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UFO at B.B. King Blues Club NYC: (09.29.04)

According to my referencing, the band UFO has not toured here in the United States in almost 9 years. Perhaps more. It was good to see them doing some dates for us as they are really considered among the more influential of the early metal forces. The band is currently supporting their latest release on SPV Records entitled “You Are Here”. This is a really rocking CD, which lends more to the sound of a band like Bad Company more than what one would expect from UFO. However, this is not a bad comparison if you ask me. The lineup has found some difficulty with this tour as originally Phil Mogg was not able to get his VISA in order, and now as result of similar issues, Pete Way (bassist) would be staying behind. In his place would be Barry Sparks, who most recently has toured with Dokken and Ted Nugent. Paul Raymond was still there out of original members while on guitar we have Vinnie Moore and on drums Jason Bonham (son of the Legendary John).

UFO was going to be playing three shows in the immediate NYC area, with two in Manhattan at BB Kings, and one at the Starland Ballroom. While I would be in attendance for the Starland show, traffic and a mishap at the club caused me to miss all but the encore material. Luckily, I would be able to get some coverage from the first of the BB Kings shows. These were rescheduled performances which actually required fans to re-purchase their tickets. I was curious as to how packed or not packed it would be as a result of this. The venue had set up tables this time around, so the fans were able to order drinks and food, while others left room in the front to jump around while the band played. I did not find it to be overly crowded that night, but cannot gauge a number purely because of the tables making the guessing a bit off. Despite this however, the band delivered a rock solid evening of music. I was also told a longer set was being played by the bassist Barry Sparks himself, who we stopped in the street to say hello.

The UFO Set was clearly full of some of their best numbers. Here is the run down for everyone: Midnight Train, Mother Mary, When Daylight Comes To Town, Let It Roll, Out On The Streets, This Kiss, Wild One, Riding Man, Rock Me Rock Me, Baby Blue, Mr. Freeze, Love To Love, Too Hot To Handle, Lights Out London, Rock Bottom, Doctor Doctor (encore), Shoot Shoot (encore).

Oddly enough, those who attended the recent appearance of the Michael Schenker Group will notice many similar tunes. Yet in one fashion this is a little better for Phil is the voice of UFO so it sounded closer to the records with those songs. The new CD “You Are Here” was featured here but not overly played as some artists are apt to do when a new release comes out. As a fan of the “Mechanix” CD I was very sad to not see any of those tunes showcased especially my favorite “Let It Rain”. Perhaps when they return, whenever that will be. I also have to say that this time the venue sounded pretty good and I am thinking that since UFO is a little more contained in their sound that this was the reason. I have seen some great bands at this place, yet never been impressed by the sound until now. This time however, everything was crystal clear. Phil’s voice was beyond impressive and clearly has gotten only better over time. Vinny Moore’s playing speaks for itself (I even got a guitar pic which was cool). While I would have liked to see Pete Way on the bass, I always enjoy the performance of Barry Sparks for he truly rocks. I also was very pleased with the performance of Jason Bonham. He has so much of his Father in his playing that I feel John looks down and smiles.

--Ken Pierce

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