Sunday, October 18, 2009

Concert Review: Michael Schenker & Friends - Spring and Airbrake, Belfast - 20 February 2008

I last witnessed Michael Schenker playing live at the Ulster Hall, Belfast in October 1983 when he was touring with the Michael Schenker Group (MSG). He was warmly welcomed by fans who were transfixed by his guitar virtuosity, warm tone, and melodic and fluid playing. I believe his group that night included Gary Bardon (vocals), Chris Glenn (bass), and Ted McKenna on drums. The keyboardist may have been Andy Nye. However, the band were in top form and the concert was outstanding. Michael's performance was a masterclass in melodic rock guitar playing. Untouchable.

The "Spring and Airbrake" proved to be a great venue to see 'Michael Schenker and Friends'. It is a small, intimate venue, and a rocking and appreciative crowd combined to create a great atmosphere. I spoke to Michael before the gig about his guitar playing, song writing, and how grateful I was he had returned to Belfast to perform. He looked in great shape all dressed in black.

From the opening number "Assault Attack" it was clear the band - with the superb Leif Sundin on vocals - would play an integral part in the show tonight. They combined to create music that was tight, emotional, rich in sound, yet full of tension, delicacy and subtle balances that made the music vibrant and intoxicating. There wasn't a weak song in the set list which comprised fourteen songs, and each one had the crowd singing, clapping and cheering throughout the performance. When a song ended it was clear to Michael and the band that the crowd was in the mood to rock to great music.

"Let it Roll" and "Lights Out" were superb with Michael soloing in his own distinctive memorable style. He plays such strong fluid melodic runs and subtle bends he is amazing to watch. A particular favourite of mine is "Into The Arena" which was outstanding tonight. Most of the crowd sang along with Lief Sundin on most of the songs, especially "To Hot To Handle" and "Only You Can Rock Me" creating an unbelievable atmosphere.

After rousing renditions of "Armed and Ready" and "Attack Of The Mad Axeman" it was evident the crowd was not going to let Michael and his friends of the stage without hearing more music. It was great to see Michael getting the attention he truly deserves, and to see him looking and sounding as good as ever. The whole band was incredible - especially Leif Sundin on vocals - and they provided excellent support for Michael to work his magic.

The band returned for an encore which included " Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom". By this time nearly everyone was singing along with the lyrics and thumping the air. The riff to "Rock Bottom" is an all-time classic. If you don't feel like moving your body to it, and it doesn't transfer you somewhere intoxicating and special - well, frankly - there's no hope for you. The soloing during "Rock Bottom" was full of well-controlled vibratos, soft harmonic runs. and blistering lead runs. Need I say more. Michael's back and this time he means business.

Michael returns to Belfast on 19 December 2009 to perform at the Ulster Hall, Belfast. Should be a truly great night.

Michael's signed Set List - Belfast 2008

Michael Schenker and Ronnie Kerrigan

Sylvia Kerrigan And Michael Schenker

Michael's pedals