UFO came to Birmingham on 4th March as part of the UK leg on their current 2013 Seven Deadly tour, and despite a flooded gents oozing (hopefully water) over the auditorium floor, and their tour bassist Rob De Luca suffering from a heavy cold, they put on quite a show to a packed and enthusiastic audience. Said audience was warmed up nicely by the Greek support band 4Bitten, and although having missed all but their last two songs due to having nipped out for something to eat (best burger I’ve ever eaten courtesy of the Handmade Burger Co. in the Bullring, but that’s another story), what I did catch sounded great, and the place was heaving by the end of their set which is always a good sign.
The Library in the Birmingham Institute is not the most visually appealing of venues, and you would not expect its acoustics to be particularly brilliant to look at it, but the sound was spot on and crystal clear from my vantage point near the back (next to the sound desk incidentally!). The band appeared on time, and the current set list doesn’t mess about, launching straight into the staple tracks Lights Out followed by Mother Mary to ensure that there is no doubt that they mean business. It’s testament to the strength of the latest release (Seven Deadly) that then immediately following with that album’s opening track, Fight Night, belies the 35 year gap between the songs as they seamlessly follow on. The remaining set is then a mix of new and old, wonderful to see Cherry back in the list, also a nice surprise to see Venus included, but shame to have lost I’m A Loser once more. However, with such an extensive back catalogue to call upon, and certain songs that have to be included to avoid a riot, it is impossible to please everyone all the time! In any case, the final four (split by the obligatory walk off stage) are the classics you expect and would finish off the night as a resounding success even if the rest of the set list had been a complete turkey.
As for the band, it is hard to single out any one member above the others, the performance was tight, energetic, and just blew you away: as you’d expect from a group that has been together for what seems like a lifetime and been extensively touring the past year. The only “new comer”, Rob, fitted in perfectly; the only way I knew he was feeling under the weather was because I had seen him backstage before the gig. As a true professional, once on stage, that was put to one side and he rose to the challenge admirably. Frontman Phil Mogg was, as always, outstanding. One of the great rock voices of all time, he once again gave a faultless performance, and provided the expected in-between-song banter (a Brummy stood next to me seemed to take offence to some of it, but since he was half-cut I don’t think that can be a criticism). I’ve said it before that his voice seems to get better with age, and tonight was no exception.
Vinnie Moore once again proved why he is such a valuable member of the band, and why he has lasted 10 years in the lead guitarist role. His playing on the old classics stay true to the originals but with an added twist, and the songs he has been responsible for gives him the opportunity to let rip, adding an incredible energy to the band. Playing an entire solo with the guitar on top of his head was a little unnecessary, but highlights what a great talent the guy is (Wikipedia claims he is “one of the most influencial and important guitarists to emerge out of the virtuoso boom in the mid to late eighties”). Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Schenker’s playing, and the last “classic reunion” gave us the sublime Walk On Water, but Vinnie epitomizes the current state of UFO, and long may it continue. As they played Venus, it did actually strike me that Walk On Water was, in fact, released 17 odd years ago, and yet is thought of by many hardcore fans as a more recent release. It is hardly surprising that things have moved on!
That leaves the two stalwarts of Paul Raymond and Andy Parker (the former incidentally has just released a new Paul Raymond Project album, Terms and Conditions Apply which is well worth getting hold of). As you would expect, they both gave it their all. Along with Phil they have been in the band so long they could play most of the set in their sleep, but neither sit back on their laurels and play as if it were the 70’s all over again to rapturous applause. Andy let rip his intentions from the off and never looked back providing the continuous and pounding heartbeat to the band. Paul’s rhythm guitar and keyboards (Love To Love just wouldn’t sound the same without him) added the final pieces to a wonderful evening’s jigsaw. The whole band is a well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine, with no weak links, and plenty of life left in it.
The tour continued into Spain, and then goes to Germany and Brasil before returning to Europe for the festival season, dates can be found on the Official Web Site.
As always, a big thankyou to the band and management for making me feel welcome, you are all real gents, and special thanks to the inimitable Kate, won’t leave it so long next time!
Let It Roll
Burn Your House Down
Only You Can Rock Me
Love To Love
Too Hot To Handle