With tales of unpredictable behaviour and erratic episodes littering his career since it first began as a member of The Scorpions on 1972 debut ‘Lonesome Crow’, it’s easy to forget what a truly phenomenal player Michael Schenker actually is. The intervening years may have brought creative peaks with the likes of UFO and his own MSG, but until relatively recently, you were more likely to read about the ‘mad German’ than the fluid fret-worker.
Thankfully, that balance has once again been restored, and with a level of stability coming into his professional life since the formation of Temple Of Rock in 2011, music it seems is once again the focus in the Blonde Bomber’s world. Following on from a slew of live dates both last year and at the beginning of 2016 then, comes this; ‘On A Mission Live In Madrid’, which captures Michael and band in ferocious form.
Featuring half of the line-up that made the Scorpions’ ‘Lovedrive’ album in Schenker, bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell, along with former Rainbow front man Doogie White and celebrated keysman / guitarist Wayne Findlay, Temple Of Rock offers, in the guitarist’s own words; “a solid crew that I can paint on”. And solid they certainly are, with Schenker fans getting the strongest on stage personnel since his UFO heyday.
Though visually the DVD set – which is also available in CD format – is a rough and ready affair, with unsteady close-up shots interspersed with some outrageously shaky camera work, it’s the music that none the less, rightfully shines throughout. The track list can’t be faulted, and from the opening crescendo of ‘Doctor Doctor’ to the closing ‘Blackout’, every corner of Michael’s career is touched upon and recreated faithfully and with vigour.
What’s most surprising however, is just how cosily newer material, such as the driving ‘Live And Let Live’ sits alongside the more established classics like the bombastic ‘Lights Out’. It’s a testament to the enthusiasm of the band, and especially White, who leads from the front steering the crowd with his between song banter and powerful pipes.
Though each member of the band gets their moment in the spotlight, it’s rightfully Schenker who shines throughout. A simply mesmerising guitarist, his soloing on the likes of the instrumental ‘Coast To Coast’, the majestic ‘Saviour Machine’ and pummelling ‘Rock Bottom’ reveal one of the greatest players to have ever lifted the instrument. Although there is little band interaction – Michael instead preferring the odd hand slap with those in the front row - looking lithe and adorned with hat, shades and trademark grin, he’s rarely looked happier.
It may not reach the dizzy heights of his most celebrated works, but Temple Of Rock is Michael Schenker’s smartest move in years. Letting the music do the talking, the guitarist thrills on this solid release. If you’re after a glimpse of what makes the likes of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray such huge fans, then this ‘On A Mission Live In Madrid’ offers it in spades. Mission accomplished.
By Eamon O'Neill on 6th July 2016.
'On A Mission Live In Madrid' is out now.