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UFO, Tara Lynch

Thursday 4th April 2019

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

UFO are an English Rock band formed in London in 1968 by Lead vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker. Originally called Hocus Pocus, the group changed their name in 1969 to UFO after the famous underground London club. 2019 marks fifty one years of UFO, despite two hiatuses (1983-1984 and again from 1989-1991), they have released twenty two studio albums and fourteen live albums, and have had countless line-up changes, with vocalist Phil Mogg being the only constant through out.

Their eponymously titled debut album was released in 1970 with the 'UFO 2: Flying' album following in 1971. Both these albums leaned toward a more experimental Psychedelic Space Rock sound. Mick Bolton left the group in 1972, with Larry Wallis joining briefly before Bernie Marsden took over the job for one short tour. The classic band started to take shape when Michael Schenker (Scorpions) joined in June 1973, with the musical direction now veering more towards commercial Melodic Hard Rock. The exceptional 'Phenomenon' album was released in 1974 and was produced by Leo Lyons (Ten Years After). It contains two UFO classics in the form of 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Rock Bottom' that remain in the live set to this day. A run of top-quality classic albums followed, including 'Force It' (1975), 'No Heavy Petting' (1976), 'Lights Out' (1977) and 'Obsession' (1978). Keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond (Chicken Shack/Savoy Brown) joined in 1976 to augment and expand the UFO sound, which can be heard on the hugely successful 1979 live album 'Strangers In The Night'.

Due to growing tension with Mogg, Schenker left in 1978. He went on to make a brief return to the Scorpions before going on to form his own highly successful Michael Schenker Group. Paul 'Tonka' Chapman (Skid Row) was brought in on guitar in time to record the 1980 album 'No Place to Run', which was produced by former Beatles producer George Martin. Paul Raymond left the band before the 1981 self-produced 'The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent' album, which featured Neil Carter (Wild Horses) on keyboards. The 'Mechanix' album followed in 1982. Later that year, founding member Pete Way left the band to form Fastway with Motörhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke and then his own band, Waysted.

Billy Sheehan (Talas) joined on bass for the 1983 album 'Making Contact'. However, shortly after the release of this album UFO decided to disband. A year later Mogg assembled a new UFO line-up before disbanding again in 1989. For the next few years Mogg soldiered on with various line-ups before the classic line-up reunited in 1995 for the 'Walk on Water' album. This line-up (with AC/DC's Simon Wright on drums in place of Parker) went on a world tour. However, tensions arose again, with Schenker leaving the band four shows into the tour! Despite this, Schenker returned to the fold in 1998 and the band embarked on another tour, with Parker again replaced by another drummer.

Schenker rejoined UFO again in 2000 for the 'Covenant' album, and in 2002 for the 'Sharks' album, before departing for the final time! Vinnie Moore was recruited on guitar in 2004 and continues to occupy that role today. Moore appears on a succession of quality albums including 'You Are Here' (2004), 'The Monkey Puzzle' (2006), 'The Visitor' (2009), 'Seven Deadly' (2012), 'A Conspiracy of Stars' (2015) and the covers album 'The Salentino Cuts' (2017).

In May 2018, vocalist Phil Mogg announced that UFO's 50th anniversary tour in 2019 would be his last one as the front man of the band. With this announcement tickets for the tour began to sell by the bucket loads, with fans eager to catch Mogg's last shows with the band. The band's current line-up consists of vocalist Phil Mogg, lead guitarist Vinnie Moore, bass guitarist Rob De Luca, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond and drummer Andy Parker.

UFO's extensive twenty three date 50th anniversary March/April UK and Ireland tour, billed as 'Last Orders - 50th Anniversary Tour', could well be the band's last major tour of these shores, and certainly Mogg's last hurrah with the band. With reportedly twelve of the dates completely sold out, the anticipation was palpable! Initial rumours suggested that guitarist Michael Schenker and original bassist Pete Way would be making guest appearances, which certainly boosted ticket sales. Unfortunately, once tour dates started selling out, it was announced by both Schenker and Way, that they would not be involved in any of the UFO 50th anniversary shows! This was a major disappointment to a lot of the fans who purchased advanced tickets, me included!

