Michael Schenker - 'Michael Schenker Fest: Live - Tokyo International Forum Hall A'

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Michael Schenker - 'Michael Schenker Fest: Live - Tokyo International Forum Hall A'

If you are a Michael Schenker/Hard Rock fan, then go and buy a copy of this album – you will not be disappointed.

German guitar legend Michael Schenker has been back at the very top of his game over the past few years; he has been releasing albums and extensively touring with his Temple Of Rock featuring Doogie White and the ex-Scorpions rhythm section. Schenker last year decided that it was time to celebrate his past and in particular his Michael Schenker Group catalogue including McAuley/Schenker. So he rang up vocalists Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, bassist Chris Glen, drummer Ted McKenna and keyboardist/guitarist Steve Mann and suggested the Michael Schenker Fest! This "group" performed at the Sweden Rock Festival and then played three shows in Tokyo. This recording is from the second night in Tokyo and boy what a show!

Schenker has recorded two of my all-time favourite live albums – UFO's 'Strangers In The Night' and MSG's 'One Night At Budokan' – and this new release is up there with the best of them. I find myself lucky enough to be reviewing the 2CD/DVD package. 'Into The Arena' kicks the show off with Schenker riffing away in fine form and soloing as if his life depended on it. He's running about the stage, grinning and interacting with his devoted fans. Barden then joins the fray as the blonde bomber lets loose on 'Attack Of The Mad Axeman', he can't hit the high notes these days so sings in a lower key and still sounds pretty decent. The crowd are going mad for it (well by Japanese standards anyway) and during 'Victim Of Illusion', 'Cry For The Nations' and 'Armed And Ready', Schenker doesn't drop a note, in fact he adds a few! His guitar playing is astonishing and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing as I have recollections of my youth. Glen is pulling silly faces throughout and McKenna and Mann are doing a sterling job. Everybody is enjoying themselves and it shows.

Next up is the Scorpions classic instrumental 'Coast To Coast' and then Bonnet enters into the arena. It's great to finally hear him singing 'Assault Attack' and Desert Song' after all these years. He appears in his classic look – shades, jacket and tie and slicked back hair – with his voice still sounding extremely powerful. Barden and McAuley join him on backing vocals for a rousing version of 'Dancer'. Metal Mickey's guitar playing continues to be exemplary.

'Captain Nemo' is the final instrumental and the band run through it as if their lives depended on it. McAuley then returns to the stage. He sounds in great voice; in fact, his voice sounds exactly as it did thirty years ago as he storms through the more melodic MSG era with tracks like 'This Is Your Heart', 'Save Yourself' and 'Love Is Not A Game'. We are then treated to UFO classics 'Shoot Shoot' and 'Rock Bottom' and McAuley does them proud. Of course, this is Schenker's time to shine (even more) and he shows why he is the master of the six string during his extended trademark work out on '...Bottom'.

The concert finishes too quickly with final song 'Doctor Doctor' where all three singers sing a verse each. Schenker is the star of the show and I can't wait to see the Michael Schenker Fest tour the UK. He proves that he is still one of the best lead guitarists in the world and this release shows why. The whole package is phenomenal, the production is great and the filming and editing on the DVD is extremely professional. My only gripe is that the DVD is very grainy on the shots from distance, hopefully the Blu-ray won't have this issue. If you are a Michael Schenker/Hard Rock fan, then go and buy a copy of this album – you will not be disappointed!

Az Chaudhry

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