MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK / COLDSPELL
First show of the year... And first concert in two months. It was a long time since I had been at a concert like this and the dry-season sure boosted my expectations to the max. Also, the fact that I was finally going to see Michael Schenker live again made the hours before the Stockholm show unbearable. The anticipation for what was about to come and my nervousness made me really excited for this one.
Swedish COLDSPELL were set to warm up the crowd for both shows. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard their name prior to these events but after checking them out, I realized that I’d been missing out. Classic Hard Rock straight from the early MTV dates in Sweden is perhaps not the most innovative but it was a fresh break from all IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST clones who have been getting most of the attention in the Swedish scene these days. And when a band strikes from below and manages to get the crowd’s response with good and catchy tunes and one hell of a groove, it's extra special.
That was absolutely the strongest thing with COLDSPELL; very catchy songs, easy to take in but for that sake, not molded in the same shape. Both “Heroes” and “Angels Of The World” went down really well but then, “On The Run” and “Infinite Stargaze” that followed were the ones that really got me hooked. Not even the pre-recorded keyboard parts bothered me especially even if I absolutely prefer to have everything played live. It’s actually quite rare that bands can use pre-recorded stuff and still get the live-vibe and groove in the way COLDSPELL did. In Stockholm everything sounded perfect, while in Malmö, the keyboards sounded a bit like an old tape. I guess this happens when you turn up the recording volume a little too much adding distortion over everything. This was nothing that took away the good experience though. In fact, it was even more fun to see COLDSPELL on the second night since I was more familiar with the songs and all the good impressions from the night before made me really excited to see them again.
Since I’m not all that familiar with COLDSPELL’s music, I’m not 100% sure of the set but, if remember correctly the Malmö one was cut short. The video track “Paradise” was the final one in Malmö but not in Stockholm. This was a bummer, since I really enjoyed the CINDERELLA oozing “Straight Things Out”, which cut through the other rather polished tracks. This rocker was a surprise, different but worked very well for the band. On the other hand, it’s always positive to see a band changing the set as and not get tied into a specific timing just because of the pre-recorded instruments.
I also reacted on guitarist Michael Larsson’s guitar sound. Although it felt rather distant hearing it standing alone as if the effects had taken most of the edge. Together with the rest it worked really nice though but sure felt processed. It was really fascinating to watch him play too and it all looked so smooth and easy. He seemed to hardly have to touch the stings to get all these notes out and it all sounded fantastic.
So yes, COLDSPELL impressed me. I really enjoyed their melodic Hard Rock and what’s not to like if you have a good band putting on a good show and play great songs.
COLDSPELL (Stockholm) setlist:
02. “Angel Of The World”
03. “On The Run”
04. “Infinite Stargaze”
05. “Night Falls”
07. “Straight Things Out”
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So, it all started off very well. Not that COLDSPELL’s good performance did me less nervous though. I was anxious while waiting the clock to strike gig time and the murmur in the venue went off as soon as Michael Schenker was led to his side of the stage and got his guitar served. I got goose-bumps all over my body as the first few notes of the so very familiar “Doctor Doctor” started flooding from the speakers. Getting Michael’s speaker cabinet straight in the face gave me time to study and listen. The one thing that got me hooked in the first place was his amazing feel for melodies and the clean and beautiful tone in his playing. And it’s so wonderful to get the opportunity to hear it all as close as Debaser Medis and KB allowed it. In general, his sound is a very basic Marshall sound, rather rough and unforgiving so it surely exposes every flaw. But it all sounded so amazing, so very clean and precise. Also Michael’s energy is outstanding these days, how he struts around stage, his smile and interaction with the crowd are amazing.
“Live And Let live” followed and from the first note Doogie White was impressive. There are not many who possess the power and depth in Doogie’s voice and hearing him sing gives hope for the entire scene. I mean there are still new super talents coming who can fill the gap to some extent at least for the ones who have passed over to the other side. It feels like, when Doogie entered the band it all got very stable. All the times I’ve seen Michael live he’s been fabulous so I have a hard time to believe the bad reviews appearing here and there. But after this second TEMPLE OF ROCK album “Bridge The Gap”, all reviews and reports I’ve read have been very positive. And looking at the band onstage, they seemed to have such a great time. It was the end of the tour but their energy was still on top. Doogie complained about a sore throat though but if that affected his singing as he claimed, it was nothing I noted at least.
