This show was originally scheduled for earlier in the year, but somebody in the Schenker camp had trouble obtaining a visa in a timely fashion, show instead of seeing Michael Schenker at the beginning of the tour, San Jose got to see him at the end, which may mean that we got a tighter show, given that the band got to hone their set in the interim.
Remembering the delays and crappy opening bands from our other RockBar experiences, we got there fashionably late. This meant that we had to park in a nearby neighborhood rather than in the actual parking lot, but I’d rather do that than have to suffer a long wait. I have nothing against opening bands, but as I’ve mentioned before, whenever I attend a mainstream rock/metal show, I invariably end up wishing I’d missed the openers. The last time I saw Michael Schenker is no exception.
We got inside in time to see Gundriver, who supported Schenker last time too. I didn’t like them any better this time. The bass player who’d been part of Schenker’s group at the last show was playing with Gundriver this time out. He’s still an oddball, and entertaining to watch, but that didn’t help the rather pedestrian music any.
The audience was the usual assortment of middle-aged rocker types, and a large percentage of them spent the entire evening holding their phones in the air, recording every moment so they could flood YouTube with tons of craptastic video footage the day after, or perhaps so they could brag that they were there. It was very distracting, and put a damper on the fun. I fantasized about having a slingshot so I could knock phones out of hands. It’s always a shame when the audience diminishes the experience.
There was nothing wrong with the performance though! It was great seeing ex-Scorpions members Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Bucholz (bass) playing alongside Schenker. Doogie White is still providing vocals, and like he did last time, he did a great job. He seems like a nice guy too, which is always a plus. The band is rounded out by guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay.
The set list, as predicted, featured a lot of Scorpions and UFO classics. My favorite Scorpions moments were the great instrumental, Coast to Coast, and Holiday (the latter was truncated, as it was performed as an encore medley with UFO’s Natural Thing). For once, the band didn’t limit the Scorpions songs to the last Scorpions album that Schenker played on, so we also got versions of Rock You Like A Hurricane (which is from the album that made me lose interest in Scorpions) and Blackout (which was nice to hear again – I don’t think I’ve listened to that record in decades). No doubt the presence of Rarebell and Bucholz in the line-up inspired these choices. They, after all, did play on those albums.
As for the UFO songs, there were no surprises. The band kicked off their set with Doctor Doctor, and over the course of the evening, played Lights Out, Let It Roll, Rock Bottom, and the aforementioned Natural Thing. The biggest problem with the UFO and Scorpions songs was that every time they would play one, a forest of cell phones and video cameras erupted from the crowd (see rant above). It reminded me of this recent study. Not only do some people not listen to new bands after the age of 33, but they don't even seem impressed by new songs from old bands.
As for the newer songs, I was really impressed by Lord of the Lost and Lonely. It has kind of a folk-metal vibe to it, and wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Skyclad album. Based on that song alone, I’m going to have to buy 2013’s “Bridge the Gap”. It’s good to discover that Schenker is still cranking out memorable songs. Vigilante Man is also good and heavy in a more straightforward way, with memorable vocal melodies and a nice, chugging riff. Check out the official video here.
The biggest surprise of the evening had nothing to do with the song choices. During the encore, I suddenly realized that there was an extra guitarist on stage, and he proved to be none other than Kirk Hammett. I’m not a huge Metallica fan these days (I haven’t seen them play since the mid-eighties, and the most recent album I have by them is “Master of Puppets”, unless one counts “Garage Days Re-revisited”), but it was cool to see Hammett up there onstage, so obviously enjoying himself. Schenker looked like he was having a fine old time too, and this somewhat made up for the annoying crowd. There was even a mention of the moment over at Blabbermouth, complete with some video footage, no doubt filmed by one of the audience members I was ranting about earlier.
It was hugely crowded too. Jeanine mentioned that she’d heard it advertised on the radio, which might explain it. There were a number of my friends there, but we didn’t see any of them. Afterward, we left quickly, avoiding the temptation to buy Herman Rarebell’s biography at the merch table.
It was interesting seeing two ex-Scorpions guitarists at the same venue only months apart. Schenker is one of my favorite guitarists, and as always, he delivered. That said, Uli Roth is probably my very favorite rock guitarist, so the Uli Roth show has the edge for me here. I like the older Scorpions songs better than the newer ones as well. I'm still trying to decide whether to go see the Scorpions later this year. After seeing these two shows though, it seems like the thing to do.
Check out the set list here.
Michael Schenker Facebook page here.