Michael Schenker Fest – Live – Tokyo International Forum Hall A (out 24 March 2017 via Inakustik)

Michael Schenker Fest – Live – Tokyo International Forum Hall A (out 24 March 2017 via Inakustik)

Lead guitarist Michael Schenker is known as much for his stints with German metal legends The Scorpions and British rockers UFO as much as his own career, which has seen a lot of highs and a few (drink and drug inspired) lows. And he has worked with some major names along the way.

This set sees him return to his peak and a solo band that heavily leans to his early 80s MSG (Michael Schenker Group) heyday.

And at the risk of upsetting Scorps of UFO fans, the 1979-1984 original MSG run saw him at his technical, passionate and rocking best. Seriously.  And between the Michael Schenker Group (and perhaps less so with McAuley Schenker Group featuring former Grand Prix vocalist Robin McAuley) and solo as Michael Schenker, the Mad Axeman has produced many a great album.

In 1970 Schenker joined his older brother’s band Scorpions, recorded with them, gaining instant international recognition, before relocating to the UK and joining UFO for six albums which includes the double Strangers In The Night, one of the best of live albums ever. A brief return to the Scorps (he would reignite links with both bands later) for Lovedrive, he then went solo.

In 1979 he formed MSG, which at points included this band’s McKenna, Glen and Barden. McKenna and Glen were both ex Sensational Alex Harvey Band and one of the best rhythm sections you will ever find, anywhere. Original MSG vocalist Gary Barden was The Man back in the day too.

More recently, Schenker has been returning to form with his band Temple Of Rock, featuring former Rainbow vocalist Dougie White. But, having seen them twice, great shows, both the line-up and set list have been Scorpions heavy.

Here Schenker, supported by guitarist / keyboard player Steve Mann, reunites several original MSG cohorts, with the rhythm section of McKenna and Glen supporting nicely, and then there’s the MSG vocalists who give us a storm, a blinder of a show.

There’s a great build up to the show, an intro that really gets the atmosphere going; ‘Into The Arena’ a stormer before Gary Barden takes the stage for ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’. The singer is around the stage like the seasoned professional he is, but his vocals haven’t quite aged so well. That said, it’s a great outstanding track. Glen and McKenna are clearly enjoying themselves from the outset (I’ve crossed paths with both many times). Michael Schenker has his trademark Flying V and hunched over his guitar stance – classic all the way.

Tracks like ‘Cry For The Nations’ and ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’ are metal classics and rock standards any day of the week.

Graham Bonnet who, between Barden’s stints, appeared on just one MSG album, takes the stage for three tracks; ‘Assault Attack’, ‘Desert Song’ and ‘Dancer’. The former Rainbow, Malmsteen and Imperlitteri vocalist who’s had a solo hit or two too still sounds fantastic, such a powerful voice. A great frontman.

Robin McAuley takes to the stage with a cheer; personally I was never too fussed with the 86-92 era MSG but the work here proves there’s many a solid metal track with a good voice up front.

The UFO tracks ‘Shoot Shoot’ and ‘Rock Bottom’ are given a decent airing (the latter extended to 15 minutes with sing-along) while all three lead vocalists share the staple ‘Doctor Doctor’.

The whole thing is well recorded and a great record of some great rock’n’roll.

Vocal qualities aside (some are not great but not as bad as some I’ve heard say), I loved this set.

If you discovered Schenker in the 80s as I did then as a rock fan or guitarist you’ll love it. 8.5/10

Joe Geesin

Displaying Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo_2_small.jpg

The Band:

Michael Schenker – lead guitar

Ted McKenna – drums

Steve Mann – guitar, keyboards

Chris Glen – bass

Gary Barden – vocals

Graham Bonnet – vocals

Robin McAuley – vocals

 

CD Disc: 1

1. Intro: Searching For Freedom

2. Into the Arena

3. Attack of the Mad Axeman

4. Victim of Illusion

5. Cry for the Nations

6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

7. Armed and Ready

8. Coast to Coast

9. Assault Attack

10. Desert Song

11. Dancer

CD Disc: 2

1. Captain Nemo

2. This Is My Heart

3. Save Yourself

4. Love Is Not A Game

5. Shoot Shoot

6. Rock Bottom

7. Doctor Doctor

 

DVD Disc: 3

1. Intro: Searching For Freedom

2. Into the Arena

3. Attack of the Mad Axeman

4. Victim of Illusion

5. Cry for the Nations

6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

7. Armed and Ready

8. Coast to Coast

9. Assault Attack

10. Desert Song

11. Dancer

12. Captain Nemo

13. This Is My Heart

14. Save Yourself

15. Love Is Not A Game

16. Shoot Shoot

17. Rock Bottom

18. Doctor Doctor

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Michael Schenker Fest – Live – Tokyo International Forum Hall A (out 24 March 2017 via Inakustik)