As respected statesmen of British hard rock, UFO have their share of noted admirers. During a recent appearance on American TV on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, a positively giddy Kirk Hammet of Metallica lived out a childhood fantasy by jamming with ex-UFO six stringer Michael Schenker. Closer to home, as a die hard lifelong fan of the band, Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris wouldn’t dream of playing a gig without the familiar tones of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ ushering his band onstage.
Photo: Jimmy Little Jnr
In the wider rock and metal community meanwhile, the five-piece have an impressive number of followers too, as evidenced by the number of European dates undertaken – a whopping thirty-four shows - during this most recent world tour. Two thirds of the way through the trek, the band were in Belfast on Wednesday night for a show in support of their most recent release ‘A Conspiracy of Stars’.
Arriving on stage with bombast and a shower of guitarist Vinnie Moore’s finest licks, the band wasted no time in igniting the audience, kicking off with the classic 1982 track ‘We Belong To The Night’. Quickly following with a more recent vintage in ‘Fight Night’ from 2012’s ‘Seven Deadly’, it was apparent that UFO were in fine form. Vocalist Phil Mogg might these days be old enough to collect his pension, but his voice defies his age. With a timbre that has only improved with age; warmer and more powerful than men half his age, Mogg is a delight to listen to, whether it be on newer tracks like the rumbling ‘Run Boy Run’ or oldies such as the upbeat ‘Cherry’. He’s also an extremely comical frontman, as some of his off the wall between song banter demonstrated. Whether it was on noticing the wristbands worn by the audience; “I want one of those; I thought I was in the emergency room”, or on checking what song was to come next from the list taped to the floor; “this is the set list by the way. I'm not looking at my shoes!”, Mogg held the audience in hysterics. The singer meanwhile is backed by a fantastically tight band, the most impressive of which is the infinitely talented Moore, who plays with technical brilliance, yet with an appropriate and tasteful approach. This was none more apparent than during early set highlight ‘Light’s Out’. Meanwhile an ecstatically received ‘Love to Love’, proved that the rest of the band are no slouches either. With ethereal keys courtesy of Paul Raymond and the hard hitting drums of Andy Parker, it was a particular stand-out, which also featured an eager and vocal audience.
There may have been plenty of classic tracks in the set, but of course the band had a new album to promote, and debuting ‘Messiah Of Love’, Mogg prefaced the song saying; “we’re gonna try something we haven't played ever.” Slotting effortlessly into the set, the relieved singer concluded; “we did it without any cock-ups!”
If Mogg’s banter was in danger of overshadowing the music, then the material that followed reminded everyone why they were there. Following a harmony vocal heavy ‘Making Moves’ the band ended their main set with an extended take on the evergreen ‘Rock Bottom’. With Moore given free reign, it was a lesson in how to captivate with a solo section rather than bore. Harmonising with Raymond, the song reached its climax to rapturous applause.
Returning to the stage just as chants of “U.F.O, U.F.O” subsided for a two song encore, as a barnstorming ‘Doctor Doctor’ gave way to an explosive ‘Shoot Shoot’ the band brought the night to a celebratory end.
Despite the show’s mid-week occurrence, tonight UFO played a rock solid set to a respectably sized, enthusiastic audience. As one of the UK’s longest running rock acts, UFO proved that they are still a joy to witness. Long may they continue.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 24 April 2015.