|Photo by Anthony Crawford|
Coming fast on the heels of his best album in decades, the German guitar legend is playing with his well known fire and precision, but he's now added fun and enjoyment to his repertoire, along with the best sidekick he's rode with in ages - Doogie White brings a lot to the party, and perennial sergeant-at-arms Wayne Findlay is steadfast in his role. Bolstered by the rock steady Pete Holmes on the drums and the whirlwind that is Rev Jones on a fine collection of Dean basses, the band absolutely thrilled the capacity crowd at the rock 'n' roll oasis that is the M15 club in Corona, California.
Of course, with the Schenker organization there are always some hurdles - tonight's hurdle was being looked at like I had five eyes when I suggested to the door guys that I was on the band's guest list. After the usual looks like you're trying to steal the family jewels, I diligently found my way back to the band's tour bus, and got things sorted out. I'm not fond of bugging band members before a show, but I'm also not fond of driving almost three hours to be denied access to where I am supposed to be. Onward and upward.
|Photo by Hidenori Saito|
Michael Schenker has been rebuilding his place in the world of rock guitar heroes over the last five years, and he's done an amazing job. He woke up one day to find that he suddenly found playing on stage to be a joy, and for someone like myself who has stood on the stage for a great many shows when he didn't exactly feel that way, the difference is astounding. He smiles, he struts, he sings, and he plays - oh yes, how he plays. While his dexterity may have been a bit better twenty years ago, he's now taking chances, adding spontaneous improvisations and melodic inventions that give great glimpse into his considerable compositional skills. A perfect balance of the phrases that have made his every solo a classic, but some new twists to thrill even the experienced connoisseur.
|Photo by Sandii Simental|
Doogie White has a helluva job on this tour - he's facing fans who've been relegated to accepting a seemingly never ending revolving door of Schenker front men, none of whom have been around long enough, or occasionally perhaps talented enough to make the band their own. Well, that's been fixed. Since making his American debut back in the late '90s with the final episode of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, White has never left the scene, and has grown steadily as both a singer and writer. He's now hit a personal apex and seems to have found a home. Schenker, it would appear, finally has a foil who can take some of the weight off of his back. White tackles the work of Mogg, Bonnet, Barden, and Klaus Meine with gusto and admirable chops. He's also a first rate performer who obviously has a great time on stage, not being overwhelmed, or overshadowed by the mad axeman.
|Photo by Anthony Crawford|
This is Michael Schenker, and even with my tremendous respect for the job Mr. White is doing, it was hard to take my eyes off the man himself. It's great to see him interacting with the audience, graciously accepting the adoring eyes and hands of the front rows, all while firing off volleys of notes that held many experienced fans (including myself) in pure rapture. Schenker is in great physical shape, and seemingly has the energy of a twenty year old - this was his 59th birthday, and he was notably more animated and energized than any musician in the endless stream of opening acts - I hope they stayed around and watched how it should be done. Especially notable was listening to much of the crowd singing along with cuts off the new album - that hasn't happened in many years with this outfit, and it's good to see. The show was marred by a unnecessarily long break when Michael's rig went down, and it took the tech a lifetime to figure out that it was a bad cable. Still, it's a relief to see the maestro walk off the stage and then return with a smile, and not a tour cancellation.
|Cake and Photo by Sandii Simental|
I'll be following this tour across the country, and look forward to seeing what the already impressive band sounds like with a month and a half of shows under their belt when they return to the West Coast in February.
Thanks to Chip Ruggieri, Michael Schenker, Doogie White, Wayne Findlay, Tommy Cesano, and especially to all my friends from the Michael Schenker Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/144919215611375/)!