Michael Schenker | 06.30.09

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michael_schenker.jpgHe represents the pinnacle of hard rock before the term heavy metal existed

 

 

 

 

 

Pop’s, Sauget, IL

The guitar hero was on fire and rocked the house. He seems to be back at the top of his game still sporting his signature black and white flying V guitar. For those of you not familiar with Schenker’s work, he is most noted as one of the first to combine elements of classical music into hard rock guitar playing. This put him at the forefront of the Neo-classical fusion movement leading up to guitar gods like Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads. He got his start as a founding member of the Scorpions out of Germany with his brother Rudolph Schenker. After that, he was a key member of the hard rocking UFO before breaking out into his solo career in 1980. His first two solo albums are the best representation of his playing style where he was able to prominently display his thick biting tone combined with sweet melodic passages. He represents the pinnacle of hard rock before the term heavy metal existed.

This tour also brought about a reunion with vocalist Gary Barden who was on Schenker’s first two solo albums. He sounded great and it made all the difference to have the sound of his unique voice belting out the classics I grew up with. He had a little trouble at the beginning and said he was fighting a cold. After the first couple tunes, he seemed to work past it and sounded great all night. There is something about the tone of his voice that really blends well with Schenker’s sound and writing style. They had differences in the past that led to them parting ways, so it was a real treat to have them back together again and sounding just like I remember.

Schenker was also backed up by keyboardist/guitarist Wayne Findlay, who is an amazing performer and writer in his own right. I first saw him backing up Vinnie Moore, which is a very challenging gig where he seemed to be covering more parts than humanly possible. He is a perfect fit for Schenker as he fluidly switched back and forth between rhythm guitar and keyboard parts. The bassist, Franky Rummier, brought a lot of high energy to the show. Right from the start he came out rockin’. He has a three-foot long braided ponytail coming right out of the center of the top of his head. In a show of power, demonstrating his awe inspiring genetic resistance to male pattern baldness, he constantly wailed his head around in circles to the beat of the songs and got that rope of hair whirling like a helicopter blade. I was anxiously waiting to witness takeoff.

My favorite tune of the night had to be the mystic “Lost Horizons,” the epic tune where he breaks it down to a subtle, solemn tone and then they build back up to a blistering solo. Also highlights of the night were his instrumental showcases “Into the Arena” and “Captain Nemo.”  The crowd was the loudest singing along to UFO hits “Doctor, Doctor,” “Too Hot to Handle” and “Rock Bottom,” which also had an amazing extended solo. The tunes that really shook the house were the flat-out rockin “Armed and Ready,” “Are You Ready to Rock” and “Feels Like a Good Thing” off of his first solo album. I wish these songs would get more airplay on the classic rock stations – they really can get you pumped up.

To give further evidence that this was a show not to be missed, a couple of guys from Whitesnake showed up in the audience to check him out! They were in town sharing the bill with Judas Priest the next day and made sure to schedule time in their tour in order to see Michael Schenker play. I spoke a bit with ultra-funky bassist Uriah Duffy and guitar master Doug Aldrich and they both agreed that Schenker’s work was a huge influence on them. Believe me these guys know what they are talking about; both serious bad ass players and it is worth taking the time to check out their work.

So for all of you guitar players out there keeping track so far, within 24 hours St. Louis was graced by the presence of the virtuoso players Michael Schenker, Reb Beach, Doug Aldrich, Glen Tipton, KK Downing and I must add to that a mention of Doug Doppler, who opened the show. He is a Satriani style shredder with an underlying display of a diverse range of knowledge and skill. He has a great web presence of instructional videos to selflessly help you broaden your horizons.

This tour is in support of the 2008 release from the Michael Schenker Group In the Midst of Beauty (BMG). He followed that up this year with an acoustic project with Gary Barden called Gipsy Lady (BMG). He also was recently working with the extraordinary producer and guitarist Bruce Kulick on various tribute and collaboration projects which then resulted in the release of Doctor Doctor: the Kulick Sessions in 2008 which is a must have for Schenker fans. If you don’t already have them in your collection, or maybe you have the vinyl or cassette, definitely pick up his first two solo albums which I think are now available on one CD. His guitar technique and his writing style are a part of rock’n’roll history, but more than that, those albums just freakin rock. | Derek Lauer

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