Almost exactly a year ago I got a copy through of the latest Temple Of Rock album, ‘Spirit On A Mission’. One play through was all it took for me to decide that the band had created something very special and over the past twelve months the CD has rarely left my car CD player but it has never lost that initial impact.
Tonight was to be my first chance to hear the new tracks live as I had missed the band playing their support slot at the tail end of 2015 with Judas Priest. Considering that Michael and co had been in Scotland a couple of months previously tonight’s venue, although not the biggest, had a healthy crowd in attendance who were enjoying the music of support band Venrez as I took my seat.
The latest Venrez opus ‘The Children Of The Drone’ was another album which crossed my path for review last year. It didn’t quite capture my imagination as ‘Spirit’ had, but it was a decent listen which was reminiscent of Alice In Chains.
Frontman and band founder Venrez was a successful Hollywood film producer before turning his hand to rock. Now three albums in he and multi- instrumentalist Jason Womack are developing their own sound which is gaining confidence and popularity. The band is completed by drummer Ed Davis and newest member, bass player Cynthia Gillet, a former French kick boxing champion and one time bassist with Billy Ray ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ Cyrus.
The band put in a solid set culled from all their albums, but they never really set the crowd alight. The main reasons for this are that the songs tended to meld into one, a muddy, bass heavy sound didn’t help, and a crowd waiting for the short sharp classic rock of Schenker weren’t too receptive of the band’s sound. Venrez and the rest of the band left the stage to polite applause but tonight I don’t think we saw the best of the band.
The anticipation in the hall for Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock was palpable and as the lights dimmed a huge cheer filled the Queens Hall, a venue more used to hosting chamber orchestras than ageing rockers. As Michael picked out the opening bars to ‘Doctor, Doctor’ the cheers grew louder and as ‘that’ riff kicked in much bouncing ensued.
Michael has stated in recent interviews how much he is enjoying being on stage now and it certainly shows. All through the show he had a beaming smile across his face and he played up to the front row at every opportunity. This enthusiasm obviously rubs off on the other members of the band as all on stage looked like they were having a ball.
First new track of the night, ‘Live And Let Live’, followed before another classic in the shape of ‘Lights Out’. The new tracks from ‘Spirit On A Mission’ featured heavily throughout the night with a total of six being played. What was interesting to see was how well these newer songs blended in with the Schenker classics and how well received they were by the crowd.
The classics kept coming covering all of Michael’s back catalogue from his Scorpion and UFO days to his MSG heyday. ‘Lovedrive’, ‘Victim Of Illusion’ and ‘Natural Thing’ served to remind everyone of Schenker’s rich back catalogue and his contribution to classic rock. It’s not all about Michael though, frontman Doogie White was in sparkling form spurring on the crowd to scream and clap along whilst never missing a note vocally. Doogie has sung with many bands over the years and has to be one of the most under-rated vocalists in rock.
The Scorpions’ instrumental track ‘Coast To Coast’ served to highlight the other musical talent on stage. The ex-Scorps duo of Herman Rarebell on drums and Francis Buchholz on bass are one of the best rhythm sections in rock and, along with Wayne Findley on guitar and keyboards, prove the perfect foil for the guitar maestro. Together the band make things look so effortless and operate like a well-oiled machine.
Another kind of machine which impressed was ‘Saviour Machine’, another new track which has a huge, chugging riff. The song saw Michael appear with his latest addition to his guitar arsenal, a double necked Dean flying V, which he used to good effect. By now the Edinburgh crowd had loosened up nicely and the temperature in the room was rising with every track.
Two songs in particular pushed things to boiling point, the first being ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ complete with the usual Herman Rarebell singalong, and the main set closer ‘Rock Bottom’ which featured a stunning extended guitar workout from Schenker.
‘You want more?’ shouted Doogie, of course we did! ‘Attack Of The Mad Axe Man’ found Michael once again playing up to the front row, this was followed by the last new number of the night ‘Rock City’ which featured excellent double bass drumming from Herman Ze German. That only left another Scorpions’ classic, ‘Blackout’, to round off yet another fantastic night for the disciples at the Temple of Rock.
Schenker and co are a group of kindred spirits on a mission to rock every city and tonight Edinburgh was rocked to its very foundations. A stunning display by a stunning band.
Review and photos by David Wilson, except where stated
Album review and interview (Spirit On A Mission)
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 July.. In the first hour David pays tribute to the blues/rock guitarist Peter Green.
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