Michael Schenker in Vicar Street, Dublin on Monday 22nd April 2013
As somebody who has influenced a legion of heavy metal guitarists, Michael Schenker’s musical legacy is pretty secure. Having played with the likes of the Scorpions, UFO and his own Michael Schenker Group, he has a huge back catalogue of hard rock hits to bring to a live show.
Unfortunately his Temple of Rock show, which came to Vicar Street recently, failed to capitalise on the energy of this back catalogue. There were a few genuine highlights – most notably in the show’s bombastic double encore – but overall it failed to either engage or deliver on the promise of one of the most celebrated masters of the electric guitar.
Schenker’s current touring band boasts three Ex-Scorpions members: drummer Herman Rarebell, bassist Francis Buchholz and Schenker himself. So it was only appropriate that they opened up with a double header of Lovedrive and Another Piece of Meat, both taken from the Scorpions seminal ‘Lovedrive’ album, the last time these three musicians played together.
The rest of the show saw Schenker loudly riffing through his back catalogue, from Michael Schenker Group numbers like Assault Attack, Into the Arena and Armed and Ready to UFO’s Shoot Shoot and Too Hot to Handle.
The show lowest ebb came right in the middle, prompted by the utterly unremarkable Horizons from Schenker’s forthcoming solo album ‘Bridge the Gap’. This was followed by Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which, despite being a decent song in its own right, also failed to connect with the audience. This may have been down to the fact that the band failed to inject these songs (technically the only originals in the whole show) with the same energy as the classics.
In a show with such an eclectic setlist – at times featuring the work of very different sounding bands – there was a noticeable gulf between the different eras of Schenker’s work. This could have been pulled together with more consistency had the guitarist attempted to apply his own stamp to a greater extent. Instead Schenker was content to let the backing band do most of the work, only really coming into his own on the highly technical guitar solos.
Even though Schenker and co give the impression of rushing through certain numbers just to get them over with, the show still felt like it dragged out too long. It was only in the band’s encore that things properly kicked off. Following a breather the band returned to the stage with another ‘Lovedrive’ track, Holiday. This finally managed to fully engage the Vicar Street audience, with a massive sing-along leading into the song’s mournful guitar solo. After the final notes died out they were replaced by the thumping bass drum introduction to Rock You Like a Hurricane. The band finally found their feet in these familiar classics, with Herman “Ze German” Rarebell standing up from his kit (while still stamping out the rhythm on his double bass pedal) to lead the crowd into the distinctive “Here I am… Rock you like a Hurricane” chorus. It was the one genuinely memorable moment of a mostly average gig, providing a glimpse of what these musicians were capable of in their prime.
A second encore followed, and the show ended with UFO classic hit Doctor Doctor, a fast-paced crowd pleasing number that still stands up as a great rock song over thirty years after its release. But still the overall impression of the show was a mediocre one. Far too often Schenker’s guitar playing was merely functional, with little to set his Temple of Rock show apart from a performance by a good cover band.
If many ways the real highlight of the show was the opening act. Twisted Wrath may have looked fresh faced, but their incredibly tight set of thrash metal (taking their cues from the likes of Testament and Machine Head) marked them out as a group to watch out for on the Irish metal scene. While Schenker’s influence may well have played a part in Twisted Wrath’s dizzying guitar work, they also possessed a youthful energy that was very much lacking in the headline act.