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Concert Review - March 2016

UFO
March 11, 2016
Gas Monkey Live
Dallas, TX

By David DiPietro
Photos by Michael Insuaste

UFO Still Defies The Test Of Time!

UFO @ Gas Monkey Live Photo by Michael InsuasteDespite being punched in the gut by ex-guitarist Michael Schenker numerous times from the '70s to the '90s, UFO just keeps going and going, while still boasting 3 members of the classic lineup.

Phil Mogg, Andy Parker, Paul Raymond and company landed at Gas Monkey Live Friday night for what was a powerhouse, hour and 45 minute concert that highlighted their multifaceted, 47-year career.

Taking the stage at 10:30 to a packed crowd and a sea of raised fists, the band proceeded to shock longtime fans when it launched into a careening, "We Belong to the Night." This tune came as a surprise, since it was recorded during the era with Paul Chapman on guitar and those 3 albums had not been touched live since 1983. It was refreshing to hear.

Mogg, 67, who was dressed dapperly in a black shirt and trousers, with black suspenders and sporting a shaved head, was in excellent vocal form throughout the night. Indeed, he probably sounded the best I have heard him live since 1977.

"Fight Night," featured some scintillating leads from guitarist Vinnie Moore, whom, despite 13 years of service in UFO, is somehow still considered the "new guy."

"Run Boy, Run," from the band's latest LP, A Conspiracy of Stars, had a surprisingly somewhat more bluesy feel than typical UFO power chording; it added another color to the band's sonic palette. Closing in on 50 years of service (in 2019), the band still finds it necessary to challenge itself and experiment.

"Lights Out" (a number about the Nazi's bombing London), was given a slightly slower, heavier treatment than on LP and is a bullet of a tune the group usually keeps in their arsenal to unleash late in the set. It sounded kick-ass and brought the show to an early crescendo, with drummer Andy Parker bashing the tune out on his cherry wine-colored double bass Tama kit, with seemingly effortless ease. Parker is one of rock's more criminally overlooked time keepers.

It must be said at this point that the sound at Gas Monkey Live tonight was flawless, with each tune being dialed in and tweaked all the more. This was not the case my first time there to review Jane's Addiction and I assumed it was the acoustics of the venue. I assumed wrong. Jane's sound man must just simply have been as smacked-out as the band themselves looked.

UFO @ Gas Monkey Live Photo by Michael Insuaste

"Rollin', Rollin'," also from the latest album, sounded loud and crisp. It was also a reminder to the Dallas audience that there were joints to be smoked and the air inside Gas Monkey proceeded to get more and more purple as the evening progressed.

Bassist Rob DeLuca has done an admirable job of stepping into UFO during original bassist, Pete Way's debilitating sabbatical. DeLuca plays the notes on paper fine, but as I have said in other reviews of UFO, it is the intensity and the lilt of Way's playing that is irreplaceable. Way is supposedly doing better health wise, I hear, and his return to UFO, if it happens, will be a welcome one.

"Venus" led directly into a crunching, "Only You Can Rock Me," which I still scratch my head, as to why it was not a hit in 1978. The song is an anthem.

By the time the band hit a blazing "Burn Your House Down," UFO were doing just that. Paul Raymond (who joined the group in '76) was missed greatly during his absence, from the mid-80s to 2003. Raymond helped define the 'classic' UFO sound with his ability to multi-task on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals and this 'clarity of sound' was evident tonight on the next two numbers, "Cherry" and prog power ballad, "Love to Love."

UFO @ Gas Monkey Live Photo by Michael Insuaste

"Cherry" was all over the radio in '78 and is probably the reason "Only You Can Rock Me" wasn't the hit: DJ's were too busy playing the song on the other side of Obsession, as well as the 45 released on it. Dallas got a deluxe treatment of it tonight. It sounded exactly like the album.

What can be said about "Love to Love?" I would say it is the third power ballad ever, after Deep Purple's "Child in Time" and "Stairway." Regardless, it is a classic that I never get tired of hearing. Tonight it was at once shimmering, tender and bombastic, hitting more climaxes than a Turkish whore.

"Messiah of Love," segued into the second biggest surprise of the night, another Chapman era song, "Makin' Moves," which Mogg mistakenly identified it as being on the Mechanix album (it's actually on The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent).

An idea for the script of Spinal Tap II occurred later, when he humorously got the name wrong of his latest album, calling it "Curiosity" of Stars, while introducing the tune, "Messiah of Love."

In his defense, Mogg laughed and made light of it and corrected himself. When you have 22 studio albums out and are nursing your 3rd Stella Artois of the set, the slip-ups are more than understandable, if not applaudable.

UFO @ Gas Monkey Live Photo by Michael InsuasteThe transplendent "Rock Bottom" rattled the rafters and could have done severe damage to an older venue such as the Granada. In short, it was sublime; a mini-metal symphony, that signaled the end of the set proper.

If you have followed the group closely at all, you knew "Doctor Doctor" was coming next, as well as one of 3 others: "Too Hot Too Handle" (surprisingly eschewed), "Let it Roll," or "Shoot, Shoot."

The Gas Monkey Live crowd got the latter.

"Doctor, Doctor" is a signature cut and helped herald the heavy riff-age that would 6 years later translate into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Released in 1974, it was electrical epiphany. Tonight it ebbed and flowed as usual and if you used some imagine, Moore's fret board work was not as far off Schenker's as many people would lead you to believe.

"Shoot, Shoot" closed the night out in solid fashion and gave the Dallas Cowpies some much-needed cowbell. Many of the mostly late 40s to late 50s crowd were singing along and reliving their mid 70s youth and I think it is safe to say nobody felt cheated.

With the glaring exception: Beers being $10.00 apiece!

That Gas Monkey Live actually also had suckers sitting in "VIP Suites" (i.e., glorified booths) that cost over $300, was not only hysterical, but it should be considered a form of rape.

In summing up UFO's career to date, there was a time (1978) when you couldn't walk into Aladdin's Castle (a local shopping mall arcade), or turn on KZEW and not hear "Too Hot to Handle," or "Cherry." At that point, I figured the band was on the cusp of major success and that there was a possibility of UFO being the next Led-Zeppelin.

Of course this didn't happen, as Schenker's temper, dependability and substance issues clutched defeat from the hands of victory, more than once.

That UFO has flown on, 36 years after I saw what I thought was their death knell at the old Ritz Rock and Roll on Harry Hines, is not only unidentified, but flying and objectively: other-worldly.

UFO Live @ Gas Monkey Live "Rock Bottom" Dallas, TX 2016


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