This Shepherds Bush Empire, London gig was completely sold out, with a second night added at The Forum, Kentish Town, London tomorrow. The support came from Tara Lynch, an American Heavy Rock singer/guitarist and her band. She definitely has the chops and warmed the crowd up nicely. After a short break, UFO hit the stage to 'UFO' chants from the crammed in punters. The atmosphere was buzzing and there was a nice rapport within the crowd. When the lights dimmed, the band strolled on ready to rock the place! These days Mogg has joined the hallowed ranks of the baldy rockers! Despite being follically challenged, he has lost none of his Rock star credentials. Dressed all in black, looking slender and fit and prowling the stage with intent and purpose!

The evening's proceedings kicked off with 'Mother Mary' from the 1975 'Force It' album, a good song, but a sluggish start as the band loosened up and acclimatised to the monitor sound. By the time 'We Belong to the Night' from the 1982 'Mechanix' album, cranked up, the band found their chops and things began to lock in. With Parker's drumming solid as a rock, Moore's guitar stinging and De Luca's bass bubbling, the momentum began to escalate. Raymond switched between rhythm guitar and keyboards throughout proceedings, and must be at least a hundred and twenty by now, but he looks like he is about twenty-five! Obviously relishing being on stage, coming to the front at every opportunity to flash some Rock poses and playing left handed guitar strung upside down.

Mogg's voice started to open up with his raspy vibrato resonating with seasoned control during 'Run Boy Run' from the 2015 'Conspiracy Of Stars' album. A welcome surprise to the set came next in the form of 'Venus' from the 1995 'Walk On Water' album. A strong song from the 90’s Schenker reunion period had Moore switching between acoustic and electric guitar with ease. A top quality performance from all. The brilliant 'Lights Out' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album, had the crowd singing along, a formidable and anthemic song played with energetic intensity. Proceedings slowed down a bit with the arrival of the beautiful ballad 'Baby Blue' from the 2004 'You Are Here' album, with some tasty harmonics played by Moore on the acoustic guitar plus an intense and emotive vocal performance from Mogg.

Another classic and fan favourite 'Only You Can Rock Me' from the 1978 'Obsession' album pounded in with intent to rouse. Another good excuse for a crowd sing along and fist pumping action! A quality late period song greeted us next in the form of 'Burn Your House Down' from the 2012 'Seven Deadly' album, with a tantalising and sizzling guitar solo from Moore! Mogg asked a lady on the front row what colour her lipstick was before launching into 'Cherry' from the 1978 'Obsession' album. A beguiling and enticing vocal performance from Mogg.

The time had come for a set highlight in the form of 'Love to Love' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album. This song gave Mogg a chance to shine and show us what he can really do with his voice, which he executed with alluring style and seductive panache! A phenomenal song full of tender emotion and raging passion. The sleazy 'Too Hot to Handle' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album slinked in next. One the band's roadies appeared dressed in drag and sashayed next to the drum riser in an attempt to distract Parker! It didn't work though as Parker was concentrating and focused on pounding the skins!

De Luca, the newest member of the band, joining them in 2008, seems to be relishing his role in UFO and playing a classic Thunderbird bass just like Pete Way did. He was quite animated through out the set, throwing his bass above his head a few times. There is no doubt that he is a great bass player, but I do miss Pete Way's presence in the band, particularly for his charismatic personality and lively stage persona, which was always intoxicating and captivating to witness.

The phenomenal 'Makin' Moves' from the underrated 1981 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' album, written by Mogg and Paul Chapman, thundered in to smack our senses! A well-crafted and powerful song, saw an invigorating performance from the band with some spirituous and rousing soloing from Moore. The atmosphere intensified with the arrival of another set highlight and tour-de-force, the thumping heavy 'Rock Bottom' from the 1974 'Phenomenon' album. Mogg commented during the guitar solo that it would be a good opportunity to get a drink in or take a leak! I decided against this advice and stayed to take in all the action. This song gives Moore the chance to stretch out and show off with some fret board noodling, which he executes with passionate determination and subtle dexterity. An exhilarating and stirring performance saw Moore running back and forward and all over the stage, engaging with the audience at opportune moments and throwing some old Hendrix moves with the guitar behind head trick.

The main set came to a close with the anthemic and killer 'Doctor Doctor' from the 1974 'Phenomenon' album. The intro build up to the main riff is tantalising, raising up the tension before exploding into life, exciting the senses as it chugs along like a juggernaut. A mosh pit developed down the front, just like the good old days! For the encore we got the excellent 'Shoot Shoot' from the 1975 'Force It' album. Time for more audience participation and moshing! At the end Moore descended the stage into the pit to allow the front row to strum his guitar. A great ending to a fantastic night of classic Heavy Rock.

Steven C. Gilbert

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