Artist: Uli Jon Roth
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Leslie West
Label: SPV Records
Tonight was going to be an interesting one to say the least and how could it not be the case when you consider how the great Leslie West from Mountain was going to be sharing the stage with the one and only Uli Jon Roth from the legendary Scorpions. Fans might recall how this pairing was originally supposed to be a part of a “Three Guitar Heroes” triple bill that would also feature Michael Schenker but issues in getting proper transport for the recently operated on West proved to be impossible to secure and found the events postponed. Fast forwarding a few months to where we are now found Schenker on a tour of his own and unable to commit to the original plan for the foreseeable future which left us all with only West and Roth. “Only” I say. Like this is actually a bad thing. For tonight’s show I decided to approach the coverage differently since I was attending the event with my whole cadre of creative support and not only had “Joltin’” Joe Kaufman with me but also the “Stupendous” Skeleton Pete. Each were decade’s long fans of the axe slingers on the stage so I said “let’s all write about this one” and that is what we did. Check out the scoop if you somehow missed out on this incredible night of music.
Joe Kaufman Speaks about Uli Jon Roth’s First Set: What’s better than hanging out with friends and catching a show with a guitar legend? Rocking out at a show with two guitar legends. Uli Jon Roth and Leslie West. While to some this may seem like an odd combination. I found it to be a night of fantastic music. It is always a special event, when legendary musician/guitarist Uli Jon Roth makes a rare appearance in NYC. Uli was the first to hit the stage with a band consisting of Himself, and 2 other guitar players, drums and bass and a singer. Opening the show with “Sky Overture” Uli’s playing was incendiary, laying down stellar runs on his Dean made Sky guitar. Next was a powerful version of “Land of Dawn” with contained some great guitar interplay and dual runs between Uli and his young side guitar players.
Next was energetic “Firewind” from the album Firewind. Once again having great dual guitar work. Another highlight was killer “A day late and a dollar short” An Ian Gillan song from his 2006 album “Gillan’s Inn”. Next was a Scorpions classic, “Sails of Charon” a personal favorite from the Scorpions days. It got even better when they opened up and jammed on the song a bit. That is why live music is great; you can hear a musician take the music to new heights. Closing out the set was a powerful rendition of Hiroshima: Enola Gay from “Firewind”
Over the entire first rocked and amazed, but that was just a prelude for what was to come…
Skeleton Pete Speaks about Leslie West’s Set: B. B. King’s Bar & Restaurant on Times Square in NYC was recently the scene of a knock-out juxtaposition of guitar styles floating somewhere between heaven and Earth. The January 31, 2012 line-up which paired Leslie West’s blues wail with the classically tinged “Sky” music of Uli Jon Roth was a guitar lover’s dream. Not surprisingly the venue was packed with six string enthusiasts.
For the uninitiated, West’s star rose in the late 1960’s with the group Mountain. Often viewed as the heirs to super group Cream’s throne, the band had the gift of double firepower with Bassist/Producer Felix Pappalardi sharing lead vocal duties. Along with drummer Corky Laing and keyboardist Craig Frost they formed one of the most intuitive jam bands of the late 1960’s – early 1970’s. Their extended forays through songs like “Dreams of Milk and Honey” often eclipsed Cream’s noodling with focused riffing and real band interaction.
This past year West was hospitalized for complications due to diabetes which sadly led to amputation of part of his leg. At the BB’s show he brought his wife to the stage for a public thank you for “saving my life” before launching into Mountain barn burner “Never in My Life” as a dedication to her. Who writes riffs this grand anymore?
West’s set began with the lilting guitar lines of The Impressions’ “People Get Ready”. As he began to sing Curtis Mayfield’s timeless lyrics the audience spontaneously erupted with applause and shouts of “We love you Leslie” which continued well into the song. He was truly choked up by the outpouring of love and appreciation and returned it in-kind with an outpouring of emotion from his guitar. West’s signature vibrato and phrasing is always a joy to hear and his singing can still blow you out the back door. Tucked between Uli’s two sets, Leslie served up a “tasting menu” of his career including “Blood of the Sun” (from his 1969 solo album), tore through the smoldering licks of “Theme For An Imaginary Western” (always a tribute to Felix,) Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and of course “Mississippi Queen”. He even threw in a snippet of his solo set piece with the “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” pen-tone motif, using his volume control violin effect. Backing West was fellow Long Islander Bobby Rondinelli, who has drummed for nearly every heavy band of note, and Bassist Rev Jones (Michael Schenker Band, Mountain, and Steelheart.)
