Artist: Michael Schenker Group
Venue: Irving Plaza (New York, NY)
Opener: Lynch Mob, Sister Sin
Label: Independent Artist
July had been a very excellent month for concerts so far but today the buzz across the Metal Republic was all intensely focused on the wedding of Chelsea Clinton………oh wait, I’m mistaken since none of us gave a rats ass about that stuff and instead we were all preparing ourselves for the return of the one and only Michael Schenker Group. MSG had performed over at The Gramercy Theatre last year and this killer show found a revitalized Michael Schenker which was a great treat as the musician had been dealing with “issues” for a couple of years prior to it. Now back on top of his game he continues to tour with singer Gary Barden at the microphone. This tour would continue to showcase the talents of guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay as well and bring along the surprise new bass work of Elliot Dean and legendary drummer Carmine Appice. The tour also gave us two opening bands with Sister Sin and Lynch Mob. Here is how the hot night in NYC went down for those who were foolish enough to pass it by.
Sister Sin: The band Sister Sin hails from Gothenburg, Sweden and delivers a brand of Old School or Traditional Hard Rock that calls to mind the likes of Motley Crue or in some sense just a little bit of Guns ‘N Roses. They are fronted by the stunning Liv Jagrell and it was great to see how much of a commanding presence she was on the stage. The band is currently supporting their latest album on Victory Records entitled “True Sound Of The Underground” which I just got myself a copy of and am enjoying. The band is a four piece unit with guitarist Jimmy Hitula and drummer Dave Sunberg from the album’s roster but their bassist Benton was not on this tour and was apparently moving on from the band. I did not get the name of their touring bass player but he was doing a solid job of the material. There was a lot of energy in the performance and they were tackling tunes from the newest release and its predecessor “Switchblade Serenades”. The down side was that the venue was not yet fully packed as it would seem as though the hardest core Schenker fans were only interested in his set and perhaps some of the tunes of the upcoming Lynch Mob. This is a good band for those who find appreciation is the pure Hard Rock sound and I think that any who missed out on their all too brief set kind of cheated themselves out of something interesting. I hope that they come back soon and on another quality bill and play just a little bit longer. After their set the band would head over to the merchandise tables and hang around to talk to any of those who might have wanted to. Definitely some nice work from this Swedish quartet and I wish them well. Now onto The Lynch Mob who I had not seen in many, many years.
Lynch Mob: The Lynch Mob is of course founded and led by guitarist George Lynch who many know from the band Dokken. Back in the day when he felt it was time to move on from Don and company he formed this group and they had a moderate level of success with songs like “Wicked Sensation” from the album that bore the same name. This tour would unite the guitarist with singer Oni Logan from the bands first album era and together they would record “Smoke and Mirrors”. Given this was a reasonably historic bit of circumstance in the bands life they would focus their material on the debut and this most recent release for the most part. They would open up with “She’s Evil But She’s Mine” and of course Mr. Lynch was ripping up the guitar but unlike singer Oni Logan who was dressed in some suitable Rock show flair, Lynch had a pair of jeans and shoddy looking t-shirt. Maybe I am getting a little particular about ones presentation but for me I was taking it as he didn’t apply and hence didn’t care. Look does add to the memory or a concert appearance and this was deducting points from my opinion of the overall gig from them. The bands rhythm section is bassist Michael Devin and drummer Brian Tichy who are each more than capable dudes for these roles. Devin apparently replaced Marco Mendoza in the lineup and I admit that I have never seem him perform before but he was quite good. Tichy was an easy one though as I had seen him rocking with both Foreigner and Billy Idol and I really admire his solid and tasteful drumming. I have to be honest with you that I was never much the Lynch Mob fan and I guess this was based on my leaning more to the kind of material that he had done with Dokken more than his output in the at the time new project. Logan had a great voice and he was doing well tonight so that made me enjoy it all the more but when it came down to song for song things, it was just never one of my favorite bands. We got a brief guitar solo from George with “Mr. Scary” which was on a Dokken recording and then they blasted us with the ripping “Tooth And Nail”, a song that has remained one of my preferred numbers from the Dokken repertoire. The final number for the group would be “Wicked Sensation” and that song was always a good one even though I had reservations about the band as a whole. The place was packed by the time their set finished so it was clear a lot of people wanted to see Lynch in action as well tonight. After the set I did see some of the band members at the merchandise tables, but did not recall seeing Lynch himself over there but I didn’t really expect that since he would have been bombarded with attention. I would see Lynch Mob again if I had the chance but now the moment that all assembled had been waiting for – The Michael Schenker Group.
Michael Schenker Group: As mentioned earlier, that last US tour found the fans being treated to the return appearance of singer Gary Barden who not only recorded the first two albums in the MSG catalog but is also the voice on the seminal live album “One Night In Budokan”. With the legendary guitarist again teaming up with his original voice, the core of the bands material would be from the bands first two releases and the live album. There are few who would argue about this being the case and it was a pleasant change for those who expected Schenker to deliver an almost even division of material from across his solo albums and his work with UFO. They would open up with “Armed And Ready” which I think is a powerful number to kick things into gear with and then it was onto “Cry For The Nations”; each of these tunes being the start off of the bands own debut recording. It was interesting hearing Carmine playing the drums for these tunes as I am one of those fans that love his playing no matter what it is and I had to say that he was doing just fine on these originally drummed Simon Phillips tunes. I was also enjoying the chance to see bassist Dean rocking it out a little differently than I had seen him do with Cactus not too long ago. It’s rather amusing to watch him play and realize that he is the CEO of a major guitar company. I was not sure if Dean was only doing these East Coast gigs or was handling the whole tour, but either way he was doing fine with the tunes.
