UFO kicked off another tour last night at the Assembly in Leamington Spa (UK), and being my local venue how could I not go along? The Assembly is a wonderful little “art-deco” style venue, opened in 2008 after extensive redevelopment designed by Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen (I kid you not). As well as the front of house decor, it features one of the most surreal backstage areas I remember being in, complete with glitzy caravan once owned by Tammy Wynette and a Dalek (non-functional). However, the best thing about the place is that it’s always possible to get a very crisp sound, something that some venues seem to find challenging, and tonight was no exception. I managed to sneak into the soundcheck, and knew from then that firstly there were going to be some surprises in the set-list, and secondly the sound was going to be spot on.
Reds’Cool, the guest band from Russia, hit the stage at 8 and warmed up the crowd nicely. Never heard them before, but they played a good solid set of down to earth rock, and I’m sure picked up a large number of new fans. To be honest I think they still need a bit of work but the potential is there and their passion and enjoyment was obvious to all.
For the main event, as one comes to expect these days, there was no disappointment. This is a finely tuned band who know each other intimately (in a musical sense, obviously!) and the connection and familiarity between them just adds to the performance: Phil Mogg, Andy Parker and Paul Raymond obviously go back decades, Vinnie let’s not forget has been in the band now for over 10 years and Rob De Luca has been touring with the band since 2012 (although having also stepped in previously). Tonight for me in particular, saw Rob as a really integrated member of the band rather than a “hired hand”, the chemistry is there and I really hope he gets the recognition he deserves, has earned, on the next studio album.
The set itself was, as expected, sublime. Phil was on good form with the banter between songs, and the addition of Pushed to the Limit and the surprise Makin’ Moves were very well received. The former since I’m sure most fans accept 1995’s Walk On Water as a stand-out album in the band’s history, and the latter introduced another Chapman era song that is part of the band’s legacy that most think has been neglected for too long. Ain’t no Baby was also a nice addition to the setlist, as was retention of Cherry, although my personal fave I’m A Loser has been dropped (but guess you can’t have everything). History though is something that Vinnie is happy to embrace, while stamping his own authority on it. As a diehard unashamed Michael Schenker fan I thought I’d never say this, but on tour Vinnie has made Rock Bottom his own, there were some sublime phrases thrown into the solo whilst still playing homage to the original.
If I had any criticism, it would be that the setlist is still very 70’s heavy. Of course, this is what the fans want, but there is still some room to lose some of the obvious songs and showcase some more from the Vinnie era, or even more from the Chapman back catalogue. Someone I was talking too even suggested something from Misdemeanour, maybe one day soon we may see this, but I feel not just yet!
There’s not much more to say about the set (other than the obvious that Baby Blue is now rightly a constant in the list), this is a band on top of their game and what you get is what you know and have come to expect. You want top class rock ‘n’ roll from masters of the genre? Get to your local UFO gig! What more can I say?
As a final note, was as always good to catch up with Kate and the regulars (especially the very talented Rich Ward), and a very special shout-out to Wendi who came all the way over from the States for three of the gigs, was wonderful to see her again, a fellow early pioneer of UFO on the internet!
Phil Mogg, Vinnie Moore, Paul Raymond, Andy Parker, Rob De Luca
Let It Roll
When Daylight Goes To Town
Pushed To The Limit
Ain’t No Baby
Burn Your House Down
Only You Can Rock Me
Too Hot To Handle
Love To Love
Tour continues Warrington (20th), Sheffield (21st), Pwllheli (22nd, Hard Rock Hell AOR), Southampton (24th) and then on into mainland Europe until 8th June. For tour dates see Official Site.