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ZR

Michael Schenker Fest - Atlanta, Variety Playhouse

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Yesterday I got an email from Steve Haynie on whether Rodney (Jettster) and I would be at the show.  Rodney mentioned how it's just too hard to make the weeknight shows with work etc. I know how he feels. I've been  motivated to work on our house lately and I know I need to take advantage of that motivation whenever I feel it! But, I kind of overdid it especially with a stand-up show ahead of me last night. At 55 those stand-up shows after work can take the energy out of me quick. At least compared to how it used to be!

But, I had my ticket and the show must go on! Michael Schenker was essentially the last of the guitarist I had to see before I die so it was mandatory. I got there right at 8 and was able to be around 9 people back from the stage right in front of Michael right before the show started. 

For those that don't know, Michael Schenker Fest is a project involving the 3 singers from MSG and Doogie White from Michael's Temple of Rock band. Their first album, "Resurrection", was pretty strong. I read that it charted at #81 on the US charts (don't know any specifics) and better in Europe and Japan. 2nd album coming in August I believe.
 
During the show, they mix it up quite a bit with each guy handling his respective time period in basically chronological order. They share duties for the UFO tunes, sometimes each singing a verse. They also played 2 Scorpions tunes that Michael penned; starting the show with Holiday with Michael singing and later playing the great instrumental Coast to Coast.
 
Lately, Michael's been very public about how his brother, Rudolph, ripping him off, copied his black and white V etc. and it just comes off as petty and negative to me. I do feel that Michael's been taken advantage of through the years by quite a few characters but this isn't the way to go, IMHO. Nevertheless, he started the show talking about his brother even before playing a note and then again on the other Scorps tune. Somehow, it didn't really bother me though and hope that it is some kind of cathartic process for him this year and that he just gets it out of his system.
 
Gary Barden's voice was the weakest of the 4 singers which was unfortunate as that's one of my favorite periods for the band. He was at the end of the tour (2nd to the last show) and even Michael was wearing an elbow brace, so maybe old age and active touring does that to you. He did have good charisma with the crowd and was still a good front man.
 
I thought Graham Bonnet's voice was still very strong and I've always liked his non-typical-hard rock/metal rock star look - clean cut, short hair, suit jackets sometimes etc. I enjoyed his solo albums and now I might want to see him when he goes on tour again, I think soon.  
 
Robin McCauley had your typical rock star look and man, he really sings great. It was just unfortunate that as the singers got better the material, to me, got weaker. 
 
Doogie white came out in typical medieval garb/kilt thing and reminded me so much of Jack Black. Very funny , energetic and he can belt it out! I never listened to any Temple of Rock stuff but I have to now, any recommendations?
 
The 4 singers thing actually worked great as they could sing backups to fill in the songs better and help each other out as needed. Seeing the lack of ego involved was refreshing, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
 
Chris Glen was on bass. I never knew he was with Alex Harvey.
 
Man, 3 hours of solid playing; no wonder Michael was wearing an elbow brace at the 2nd to the last US tour date! The singers all rotated through the night but Michael was playing the whole time, 31songs I believe! I still remember the day that Kevin Jennings came in to Mr. Cappetti's drafting class in high school with the new MSG album on cassette; my life changed! His uniqueness, note choices, vibrato and his melodic playing made each solo a song within a song. I remember back in the day that I would routinely fast forward albums to just listen to the solos from certain artists, but with MSG I thought all the playing throughout the whole song was quality. The 2nd MSG album is a definite desert island disc for me! 
 
Michael was great! He was very interactive with the crowd which I didn't expect. He seemed comfortable up there, slapping peoples hands in the crowd between parts of songs etc. I was just glued to all he was doing last night!
 
I had already saw the setlist but was surprised that he doesn't play "only you can rock me". One of my all time favs and that solo is Michael Schenker in a nutshell. Steve showed me a pick of Steve Mann's (keyboardist/guitar) setlist and they had it listed as one of the encore tunes but they didn't play it.That was the only real disappointing thing about the show. 
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ZR nailed it down.  Here are just a few more details. 

Here is the setlist from last night

At the start of the show Michael Schenker talked about this year's deaths of tour drummer Ted McKenna and Paul Raymond who had played with Michael in UFO and MSG.

All of Michael Schenker's guitars were Dean solid body V's.  The hollow body V seen in some videos was not used.  On the front of Michael's guitars there were some washers about the size of a quarter stuck on the front with either double sided tape or a thin magnet.  He used a small plastic pick, but at the beginning of one of the last songs (Live And Let Live, maybe?) he used one of those washers to make some guitar noises.  He also grabbed the headstock of his guitars a lot to bend notes down.  There were two Marshall stacks with all straight cabinets under JCM 800 heads.  Only one head was turned on, and both cabs underneath were mic'ed.  Michael's pedalboard had four stompboxes and a box he could stomp to get a percussive sound to start some songs.  Next to that was a wah pedal with a camouflage finish. 

