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UFO / Heavy Metal Kids - Brighton 2012 Hot

Added by James Gaden     April 27, 2012    
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UFO and Heavy Metal Kids at Brighton Concorde 2, 03/04/2012. Photo by Ola Czaplinska.

Although UFO’s Southampton gig was closer, I decided to attend their Brighton gig due to the fact the legendary Heavy Metal Kids were supporting them at this venue as one of their dates on this tour. Despite running late we made it in time and were able to position ourselves at the front of the barrier in good time to see their set. Still featuring original drummer Keith Boyce and guitarist Cosmo they’ve only just suffered the loss of original bassist Ronnie Thomas prior to the tour for personal reasons and after just two rehearsals they were able to throw Ronnie Garrity (most recently seen  with Joe Elliott’s Down’N’Outz) straight into the action alongside relatively new frontman and bonafide rock star Justin McConville.

A raucous forty minute set ensued treating the appreciative near sell-out crowd to such classics as ‘Hangin’ On’ from their debut, which opened the set, plus ‘A Hundred Skeletons’ from 2003’s ‘Hit The Right Button’ comeback album. They also covered ‘The Angels’ (or ‘Angel City’ if you prefer) Marseilles from 1978 and Montrose’s ‘Rock Candy’ as a touching tribute to the sadly recently departed Ronnie Montrose. Cosmo has seen and done it all before, yet you sensed by his playing that he was loving being in the limelight again playing to big audiences as he fired off big fat blues based riffs one after another with a contented smile and his lead work was unflashy  yet succinct enough to satisfy the connoisseurs. Keith Boyce kept a loud presence behind his drumkit as he showed plenty of variety and substance to keep the pace pounding along and new boy Ronnie Garrity looked entirely unflustered and seamlessly made his subtle presence felt.

It was Justin however, who really stole the show throwing his six foot plus presence into the faces of the crowd. as he really rocked it up with some juicy riffs and an energised performance. My grinning girlfriend remarked that the Brighton stage wasn’t big enough for him and I’d be inclined to agree! Throwing shapes and belting out his vocals he really reminded me of the Almighty’s Ricky Warwick on so many occasions, especially as they share the same Celtic heritage. It really was a surprisingly good performance as it could so easily have been just a lame pub band going through the motions. They grabbed this opportunity like the metaphorical bull by the horns and rode the damned beast into exhaustion.  There was just enough time however to bring back original bassist Ronnie Thomas on set closer and rabble rouser ‘She’s No Angel’ (from ‘76’s ‘Kitsch’ album) as Ronnie G. left the stage to warm applause. If Gary Holt was watching, I’m sure he would’ve had a smile on his face.

UFO need no introduction to the cognoscenti. There was no big fanfare, no big dramatic introduction. No lights, lasers or flash bombs going off to announce their arrival – just the opening riff to ‘Mother Mary’ as virtuoso guitarist Vinnie Moore turned up, plugged in and let rip. Bassist and comeback kid Rob De Luca, replacing the absent Pete Way, looked serene and happy to be back in equal measure as Andy Parker, reliable and fitter than you’d think was possible belying his years and excesses of the past, pounded his drumkit with aplomb. Paul Raymond the oldest member of the band at a scarcely believable sixty-six, looked as though he could play ‘til the following morning and then the lean and impudent Phil Mogg strolled onto the stage and opened his pipes. But not the kind that featured gentlemen’s powders that allegedly fuelled all of his ‘70’s excesses, these were of the larynx kind and feature a more blusier, reverential tonal quality to go with his beguiling nature and excursive soliloquies. Phil held centre stage as newbies ‘Fight Night’ and ‘Wonderland’  were aired in typical UFO ‘suck it and see’ fashion with Phil extolling the quality of the new album.

And during the end solo of ‘Wonderland’ and also just before ‘Loser’ was played, as Phil was regaling tales about bad acid trips, one of the crew members in a gorilla suit bounded on stage. Those not in the know with the in-joke may have also failed to notice  the soft-toy monkey on the top of Vinnie’s Marshall Stack which was a reference to Phil’s insistence on talking about monkeys, particularly on ‘Wonderland’, from the new album. And another subtle reference for the sharp eyed among us was the Knorn identification in place of Marshall among Vinnie’s Marshall Stack referring to their manager and ex Victory bassist Peter Knorn. Phil hadn’t expected that and allowed himself a slight chuckle before they launched into ‘Loser’.
‘Mojo Town’ and ‘Burn Your House Down’ were the third and fourth numbers to get a workout from the just released ‘Seven Deadly’ whilst ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ featured some amazing imitation Schenker tonal qualities and nuances from Vinnie. It was clear that Vinnie and the younger Rob had the energy to throw shapes and move around the stage compared to the relatively static Paul, although to be fair, he had to double up on keys and the frankly exhausted looking, at times, Phil, but as a complete package it worked. Vinnie’s solo in ‘Love To Love’ was simply awesome and his subtle harmonising during ‘Rock Bottom’ was mesmerising with the extended solo being a guitar player’s dream.

Rob De Luca is simply the perfect fit for UFO in Pete’s absence and his fat sound and astute bass lines perfectly complimented the powerhouse drumming of Andy Parker behind the kit. Where does that man get his energy from? In fact, don’t answer that. I’m. sure he drinks herbal tea these days. Paul Raymond didn’t miss a note as far as I could hear from either his keyboard or guitar and in between all the music and banter on stage Phil couldn’t resist denigrating his guitarist at various intervals throughout the evening. One such dig aimed at Vinnie was that Vinnie doesn’t know any history of the USA other than George Washington and the Boston Tea Party and another cursory remark was thus: ‘You’ve got to tolerate these Americans’ in one of his Anglomania ramblings. Of course Vinnie took it all in good humour with a resigned shrug as this is who Phil is and he isn’t about to change for anyone, but it’s easy to see how the impassive but sensitive Michael Schenker was driven crazy by it.

UFO were expected to roll out the favourites and didn’t disappoint with an explosive version of ‘Lights Out’ and a rocking ‘Too Hot To Handle’. It was good to hear ‘Hell Driver’ from 2009’s ‘The Visitor’ but highlight of the show for me was ‘Venus’ from the ‘Walk On Water’ album. That was exceptional! Naturally they came back for an encore and blasted us out with ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ to leave the UFO die-hards beaming from ear to ear. ‘No Place To Run’ and ‘Chains Chains’ from their ’80 and ’81 albums have been dropped from the set-list and of course there was nothing from their highest charting UK album but critically ignored ‘Mechanix’ long player but something had to give to incorporate the new songs. UFO have lost none of their appeal despite all the set backs on previous tours, particularly with Michael, culminating in THAT particular notorious and shambolic gig in Manchester several years ago. But they’ve managed to put that all behind them and in Vinnie they have Michael’s equal in talent but not only someone able to take all that Phil and Paul can throw at him, but a stable influence and strong presence on stage. If this is UFO’s future then the future is bright.

Carl Buxton

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