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Schenker, Michael: Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo (CD / DVD)
After getting his career trajectory very much back on track with the "Temple of Rock" studio releases and some well-recieved live shows Michael Schenker returned to his MSG roots in August 2016 for this performance at Tokyo's International Forum in front of an audience some 5000 strong that celebrated the much-loved 80's band. And there was a real treat in store as the show featured no fewer than three former MSG frontmen in the shape of Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Not only that but another couple of MSG veterans, bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna made up the rhythm section with Steve Mann also returning in the traditional role of additional guitars and keyboards. Released on 24 March in a variety of formats including an appealing 2 CD / DVD set, Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo harks back to the halcyon days of 1982 and the timeless One Night At Budokan and as the man himself reminisces "it was like Budokan all over again".
Schenker has been in fine form over the past few years and his performance here is exactly what you would expect, grinning into the camera from ear to ear during 'Into The Arena' and giving any budding guitarists a masterclass in how it should be done. What follows is a history of MSG in chronological order as firstly Gary Barden enters the stage for 'Attack of the Mad Axeman' and more from the first two MSG albums that made the band into one of the great Hard Rock acts of the early 80's. The bridge between the Barden and Bonnet eras is marked by 'Coast to Coast' which always provides a terrific instrumental interlude. It is easy to overlook Assault Attack as of course the former Rainbow man was out of the band before they had chance to tour behind it but Bonnet acquits himself well on the title track, 'Desert Song' and 'Dancer'. It is good to hear these somewhat underrated songs finally performed on the same stage by the vocalist and guitarist.
After another instrumental bridge by way of 'Captain Nemo' it is time for Robin McAuley to join the band for 'Save Yourself' plus a couple of other highlights and then we are very much into UFO territory with the classic Schenker-era trio of 'Rock Bottom, 'Shoot Shoot' and, of course, 'Doctor Doctor' which features all three vocalists back on stage to provide a fitting finale. There would certainly be an audience for this set should Schenker decide to tour behind it although with the ongoing success of Temple of Rock that would seem unlikely. However this will soon have you dusting off those worn out copies of One Night At Budokan and is a terrific show from all concerned.
01. Intro: Searching For Freedom
02. Into The Arena
03. Attack Of The Mad Axeman ft. Gary Barden
04. Victim Of Illusion ft. Gary Barden
05. Cry For The Nations ft. Gary Barden
06. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie ft. Gary Barden
07. Armed And Ready ft. Gary Barden
08. Coast To Coast
09. Assault Attack ft. Graham Bonnet
10. Desert Song ft. Graham Bonnet
11. Dancer ft. Graham Bonnet
12. Captain Nemo
13. This Is My Heart ft. Robin McAuley
14. Save Yourself ft. Robin McAuley
15. Love Is Not A Game ft. Robin McAuley
16. Shoot Shoot ft. Robin McAuley
17. Rock Bottom ft. Robin McAuley
18. Doctor Doctor ft. Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley
Added: March 10th 2017
Reviewer: Dean Pedley
Related Link: Artist Website
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|Schenker, Michael: Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo (CD / DVD)
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-03-09 16:34:12
Michael Schenker really is having his cake and eating it. Not content with having released some of the best studio work of his illustrious career through the recent Temple Of Rock albums alongside vocalist Doogie White. Schenker has also begun to really dig deep into a hugely impressive career and re-embrace the music that he made his name with. Arguably this release is the best example of that willingness to acknowledge the love his fans have for his earlier work, the pioneering rock guitarist teaming up with three of his previous Michael Schenker Group vocalists to remind us just how good the work they created together is.
Hence this release (available in 2CD, clam-shell-box DVD/2CD, Bluray, vinyl and digital formats) finds the German guitarist reunited with original MSG singer Gary Barden, his successor in the band, Graham Bonnet and the man who changed the 'M' in MSG from Michael to McAuley; Robin McAuley. Adding to the occasion, captured at the Tokyo International Forum Hall A in August 2016, MSG band alumni, bassist Chris Glen, drummer Ted McKenna and guitarist and keyboard man Steve Mann, complete the line-up.
Dubbed Michael Schenker Fest, the idea was a simple one where a chronological romp through the MSG catalogue is the order of the day. Cleverly, each section of the show opens with an instrumental, "Into The Arena" opening the show before Barden hits the stage in a glimmering silver shirt and mighty fine voice. In fact, so good is his performance, it's hard to believe that the singer has had little luck in making an impression outside of his MSG years. His performances on "Attack Of The Mad Axeman", "Cry For The Nations" and "Armed And Ready" engaging and exciting.
The Scorpions instrumental (Schenk was in them too (twice) remember) "Coast To Coast" bridges the Barden into Bonnet eras nicely, the ex-Rainbow singer looking the elder statesman in his dapper suit and thin tie and while it takes him a little while to settle into "Assault Attack", his delivery on "Desert Song" and "Dancer" (the latter with Barden and McAuley on backing vocals!) are much nearer the mark. In fact, it's to Schenker's credit that a few strained vocals and the (very) occasional bum note are left on show to give a real, true, honest representation of the display you're watching. It would have been understandable if they'd all been airbrushed out of earshot, but in truth, they actually add to the welcome feel that you're attending the show, rather than watching a studio touched up rehash.
Having only recorded the one MSG album - Assault Attack - and never having had the opportunity to tour those songs, Bonnet's time on stage is shortest, "Captain Nemo" aired to segue into the Robin McAuley part of the show. If Barden and Bonnet acquitted themselves well, the ex-Grand Prix man simply hits it out of the park. The more commercial rock sound he and Schenker created across three studio albums illustrated perfectly through the excellent "This Is My Heart", "Save Yourself" and "Love Is Not A Game". McAuley then leads us through Schenker's musical roots, the UFO pair of "Shoot Shoot" and "Rock Bottom" handled perfectly.
Throughout the whole show Schenker grins form ear to ear (something beautifully captured by the multi-camera set up, while the sound on both the CDs and DVD is superb), as he provides a guitar masterclass. Whether he's kicking out the classic riffs of his songs, or ripping through a solo slot, the man has simply never been in better form and long may it continue! Fittingly he is united with all three vocalists for set closer "Doctor Doctor", the rabid crowd lapping up the UFO classic just as they have all the memories this scintillating show rekindled.
Surely no right minded Schenker fan needs any encouragement to invest in this thoroughly terrific set. However, anyone interested in bristling, riff laden hard rock will be completely bowled over by what they'll find here. If 2017 provides a better live release, I'll be very surprised indeed.
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