Steve Mann had his signature Nemesis guitar, a set neck Jackson, and at least one Dean with a six on a side headstock.  He played through a single Marshall stack with both straight and angled cabinets.  He had an M-Audio keyboard. 

Chris Glen played two Explorer shaped basses through an EBS stack.  One bass has no name on it.  The other said Nemesis on it. 

Bodo Schopf played Pearl drums.

Doogie White introduced the song Before The Devil Knows Your Dead as the first song he wrote with Michael Schenker.  That song was written within days of Ronnie James Dio's death.  He also told the audience that May 16th, the night of the show, was the ninth anniversary of Ronnie James Dio's death.  He had real tears in his eyes at the end of the song. 

I liked all the singers, and the three hours of Michael Schenker's playing.

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It was impossible to get a good picture of Doogie White because he kept moving so much. 

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Posted (edited)

They played Richmond, VA the night before.  You guys really did a good job covering it!  A few comments...

I've seen pics of the crowd in Atlanta and some other shows and Richmond looks like the only one that didn't sell out.  That's a little disappointing because it probably lessens the chance of him playing here if he tours again.  I do understand it though, because years ago he was supposed to play here and there was a huge buzz about it but he cancelled at the last minute.  People were making comments all over FB about it and how they weren't counting on him being here this time.  Richmond also had reserved seating, and even though my two friends and I just got our tickets last week, we were in the 7th row.  There were PLENTY of empty seats in front of us.  I would estimate the venue was about half full.

He opened the show with some genial chitchat to the audience including paying tribute to Ted McKenna and Paul Raymond which was very nice.  Unfortunately before he played a note he mentioned how he had not been credited for songs he wrote with Scorpions like Holiday, which he then proceeded to play and sing unaccompanied.  I was surprised to hear he has a decent voice and he provided backup vocals on several songs through the night.  I just felt like the Scorps comment was a lousy follow-up to the tributes to his ex-bandmates.  After about a minute of Holiday, they segued into Doctor Doctor and Graham Bonnet, Robin McCauley, and Gary Barden joined the band onstage, each singing a verse and backing up each other.

Bonnet's voice was nothing short of amazing!  He's surprisingly tiny but he can absolutely belt his lungs out at 71 years old.  McCauley was no slouch either, but as ZR noted for the Atlanta show, Gary Barden seemed to have a harder time.  He was still great, but he struggled a few times.  Doogie White didn't come out until about three quarters of the way through the show when he joined the other three singers.  I'd never seen the guy before, and unfortunately he was just out of the spotlight so the rhinestones on his blousey kilt top didn't reflect any light.  He's a bit overweight and standing outside of the spotlight the kilt just looked like a bathrobe.  I wondered if he was on drugs, sick, just woke up or what.  The other singers and Michael didn't seem to bat an eye so I figured they knew what his deal was.

When Doogie got his turn to sing lead by himself, he moved into the light and you see he was wearing a stylized kilt.  He was over-the-top trying to get the audience into the performance, wildly running around and trying to get us to clap on every song and his voice is not as good as McCauley's or Bonnet's.  I REALLY disliked him at first but then he spoke to the crowd and I heard that Scottish accent and I realized he's just a wild-ass Scot!  My mom's family history is Scottish so after that I cut him some slack and liked him more and more as the night went on.

The rest of the band were outstanding.  Bassist Chris Glen has a little trouble moving around because he's gained a lot of weight, but he was mugging, leaning down to get into pics, and having a blast all night.  In fact, all the singers and Michael seemed to be having the time of their lives as well.  Michael's smile never dipped in the least.  As ZR noted, the singers displayed genuine affection for each other and were laughing and smiling, joking and cutting up with each other all night.

In the middle of the show, unfortunately Michael decided to make another negative speech aimed squarely at his brother Rudolf.  Again he mentioned the songwriting, said that Rudolf had asked to borrow his V when they were young, asked if he could use the black/white paintjob, dying his hair blond, and even that as the older brother Rudolf should have taken better care of him.  He came right out and accused Rudolf of wanting to be him!  All of that might be true, but it doesn't need to be part of an otherwise uplifting, fun night.

However, Michael played his ass off; just totally on fire the entire night!  The first three or four songs the sound was a bit of a mushy rumble with too much bass and bass drum, but they got it dialed in after a while and Michael's always excellent tone cut right through.  He played four different Dean V's, three in variations of black and white and one that was multi-colored which I liked a lot.  As mentioned above, they more or less took a chronological walk through the solo stuff with some UFO sprinkled in and closed the night with four UFO songs.  He did three instrumentals including Captain Nemo which is one of my personal favorites of his.

A friend of mine hung out by the buses after the show and met Robin McCauley and Chris Glen who he said was hilarious.  He did seem like a fun guy on stage so it cool to know he's a good guy offstage as well.

This was my first time seeing Schenker live, and I can't remember a show at which the actual performance exceeded my expectations by so much.  I would recommend seeing Schenker with whatever band he puts together if he comes around your way in the future.  I know I certainly will.

 

Edited by tommy p
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