Gig review: X-UFO – Merton Manor Club, 29 June 2013

When is a tribute band not a tribute band? Well, X-UFO make no pretence to be a rival to Phil Mogg’s evergreen UFO, but the collective pedigree of the members exceeds many bands who trade under a  name with only tenuous connections.

Danny Peyronel’s keyboards were a major factor in 1976’s No Heavy Petting being the classic album that it is; and guitarist Laurence Archer and drummer Clive Edwards were the respected figures Mogg and Pete Way turned to when they reformed UFO in the early nineties and cut the underrated High Stakes and Dangerous men album. Even the fourth member, bassist Rocky Newton, did a stint with Michael Schenker.

After dipping their toe in the water a year or two back they have regrouped with an expanded set list and a busier touring schedule, on this occasion taking them to one of my favourite venues. The Merton Manor Club is not only a return to my roots, having been born a mile or so up the hill in Wimbledon, but is a lovingly unspoiled working man’s club, with cheap beer prices to match.

While the UFO classics are all present and correct, from openers Let it Roll and Natural Thing to Shoot Shoot and Mother Mary, as a UFO fanatic one of the selling points was hearing songs rarely played in their static setlist.

Suitably, they dusted down some gems they had a role in creating including a trio from High Stakes- the excellent Backdoor man, She’s the One and in particular Love Deadly Love, which I had forgotten about but came over as a son of the classic Lonely Heart.

It was also a rare treat to hear two of the best numbers from ‘Petting’ in Highway Lady and Can You Roll Her. However I was frustrated that they showed one of the shortcomings of the X-UFO set up, which is that with Danny almost exclusively singing, with only the odd turn at a tiny keyboard, the songs miss much of the subtle ivory tinkling from him and his successors that gave UFO an added dimension.

 While not perhaps the most gifted singers, he is an endearingly eccentric frontman with witty asides delivered in an affected English gentleman’s accent. The band were very impressive with Laurence confirming my view he is closer in melodic style and feel to Michael Schenker than current incumbent Vinnie Moore, and even has the same studious pose of stooping head crouched over guitar, while both he and Rocky provided spot on backing vocals.

The biggest surprise of the night was at various stages to hear three new songs, Do Me Wrong, Busted – with a riff taken straight from the Tygers of Pan Tang’s Suzie Smiled- and House of Lies, all of which were more basic than UFO but showed great potential.

They nestled comfortably alongside the classics- Only You Can Rock Me, a great Rock Bottom that ended the set, and of course perhaps the greatest of all, Love to Love, though, anticipating how Laurence would tackle the solo, my attention was distracted by Danny picking up his keyboard and using it as a keytar.

By the end the cheap beer was talking as fists were punched and shapes thrown to the evergreen Lights Out and Rock Bottom, making for a lively atmosphere.  However the real revelation of the evening was that X-UFO are leaving the tribute thing behind them and forging an identity of their own.

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan


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