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Michael Schenker Group with Uli Jon Roth: Wreck Room NJ (09.16.04)

Michael Schenker Group has returned to the NY Area once again, and this time the appearance is all the more special. Seeing MSG is always a guaranteed good time for fans of the Guitar God for he is a leader in the field of hard rock guitar. However, this time he would be supported by the one and only Uli Jon Roth who many will remember as the guitarist in Scorpions many years ago.  While Uli has been a solo performer for a long time it was not until discussing this appearance with fellow fans that we realized that while Michael does not tour here often, Uli had not been to the United States in almost 20 years.

Uli Jon Roth performs his set with a rhythm player and a keyboardist. Many of the drums and lush orchestrations that are on his albums need to be programmed and performed via computer for these live shows. One cannot travel a small club tour overseas with a full company of string instruments. As his backdrop was a unique sight as behind Uli was a projected movie screen that showed wild psychedelic images or the orchestra accompaniment. Uli dresses very Rennaissance styled with a large feathered hat, and a shirt that matches this era, it actually went along well with his orchestra compositions. He also has a Hendrix look insofar as his manner of dress.

Sadly, shortly after his set began something went amiss with the computers. It disrupted his playing that he ran to it, and disconnected the cable from it. While the keyboardist and other techs worked out the issue, Uli made a funny comment about what happens when we trust technology and he played on. A true pro at all times jamming on some things the audience was yelling for and some that he could do without the computerized musicians. You could tell by the smile on his face that he was enjoying his warm reception at the club.

Uli’s set pretty much went like this for those in need of reference: Sky Overture and then “Spring” from Vivaldi's Four Seasons which he calls “Venga La Primavera”. Then he did “Metamorphosis” which is the Title track from the latest album and his own interpretations of various themes from Four Seasons. This is where the system crashed. "Little wing" by Hendix, Scorpions' “Sails of Charon”.

He also did pieces of other Scorpions' tunes “Virgin Killer”, “Fly To The Rainbow”.
He also did a song from his Beyond The Astral Skies album ( the 3rd Electric Sun Album) but I can't remember the name. He also did Hendrix's “All Along The Watchtower” and the Hendrix-inspired bit with the bar and effects.

There was a large amount of diehard Uli fans in this audience, and for all of them the added treat was the fact that Uli walked around the club and posed for pictures and talked to them. I think this was a great thing to do since so many of those folks had been waiting for the chance to see Uli perform live for so many years. Sadly, far too many people do not know of the level of playing he is capable of and as a result his gigs suffer from it. This might be the last time he plays over here for years once again, but I am hoping this will not be the case.

Next up would be The Michael Schenker Group. These guys always play a full set of killer numbers. This time around his set ran like this: Are You Ready, Mother Mary, Assault Attack, Let It Roll, Fat City, Lights Out London, Because I Can, Rock & Roll Believer, Arachnophobiac, Fatal Strike, Only You Can Rock Me, On And On, Too Hot To Handle, Attack Of The Mad Axeman, Armed And Ready, Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom. For those that saw The MSG in an earlier run of the area this year, there was not much difference in the set as you will see. It makes sense since this was the second leg of the tour for his record “Arachnophobiac”.

Joining Michael onstage once again would be Chris Logan (Vox), Wayne Findlay (keyboards/guitars), Rev Jones (bass and mayhem) and Peter Holmes (drums). Sadly I felt the venue worked against them a little bit, because there is a high and apparently metal ceiling. Some sounds were bouncing off the top and I spoke with Michaels soundman who said they were having a heck of a time getting a great sound from the place. Some things were too loud in the PA, which made the vocals sometimes hard to appreciate and the keyboards of Wayne almost absent. Michael sounded great as always and bassist Rev Jones adds a lot of fun to the performance since he is absolutely crazy onstage.

Chris Logan while a great frontman does not do a lot of talking and instead leaves more time for songs which is what the fans (mainly guitar players in the crowd) wanted. There was a brief drum solo by Peter Holmes which is very impressive for those only familiar with his work in Black And Blue. After the set, (which ran almost 2 hours) Michael sat behind the merchandise booth to sign his  CD’s and Videos. He was able to pose with fans for pictures and sign whatever else they had brought. I saw a lot of guitars being signed and he really seemed to be loving the interaction with the fan base. Even I took a picture with him.

I really recommend trying to catch him when he comes around again for it is really great to see one of hard rocks pioneers still kicking some ass. Especially since he does not do long tours.

Michael Schenker Homepage: www.michaelschenkerhimself.com 

--Ken Pierce


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