Never one to allow political correctness get in the way of a good laugh, Leslie jokingly invited Uli back to stage with “Where else are you gonna see a Jew and a Nazi play together.” West and Roth jammed through the blues chestnut “House of the Rising Sun” and “Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down”. It was great fun to hear them play off each other, though I personally would have loved to hear them take a stab at “All Along The Watchtower”, which served as Uli’s second set opener.
Ken Pierce Speaks about Uli Jon Roth’s Closing Set: Wow. What can I add to this that has not been said already? Clearly this was an incredible night of melody and skill that few would ever forget. As Pete already noted, Uli had just jammed with Leslie and was now kicking off the final part of the fun with “All Along The Watchtower”. He would follow this with Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and his band was smoking so I wanted to give them a little mention as well. On vocals Uli had Piero Leporale and this was my first time seeing him on the microphone. He did a fantastic job as did the rhythm section of Michael Ehre and Martin Motnik. What surprised some fans was how Uli had on stage with him not one but two additional guitar players in David Klosinski and Andre Mertens. These two talented slingers had won the German Robert Johnson award in 2011 and were also students in Roth’s Sky Academy. They were superb additions to the night’s proceedings and truly showcased some skills. I would say for fans of guitar to make note of their names to watch out for them in the future. Uli would end the set with “I’ve Got To Be Free” which is of course another classic Scorpions tune.
After the show Uli and his band hung around the venue meeting any of the fans who wanted to say hellos. It was awesome to see this being the case and being done for free. Too many shows are charging a premium price for this kind of thing and I don’t always think that this is fair in these dire economic times. Uli was very accommodating to the entire find that I saw him interact with and he really truly seemed to be happy to be back in New York City. What an amazing show and one that I can say if you missed it, you missed out. Let’s hope Uli and Leslie come back soon with headlining shows of their own because the guitar players of New York City and music fans alike clearly love what each of them bring to the table.
Uli Jon Roth Setlist:
1. Sky Overture
2. Land Of Dawn
4. A Day Late And A Dollar Short
5. Sails Of Charon
6. Hiroshima: Enola Gay
7. All Along The Watchtower
8. Little Wing
9. Well Burn The Sky
10. In Trance
11. I’ve Got To Be Free
Leslie West Setlist:
1. People Get Ready
2. Never In My Life
3. Theme from an Imaginary Western
4. Blood of the Sun
5. Blowin’ in the Wind
6. Mississippi Queen
You just knew that I was going to showcase the venue marquee for the world to see didn’t you? Good because here it is.
Between sets I hit the backstage area to catch up with some of the people I was there to help broadcast to the world about and met for the first time Mr. Keith St. John. Keith was singing for Ronnie Montrose for awhile and one of their performances at this very same venue was reported on the site for your concert archive indulgence. That night I learned that Keith was now the singer for the once again active Quiet Riot. They would actually be performing here tomorrow night and in case you were wondering we would be here to report on the show.
Here is Rev Jones in front of the banner and motioning for a friend to ring him up. We always love watching Rev play and remember him from a number of tour that Michael Schenker Group did. He kicks some ass on the bass that is for sure. He was a fine addition to the Leslie West band lineup and helped make it a power trio’s power trio.
I just had to snag a shot of Keith and Rev since they were in the same place at the same time.
Next up is Keith and drummer Bobby Rondinelli. Our friend Larry got himself in the photo as well but that is okay sometimes.
Here is Uli’s bassist Martin Motnik. I enjoyed speaking to him in the venue that night and was happy to be able to snare a candid shot of him in front of the B.B. King’s banner backstage.
At the close of Leslie’s set both he and Uli jammed for awhile and hypnotized the packed venue. Let’s face it, its one thing to play the same show at different sets and another thing entirely to see them rocking out together for everyone’s benefit. I shot a few minutes of this with the ever trusty Panasonic Lumix. I hope you enjoy it.
Here’s a taste of Uli Jon Roth and band doing “All Along The Watchtower”. What an amazing song in his hands, even though its already a very amazing song in the first place. I was way across the venue when I was shooting this so please pardon a couple of the flubs and movement. Still came out alright.