Review: Michael Schenker Fest, House of Blues, Las Vegas (27 March 2018)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
The last time I saw Michael Schenker was when he supported Black Country Communion at the O2 Academy in Glasgow some years ago. Tonight’s venue is rather more salubrious at the House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas! Touring to support the new Michael Schenker Fest release with a plethora of vocalists, including the addition of Doogie White. There was no support listed on the evening and we were soon to find out why!
The set opened with Mr Schenker himself introducing the sensational rhythm section of Ted Mc Kenna, Chris Glen and Steve Mann before kicking off with ‘Into the Arena‘. What was clear right from the off is that Michael Schenker and his band were on fire. The first vocalist of the evening was introduced, Mr. Gary Barden. His mini set kicked off with ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie‘. From personal experience this is a difficult song to sing and Mr Barden acquitted himself pretty well. We were then treated to ‘Cry For The Nations‘ and ‘Attack of the Mad Axeman‘ before the first Schenker Fest song of the evening, ‘Messing Around’. Gary’s mini-set closed with ‘Armed and Ready‘. And what a great opening to the set it was too!
The next part of the set was opened up with the Scorpions instrumental ‘Coast to Coast‘ before Graham Bonnet was introduced and duly launched into one of my favourite MSG tracks the ‘Desert Song’. This was quickly followed by ‘Dancer‘, also from ‘Assault Attack‘ where Graham was joined on backing vocals by Gary Barden and Robin McAuley. Next up was ‘Night Moods‘ from the Schenker Fest album and Barden and Mc Auley continued with the backing vocals. We were then treated to ‘Searching For A Reason‘ and ‘Assault Attack‘ bringing Bonnet’s mini-set to a close.
The next part of the show was introduced by another instrumental in the form of ‘Captain Nemo‘ from the ‘Built to Destroy‘ album. Again this instrumental only to served to demonstrate just how good Schenker and the band were. We were then introduced to Robin McAuley properly. I always loved McAuley’s voice from the Grand Prix days and as they launched into ‘Bad Boys‘ it was clear he has lost none of his power, range and tone. He continued in that vein with ‘Save Yourself‘. However, he excelled himself with the outstanding ‘Anytime‘ which had the backing vocals of Messrs Barden, Bonnet and White. The opening song from the Schenker Fest album was next with the band rattling though ‘Heart and Soul‘ joined by the other singers on backing vocals again. The singers hung around for ‘Love Is Not A Game‘ from the ‘Save Yourself‘ album.
Next up was the section featuring Doogie White mostly running through ‘Temple of Rock‘ material starting with the instrumental ‘Searching for Freedom‘ before White joined them for ‘Live and Let Live‘. This was quickly followed by ‘Lords of the Lost and the Lonely‘ and then the excellent ‘Take Me To The Church‘ from the new album and the ‘backing vocalists’ returned. Next up was ‘Before The Devil Knows your Dead‘. I must admit I have never been a fan of the Temple of Rock albums but tonight these songs really rocked and Mr White put in a sterling vocal performance. The rest of the singers joined White for ‘Warriors‘ from the Schenker Fest album. The final song of the set was introduced by Michael talking about UFO’s ‘Strangers In The Night‘ live album and then launching into ‘Rock Bottom‘. Lasting about 18 mins the song again served to highlight just how superb Schenker and the band were with the vocals rotating. The encore started with ‘Doctor, Doctor‘ and Bonnet singing and then rotating round the other vocalists. We were then also treated to ‘Shoot, Shoot‘ sung by McAuley, ‘Natural Thing‘ sung by White and finally ‘Lights Out‘ with the vocalists rotating.
The set lasted approximately 160 mins but seemed to flash by in an instant. The set in effect consisted of five mini-sets broken by clever use of instrumentals and narrative from the Boss of Bass and Michael Schenker. In addition, the vocalists backed each other coming and off stage at appropriate times. This created a real camaraderie on stage. Throw in the fact that it was a killer setlist drawing right across Schenker’s career and some killer vocal performances, this provided a very special show indeed. With the British dates having just been announced, if you are one of the many Schenker aficionados’, you would be a fool to miss it based on this spectacular performance.