It is especially fun to hear the UFO classic “Natural Thing”; this is a fantastic song that sounded even more amazing live. Then, the TEMPLE OF ROCK song “Before The Devil Knows You're Dead” really showed the range of Doogie who in this song was very close to the heart and sound of Ronnie James Dio, something that no one have managed to replicate fully.
But these nights were even more special than this, in the band there were also the ex-SCORPIONS members Herman Rarebell on drums and bass player Francis Buchholz, both very good musicians and this was damn cool to see them onstage. The songs selected were up-tempo ones in “Lovedrive” and “Coast To Coast” and later also “Rock You Like A Hurricane” in the main set. I must say these tracks sounded very different with Doogie singing them. Not bad, just different. And also, no matter how good Doogie is, it’s still hard to reach the range of Klaus Meine. Maybe it was his sore throat that set him back...
I was a bit surprised of my own reaction on a few songs. I had a really hard time to come to sense with Doogie’s voice on “Too Hot To Handle”; for sure he has much more power than Phil Mogg but he didn’t manage to capture the spirit in the way Phil does it. And then, “Rock Bottom” closed the pre-encore set and I believe this is one of the greatest songs ever written; everything sounded perfect. There is nothing to beat the way the mid-tempo bridge was sung in both two nights. And I think Vinnie Moore was outplayed by Michael (I saw UFO with JUDAS PRIEST two months ago), the solo he did, especially in Malmö was spine-chilling. Vinnie’s solo was great but it really doesn’t get better than what Michael did here.
The thing I was most nervous about was the setlist and that I wouldn’t get any of the ones I really wanted to hear live. I had low expectations that any McCauley Schenker Group songs would end up in the set, but that none of my favorites from the TEMPLE OF ROCK albums would show also. So, I was really happy about the heavy “Saviour Machine”, where Michael brought out his M-guitar, which really a double-neck flying V, W or M, M makes more sense so why not? The thing with it was that the two guitars had rather different sound in between them which made it even cooler I think. And then perhaps even more so for THIN LIZZY oozing “Good Times”; I love that song and I always hit the repeat button a couple of times when it shows in the playlist. But the biggest surprise was absolutely “Lord Of The Lost And Lonely”. I really like the tongue-twister verse and the extremely catchy chorus. For the introduction to “Good Times” Doogie told a story about the good old days hanging out in bars. His Scottish accent is so charming, it’s hard to understand it on occasion but it makes him both human and untouchable in one sense. His charm is what shines through most times though.
I can’t say I missed the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP material, only two songs in the set, “Victim Of Illusion” which was very cool and first out of the encores “Attack Of The Mad Axeman”. Not during the gig at least, but thinking back, it felt a little strange that it was rather many UFO songs and very few MSG songs. If I’d get all the songs I wanted to hear, it would have been a four-hour show or something like that, so I shouldn’t complain. The shows were amazing, I’m happy I could catch two of them, and on the same time, I'm disappointed I only managed to go to two. Michael and the band were all in top shape, and the joy they showed on stage sure was contagious. It’s hard to believe that more than half the band is a bit over 60 as the energy was on top throughout the show.
What I really like with these old school musicians is that the music felt so alive; it’s a huge difference to see it live than listen to a record. I mean, the records are, of course, good but the vibe and the nerve becomes so much more present when getting it all loudly in your face. So, can it be that the first show in 2016 also becomes the best one. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was the case.
MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK setlist:
01. “Doctor Doctor” (UFO song)
02. “Live And Let Live”
03. “Lights Out” (UFO song)
04. “Where The Wild Winds Blow”
05. “Natural Thing” (UFO song)
06. “Before The Devil Knows You're Dead”
07. “Victim Of Illusion” (MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP song)
08. “Lovedrive” (SCORPIONS song)
09. “Coast To Coast” (SCORPIONS song)
10. “Vigilante Man”
11. “Saviour Machine”
12. “Too Hot To Handle” (UFO song)
13. “Good Times”
14. “Lord Of The Lost And Lonely”
15. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” (SCORPIONS song)
16. “Rock Bottom” (UFO song)
17. “Attack Of The Mad Axeman” (MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP song)
19. “Blackout” (SCORPIONS song)
MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK (Stockholm)
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MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK (Malmö)
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