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TOKYO 21st/22nd November


Tokyo Onkyo

The banners, posters, flyers and T-shirts all announce ‘Michael Schenker 50th Anniversary’ and over those fifty years, we have seen an amazing amount of talent on the bass, drums, keyboards, rhythm guitar and vocal spots take the stage with him. For two nights, at Michael’s favourite venue in Japan, the Nakano Sun Plaza, we see the latest incarnation which marries Steve Mann (g,v) and Bodo Schopf (d) from his band back in the late eighties with newcomers Barend Corbois (b) and man of the moment, Ronnie Romero (v). The quintet has just released their first album together, Universal, which received excellent reviews, several of them mentioning how good they think the material will sound live. Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say. Lights down, the intro tape of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell plays and the sold out venue erupts.

Opening with Into The Arena is a masterstroke as being an instrumental, let’s us feel the gel of the band before the vocalist starts to do his stuff and right from the off, this is obviously not the Michael Schenker Fest with a half a dozen guest spots. They are tight, aggressive and forceful and have the old school feel of a band even though it’s only the guitarist’s name blazoned across the backdrop. Bodo is a powerhouse on his own but when coupled with Berand, they are a runaway freight train; Steve effortlessly flits between guitars and keyboards, a natural for this group and easy to see why Michael made him Musical Director. The man himself, with his trademark Flying V, is playing a blinder but as we shall see later, he’s only just warming up.


Enter Ronnie Romeo for Cry For The Nations. Since he burst onto the scene with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow shows in 2015, he’s been working solid on a number of projects and it’s fair to say that with Gary Barden’s, Graham Bonnet’s and Robin McAuley’s  - to name but three - shoes to fill when singing the classics, he has a hell of a job of winning over the audience. Two songs were all it took. He nailed the Barden classic like he had sung the original. Straight into Doctor Doctor after that and he delivers it with the presence and projection, the way Phil Mogg always did in UFO’s heyday. Ronnie also looks more comfortable on stage, dressed in a loose shirt and jeans, he has grown his hair and handles the mic stand well.


Make no mistake though, the star is Michael and as the night rolls on, he gets better and better. The critics were right by the way, the newer material does sound great live but Michael has opted for crowd-pleasing set. Drawing heavily on his UFO years, it is apparent he is enjoying playing them again, giving them a new lease of life. Lights Out is breath-taking; Rock Bottom, a song he has rarely not played, is delivered with conviction and extra flourish. There is no encore as such, the band just keep teasing ‘do you want one more’ until they take their bow and leave the stage. Suddenly the houselights are back on and we are back to reality. For an hour and a half, Michael showed us why he has remained one of the greats for fifty years and the audience left in no doubt that it will not be long before the mad axeman returns with, arguably, his best line-up for decades.


Set List (both nights)

Into The Arena

Cry For The Nations

Doctor Doctor

We Are The Voice

Looking For Love

Red Sky

Sail The Darkness


Lights Out

Armed And Ready

Assault Attack

Rock Bottom

Shoot Shoot

Let It Roll

Natural Thing

Too Hot To Handle

Only You Can Rock Me

Bernie Trios.jpg



Conquest Music

There are very subtle differences how Americans and British musicians play the Blues and I can’t explain them, I just hear it when I listen to the music. It’s all great no matter which side of the pond they come from and there are levels of competency of course. For me, one of those British greats is Bernie Marsden and I used to put him on a par with Clapton way back in the 70s when I first saw him with Whitesnake. Bold words indeed from a music journalist but if you doubt me, just listen to his new album and then try and prove me wrong.


Aptly titled as Trios – a reference to it being the third in this series of albums where he pays tribute to his influences and this time, paying tribute to the great Rock trios – every single note on this album is…perfect. It is a constant flow of glorious Blues riffs, licks and solos from the opening chords of Beck, Bogart & Appice’s take on Don Nix’s Black Cat Moan to his cover of Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Glam Rock stomper, Na Na Na, a record he played on in 1974 and used the same guitar to record this time around


In between those two there are selections from familiar names such as James Gang, Cream, Robin Trower and Hendrix but Bernie has never gone for the obvious cover so many of you will discover some great songs here. Big names on the song-writing and original performance credits then and any guitarist is brave to take on Hendrix but Bernie is not only well up to the task, in some ways exceeds as he does throughout. That said, you never get the feeling Bernie is trying to better the originals, he’s just paying his respects in his own way and the best way he knows how: Hendrix, Johnny Winter and Leslie West will all be up there listening to this, giving each other high-fives and a collective thumbs up to Mr Marsden.


It’s easy to hear where Bernie came from in every track but hand on heart, I have to say my favourite solo on this is the very last one, at the end of Na Na Na. The main difference on this version is that the bass ending on the original is replaced with one of Bernie’s rocking out solos (with a little nod to Cozy’s Dance With The Devil) and you can easily imagine Bernie’s schoolboy grin when playing it. It’s just delightful, as is the entire album.


Track List

Black Cat Blues

Driftin’ Blues

Funk #49

Never In My Life

Outside Woman Blues


Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo

Same Old Story

Spanish Castle Magic

Too Rolling Stoned

Na Na Na

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