at the O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., November 9, 2018

MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST (Live at the O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., November 9, 2018)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It’s never quite the same when a lead singer in a band leaves and the replacement sings those songs done by their predecessor. It never quite hits the mark. For legendary guitarist Michael Schenker, a fair few singers have passed through the ranks of his band over the years so this presented him with a unique problem.

A unique problem requires a unique solution, so rather than have vocalists singing past members songs Schenker has invited four of his previous singers back for one huge tour meaning original singer Gary Barden and former Rainbow vocalists Graham Bonnet and Doogie White along with Robin McAuley were back behind the microphone and joined by the Assault Attack-era rhythm section former Sensational Alex Harvey Band men Ted McKenna and Chris Glenn with Steve Mann on keyboards and guitar. What better name for the band than the Michael Schenker Fest to celebrate a festival of Schenker’s music past and present.

Obviously Schenker would open with one of his big production numbers and set things off with a bang, right? Wrong. For someone that was renowned as a shy and retiring type Schenker strode confidently onto the stage alone and proudly announced what lay ahead before starting with a beautifully worked version of the Scorpions ballad, Holiday and with Schenker handling lead vocals himself until the crowd took over in what turned into a rather moving moment.

Schenker then threw the next curve ball and launched into traditional set closer, UFO’s Doctor Doctor which was a smart move providing the spring board for the night and featured all four lead vocalists on stage together.

Over the course of the epic two-and-a-half-hour set, the show was divided into four main parts with each lead singer taking centre stage for their own set, often joined by the others on backing vocals with Doogie White up first singing Vigilante and Lord of the Lost and Lonely from the Temple of Rock albums and Take Me To The Church from the latest Michael Schenker Fest record, Resurrection and a rampant take on UFO’s Natural Thing.

Schenker’s instrumental, Captain Nemo linked White leaving the stage and fellow former Rainbow singer Graham Bonnet entering the stage to be reunited with the full Assault Attack line-up and duly delivered Searching For A Reason and an epic Desert Song from that very album in Bonnet’s signature powerhouse, abrasive style before coming bang up to date with Night Moods.

Bonnet’s exit was followed by the classic Scorpions instrumental Coast to Coast with its foreboding riff and soaring solo seeing Schenker at his very best before original Michael Schenker Group vocalist Gary Barden entered the stage for Ready To Rock and delivered a nostalgic run through Attack Of The Mad Axeman and the riff heavy Armed And Ready from the debut album that started this whole journey off and Messin’ Around from the new record

With Warrior, all four vocalists entered the stage and each sang a verse each and what could have been chaotic was an absolute triumph with the different vocals giving a slightly different approach and feel to the song and visually was a lot of fun as the singers jostled and sparred with each other in a Metal Four Tops sort of way.

In To The Arena, the spirited instrumental from the debut album gave the rhythm section, Chris Glen, complete with a pair of impressive laser glasses and Ted McKenna the chance to show their chops as Robin McAuley entered the stage launching into Bad Boys from the McAuley Schenker days and the pacey Heart and Soul from the current album with his rich, powerful vocals and impressive range sounding every bit as good as they did back in the day.

For the rest of slot, McAuley ran through a classic UFO mini set with Shoot Shoot, Only You Can Rock Me and Too Hot To Handle bringing on a second wind in the already enthusiastic crowd.

Schenker’s centre piece Rock Bottom showed just why he was and still is regarded as one of the finest guitarists of his generation. With his signature black and white Flying V he looked every inch the guitar hero and as his fingers flashed across the fret board the crowd marvelled at his technique and beautiful melodic tone with Schenker looking and sounding better than he has done for years.

With just enough time to squeeze in a lively Lights Out it was all over. Two and a half hours and almost 30 songs later, Schenker had produced an utterly unique show encompassing songs from right across his career making this one of the most entertaining shows on the road at this very busy time of year and one not to be missed.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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