In the annals of rock music history, UFO’s story is very much an origin tale. With the benefit of hindsight and the sheer volume of information that the internet revolution has provided, the importance of the band’s music can now be more accurately assessed. Not only did their “classic” period in the 70’s provide some of the most iconic rock songs ever made, it also played its part in shaping a less obviously blues-inspired and more riff-based rock music, which we would now refer to as “classic rock”.
Classic in every sense of the word. There is a sense of nostalgia around The Academy. It has been over 40 years since UFO released Phenomenon, arguably their first universally revered record. Veterans are out with their leather jackets and UFO tour t-shirts from shows long before this one. There is a laid back, comfortable atmosphere as people await their trip down memory lane.
The journey begins as the band casually strolls on stage, fronted by Phil Mogg, a seasoned player in his own right. An abrupt eruption of power chords, frantic solos and pulsating energy kickstarts the gig as the band moves in towards We Belong To The Night. Mogg sounds surprisingly impervious to the effects of time and well into his 60’s he doesn’t seem to have missed a step.
What followed was a colourful pick n’ mix from ghosts of albums past and a couple of tracks from their latest offering ‘A Conspiracy of Stars’, or was it ‘A Curiosity of Stars’? In the first of many to follow, Mogg makes a casual self-deprecating joke about his age, in this case forgetting the title of their latest album. The humour is well received and contributes to the relaxed atmosphere throughout the crowd.
Some tracks such as The Killing Kind simply don’t hit the mark and even for the legendary Lights Out there seems to be a disconnect between what is happening on stage and what is being received in the crowd. It wasn’t until the keyboard intro to Venus that the energy shifted from something quasi-apathetic to something more inclusive and powerful.
It feels as though the band had turned the amps up to 11. For a song comprising a lot of acoustic elements it packs one hell of a punch and the crowd feels it. After some blistering guitar work from Vinnie Moore, the band build on the momentum with one of the only songs that could realistically do the job, Only You Can Rock Me.
Things have now altered significantly. Suddenly people who may not have moshed for 20 years were rockin’ out like the best of ‘em. 1974’s classic Cherry began the journey that would reintroduce the audience to some of the most memorable UFO tracks including Rock Bottom and Doctor Doctor. Moore really starts to shine here and the audience feeds off of his passion and enthusiasm for the iconic riffs and solos.
Finally the band concludes with Shoot Shoot, which Mogg dedicates to Jack in the crowd. Like Jack, the audience is deeply loyal and appreciates that a band like UFO will still come to town and give them an opportunity to rock out to some of the best rock n’ roll tracks ever written.