watch and listen.
Balancing older MSG songs like Armed And Ready with newer songs like Sail the Darkness, it is a finely mixed setlist. A nod to his early roots, In Search Of The Peace Of Mind is the reworked version of the first song Schenker ever wrote for The Scorpions and the lone nod to that legendary band tonight.
As Schenker pushes past the hour and a half mark, it is clear he is just getting warmed up for the highlight of the night.
For the next 40 plus minutes, Michael Schenker proceeds to absolutely tear through classic after classic from his UFO catalogue, from an extended, jaw-dropping Rock Bottom to Shoot Shoot and Natural Thing.
“You still want more?” asks a grinning Schenker. Too Hot To Handle gets every single member of the crowd singing before they finally end with a joyful Only You Can Rock Me.
An absolutely superb night from a legend still at the top of his game. After all, he isn’t old school. He is Michael Schenker.