Michael Schenker Group
w/ Robin McAuley
March 24, 2012
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by John Presada
The Michael Schenker Group with Robin McAuley wrapped up their triumphant
six-week tour at the Coach House with a hard rockin' 16-song set that never
ran short on energy or enthusiasm. Of course, Michael Schenker is, as of this
writing, already on the road with a completely different band, so this show
was especially poignant. Whether McAuley will get called back to active duty
in the near future is anyone's guess. As it stands, nothing is scheduled,
so the Coach House could have very well been the last McAuley-Schenker show
we'll see for the rest of the year.
Joining Schenker and McAuley were Pete Holmes on drums, Rev Jones on bass and Wayne Findlay on guitar and keyboards. Together, the five musicians covered a wide spectrum of Michael Schenker's career from UFO right up to a number from the guitarist's 2011 solo release, Temple Of Rock.
The stocking cap pulled tightly down over his skull, practically shielding his ears; head hung low as he straddles a Flying V Schenker baby-stepped his way to his side of the stage for the opening instrumental, the classic "Into the Arena." When McAuley popped out, they launched into another MSG favorite, "Armed And Ready." The singer held a confident command of the stage, singing the songs as if they were his own (some actually are).
A blast through a couple of Scorpions tunes, "Love Drive" and "Another Piece
Of Meat," most definitely enticed the already feisty mood of the audience.
"Lover's Sinfony," the lone offering from Temple Of Rock, reaffirms the ongoing
musical relationship between Schenker and McAuley, who sang on the studio
track, while "Save Yourself," the title track from the second McAuley-Schenker
album that came out in 1989, is one of the highlights from the duo's distant past.
McAuley was especially strong on another early MSG classic, "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" before he submitted the remainder of the night to Schenker's UFO years. No fewer than eight of the legendary British-based hard rock band's best songs were played out in grand fashion. As identifiable as these songs are with UFO singer Phil Mogg on the vocals, McAuley delivered the melodies without breaking a sweat. Schenker, of course, dazzled the audience with those trademark solos, executed with a renewed vitality and sense of pride. Indeed, now that the guitarist has sobered up, his playing sparkles with urgency and flair.
The barrage of "Shoot Shoot" got the place hopping, but hearing an inspired rendering of "Love To Love" really sweetened the pie. When "Let It Roll" and "Natural Thing" were pulled up, it was like a UFO fan's wet dream come to life. I'd be surprised if the current incarnation of UFO pays this sort of homage to their classic catalog. Hurtling down the homestretch with "Lights Out," "Rock Bottom" and "Doctor Doctor," it's hard to imagine any other place at the moment was rocking as hard as the Coach House. Realizing it probably couldn't get any better, the band ended the show without an encore and exited as swiftly as they entered.
It's likely Schenker had a plane waiting to whisk him off to Japan for another round of shows, playing a lot of the same songs with Findley, Michael Voss on vocals,
Elliott Rubinson on bass and former Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell. Then it's off to Europe with Findley (apparently the only constant in MSG), Rarebell, former Scorpions bassist Francis Buchholz and singer Doogie White.
It must be maddening for any Michael Schenker fan who wants to know who he's going to play with next.At this stage in his career, he's obviously trying to work
everyone in. Who knows maybe he'll turn back to his old band mates in UFO
for another reunion. Then again, a career retrospective show seems to cover
all bases, unveiling a cache of killer riffs the guitarist has been scratching
out for over 30 years. It would appear, Michael Schenker is doing everything
right these days without hitting rock bottom.