Barden seemed to be in a slightly better voice than I felt he was the last time around. The issue I felt was that he was not yet used to doing this as intensely as he used to in his younger years and that takes some practice and regular gigs to get back into proper form. This time around I felt his register was stronger and a little more direct on the melodies. You really cannot say much more than how impressed you are with Schenker’s guitar wizardry and tonight he was reminding us why he is such an influence to many other guitar players of note. He has such a great style and tone and it was all manifesting tonight. I’ve only been covering the MSG shows in my area since about 2004 but I have felt each was an education in the master’s work and I take something away from each of them as a fan of Hard Rock music. Michael is complimented by the second guitar, keyboard and backing vocal abilities of Wayne Findlay who I really feel is a credit to the MSG lineup and has been for many years. He is a fantastic player who seems able to switch up his main instrument at the very second needed and never loses a step. I am very glad to find his continued presence in the MSG lineup in 2010 and hope that nothing changes this.
Carmine would soon lead us into a monster drum solo and this was a lot of fun since the dude is one of the greats. His massive kit sounded killer tonight and Appice really gets you into the solo instead of just leaving you yawning. He was playing on a customized DDrum kit and seemed to be using his own line of cymbals as well. The only down part of this was their configuration as they often blocked the visuals of the face behind the kit and that was a shame as half the fun of listening to Carmine is also seeing Carmine. There were so many highlights with this set that its hard to list them all here without being boring but the ones that stood out most for me were songs like “Into The Arena” and the classic “On and On”, a song that remains one of my favorites to this day. Schenker would pay homage to his UFO tenure with “Lights Out” and this gets the whole audience singing and then it was onto the “Attack Of The Mad Axeman”. The one thing I was feeling this evening was how fast the night was moving and that was not based on the band rushing tunes at all but more a fact of the overall energy being delivered out to the fans and their own excitement levels. To close it up Michael would once again call upon his UFO credentials and give us what have amounted to be his standard closers of “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor”. Sometimes he switches them up but they usually are the tunes that send people home when they would rather stay a little while longer. My only issue tonight was at how little Michael moved around and he didn’t take his eyes off the guitar all that much. The last time around he was all smiles and mugging it up for the crowd but tonight he seemed intensely focused. Maybe he didn’t feel that well and just wanted to play his heart out and get some rest. He certainly did that in spades this evening so that was a good thing.
Closing up I had to say that this was once again a satisfying show from the master axeman and his company of players. If you have not yet seen MSG perform then you need to do it while they still are touring and hopefully with these same musicians in the core lineup. October will find not one but two treats being delivered to fans as a 30th Anniversary concert DVD will be coming out from a recent Japanese tour and a more vintage release as well that presents the band at around the time that the first album had been released. Watch for them.
Lynch Mob Set List:
1. She’s Evil But She’s Mine
2. River Of Love
3. 21st Century Man
4. Revolution Hero
5. Mr. Scary
6. Tooth ‘N Nail
7. Wicked Sensation
MSG Set List:
1. Armed And Ready
2. Cry For The Nations
3. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
4. Ready To Rock
5. I Want You
6. A Night To Remember
7. Carmine Appice drum solo
8. Into The Arena
9. Lost Horizons
10. Rock My Nights Away
11. On And On
12. Lights Out
13. Attack Of The Mad Axeman
14. Ride On My Way – encore
15. Rock Bottom – encore
16. Doctor Doctor – encore
Before the show began we happened to run into the folks in Sister Sin who were heading outside to see what was in the venue’s immediate vicinity. Having sufficient time on my hands before the gig like themselves I suggested we grab something to eat or drink at the nearby Duke’s bar which has become a staple kick off space for this journalist and a lot of his fellow Metal Maniacs. Unfortunately Liv, their singer, needed to do interviews but I would be joined by guitarist Jimmy and drummer Dave. Here is a shot of the guys in front of Duke’s before we went in.
We couldn’t just be touristy and use this shot to pretend we enjoyed some of the Duke’s fare so of course we went inside for a couple of beers. The guys really liked the atmosphere of the place and kicked back a few with me before heading over to their soundcheck. Don’t worry fans, this is Rock and Roll and musicians know how to drink some beers and still kick your ass.
The photo above shows Dave and Jimmy showing off a new tattoo. Dave did a little mustache and was explaining the joke to the lovely bartender Cara and myself. It was super corny so I of course loved it. You cannot see Jimmy’s new ink, but it was not something as silly as Dave’s.
Back inside and after the bands set I caught up with their singer Liv who obliged me with a photo of her sporting the Metal horns. She is also a model if you didn’t know that so take a look around Google for her photos. Some really stunning stuff. I hope that the band comes back soon as I would love to see them again and maybe even hit Duke’s with them one more time.
From time to time I have been trying to capture some of the technical gear used by the artist’s and here is a shot of the pedals and effects being used by Michael Schenker this tour. Since I am not a guitarist I don’t really know what each of them does so you are on your own with that.
Of course the main piece of Tech in Michael’s arsenal is his guitar itself but that is not the reason I am sharing this photo with you. I snapped this to let you see that just below his fingers appears to be a button of some kind that displays his logo. Pressing this button causes maximum Hard Rock damage so watch out if you are standing too close to the action. Next up, Carmine’s stuff.
As you can see the mighty Carmine had a great looking (and sounding) kit for this tour but one can expect that to be the case. The massive unit not only looked big but sounded the same. He was surrounded by his own line of cymbals which are made by Sabian and look closer….
Each drum had this little “Carmine Appice” design on the shell which showed those who could see them up close that the drums were also a signature model, or at least one customized to his specifications.