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Michael Schenker Group @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton (22/7/11)

posted 12 Aug 2011, 13:21 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 12 Aug 2011, 13:24 ]
Review By Woody
Photos By Rob Stanley

I almost didn’t get to this gig and it was just one of those days! My Wheels broke down on me and been the total stress head that I am the whole world was coming to end and it looked like I was going to miss out on seeing guitar legend Michael Schenker for the first time, Damn it! Thankfully it wasn’t anything serious and I was back on the move just as quickly as I’d stopped thanks to the help of some really cool people. Now I was determined nothing was going to stop me getting my ass to The Robin!

I wasn’t excited about tonight’s support Voodoo Sioux. I’d seen them supporting Skin a few summers back and wasn’t impressed at all and if there was one word that I describe them as, it’s Scary! So I was hoping for a quick and painless set from this local band of nutters. Singer Nikki Flaherty again came onstage with a band of make up across his eyes and wearing a skirt. He commanded the stage with a swaggering punkish ‘c’mon if your hard enough’ attitude whilst belting his way through the songs with the air of a man ready for an asylum. Previously, I hadn’t liked his vocals which seemed to be screamed and screeched, but it was almost a polar opposite tonight, his vocals coming across far better which made the songs much more enjoyable for me.

I was totally shocked to find myself nodding along to a couple of the songs and enjoying their set far more than I’d expected too. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again but it was easy to hear why the crowd loved every riff and every spit of attitude from these guys! It’s really hard to pigeonhole these guys musically; mixing elements of traditional blues based hard rock and the chaos of punk attitude.

Bassist Mario Ermoyenous in particular takes the performance aspect of a gig to the max with his bass held high on his chest and staring wildly into the crowd while singing along. Guitarist Jon Blakely is sedate in comparison but his riffs are the main reason the band captured my attention tonight; it really did feel like I was witnessing a totally different band. Voodoo Sioux aren’t going to win any prize’s for lyrics, with the vast majority of songs been based around sexual innuendo. Whilst I like a good shagging song as much as the next dude – have ya met Whitesnake? – a little more variation would have been nice. They stormed through their set with little time for introductions but I think they played “Jesus Christ”, “Backwards To Babylon”, “Every Mothers Son” and “In Through The Out Door”.

Having plonked myself right in front of the keyboards for MSG, I commenced winding up MR tog Rob Stanley about the nature of tonight’s set list insisting it would focus on the Schenker’s melodic rock output with Robin McAuley. Given the two-tiered keyboard stand in front of us and the choice of music to get us through the break before Schenker graced the stage I had started to manically believe my own wind up! Whoever had chosen the music for the break had definitely got the same taste in music as me, opening with AOR-God Stan Bush’s “The Touch” – me likey very much! Then we got Foreigner and Nickleback and the Damn Corrs with “Irresistible” – I though someone one had raided my melodic rock collection of goodies! I’m not sure if the leather-clad biker types were appreciating it as much as me as I heard chants of “UFO! UFO! UFO”!

The band did drag out the gap before hitting the stage and the crowd did get restless even cheering at any movement on stage in anticipation, but when Schenker finally appeared and started shredding it definitely felt worth the wait! I was worried about how tonight’s performance would be, given the bad reputation he has gathered in recent times. I’ve even heard he’s been onstage and not even known which way to hold a guitar let alone play it! It was clear immediately no such problems would be making an appearance tonight.

It had to be a sell-out crowd too, something I wasn’t expecting either, but it was great to see the venue packed to the rafters as it made for a good and sweaty atmosphere. The set list mainly consisted of UFO and Scorpions songs, although I had been expecting more MSG tunes than we actually got but definitely a fan pleasing choice of songs. One guy said to me as he asked me if I’m enjoying the gig, “Fuckin’ great gig. All the classics! Yeahhhh!” So we get the likes of “Armed & Ready”, “Love Drive”, “Another Piece Of Meat”, “Let It Roll”, “Lights Out”, “So True” and “Too Hot To Handle”.

Schenker definitely put in an impressive performance showing us he’s still got it. He might be a quiet performer behind his shades and baseball cap, but he delivered the goods and the crowed lapped it up as they cheered on their hero. For me, the performance that really captured me was new MSG front man Michael Voss (Casanova / Mad Max), his vocals were top notch and he got the crowd going with ease, and considering he’s probably an unknown to the vast majority of the crowd they really took to him. Believe it or not, he does a fantastic job on the UFO and Scorpion’s tracks, a far more in-your-face and interactive performance from Voss than I witnessed at Z Rock with Mad Max.

We get a couple of guest appearances tonight in the form of Doogie White (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow) and UFO bassist/legend Pete Way. Doogie sings a new MSG song from the upcoming album “Temple Of Rock”. Although the song didn’t make a big impression on me, Doogie’s stellar vocals did. After Pete Way’s first song he was greeted like a homecoming hero, leaving Pete with a huge smile on his face. Pete played quite a few songs with the band mostly towards to the end of the night. Although I heard a few mutterings at disappointment at Way’s performance, the vast majority of the crowd seemed to not to care and cheered their icon nonetheless.

One of my highlights was the rather excellent rendition of UFO’s “Love To Love”, a fantastic ballad with a great vibe and I’m sure many around me enjoyed it just as much. We got two encores. Thankfully, they didn’t drag out the crowd chanting them back onstage as I think things could have turned ugly given the long wait for them to hit the stage in the first place. So we got two Scorpions classic’s – “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Blackout” and two UFO songs – “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor” – which sent the crowd into a frenzy of singing and head banging!

It wasn’t a flawless performance, although highly enjoyable and the atmosphere was amazing taking the enjoyment factor over the edge and making for a great night out! I thought I was having a flashback to the hallowed hall of JB’s with the crowd making their voices heard LOUD as they head banged and danced the night away. I had a guy to one side throwing out more riffs and more intricate solo’s than Schenker could ever dream of on his air guitar whilst furiously (although that word seems too tame!) head banging whilst flashing a smile at everyone who looked his way – and never dropping a note in the process! To the other side, the world’s tallest man accidently smacks me in the back of the head as he dances and screams for more. And to my front, a woman who is most definitely enjoying the gig dancing and even grabbing my hand and swaying it aloft during the encore – to those who know me, stop laughing. You all know I’m a sexual dynamo and she was very very very drunk! If she is reading this I’m sorry, no I didn’t see where your lipstick went although I do think the colour suits me. It was definitely the atmosphere that nudged the gig into awesome territory for me. Oh pessimistic me, believing gigs like this were a thing of the past after JB’s closed its doors!