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Born in the late 60's, Chesy hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Chesy often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

CRR's Top 10 Melodic Rock AOR Albums of 2017

Top 10 AOR / melodic Rock Albums of 2017


Another year, another list to compile.....but one thing is certain to me, and that is that for every decent AOR album this year, there seems to be at least 10 average ones, or even shite ones.  The market is full of Melodic Rock/AOR bands vying for our attention.

So....'whats brite, and whats shite?' For this list, its all 'brite'


10. Styx - The Mission
Do Styx still need to be making albums? Probably not. Are we glad that they still wanna? Oh yes. Is it just like many others from that era that who are making albums in the 21st Century and settling for 'meh'? Not on your nelly. One of the very nice surprises of the year







9. Tony Mills - Streets Of Chance
When you have such luminaries as Paul Sabu and the Vega twins wading in with songs, then your starting point is a good one. Couple this with musicians such as Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Denander. Theres some good stuff to be had on here. If I were Craig Joiner (Romeos Daughter), Id check my back pocket to see if any riffs have gone missing as the chorus to 'Battleground' is basically Tony singing a Romeos Daughter track!




8. Raintimes - S/T
Those pesky Italians are trying to corner the market in AOR. They make no bones about it either. Pierpaolo wanted an album that sits alongside the first two of The Storm albums, and to be fair to the bloke, with songs like 'Forever Gone' and 'Together As Friends' he's not far wrong.







7. Midnite City -S/T
Basically a vehicle for Rob Wylde to take on the Italians, Swedish and Americans and beat them at their own game. Do you know what? He hasn't half succeeded. Similar to Vega, hes gone for the 'anthem' route when writing his songs, and with killers like 'We Belong', 'Last Beat Of My Heart' and 'One Step Away' this debut makes for a cracking album.





6. The Radio Sun - Unstoppable
The Radio Sun seem to live by the mantra 'if it aint broke, dont fix it'. 'Unstoppable' is  basically a succession of the previous three albums. If you are a fan of pop-rock, great harmonies, great riffs and instantly hummable choruses then look no further than Australia. There is a good reason these guys are 3 for 3 with the good people at HRH AOR and its with albums like this. They are that prolific I expect a album No.5 from them before the aforementioned HRH AOR in March 18!



5. H.E.A.T. - Into The Great Unknown
This album has divided many H.E.A.T. fans. In fact, its fair to say that its a Marmite album. Me? I cant stand the stuff, but I loved 'ITGU'. They locked themselves away, old skool (for 18 months) - halfway around the World. The title track, along with 'Bastard Of Society' and 'Time On Our Side' are good examples of a band on the up.
P.S. I won a years supply of Marmite once.....one jar!




4. Eclipse - Momentum
I was expecting great things of this album, and they almost did it. Dont get me wrong, its a bloody good album, but so was Armaggedonize. I was expecting Mr Martensson to go one step further and become the Whitesnake 87 for the 21st century. It was very close. Songs like 'Born To Lead' and 'Black Rain' are just devine. The next big step is surely just around the corner





=2. Moritz - About Time Too
Theres been a bit of a personnel change for 'ATT' and it hasnt done them any harm. Peter Scallan has removed the reins and the bluesier sound is a perfect fit. 'Moon And Back' is catchier than a wicketkeepers glove dipped in treacle, 'Chance Of A Lifetime' was born straight out of the 1980s, and the killer song for me is 'You Dont Know What Love Is'.





=2. Tokyo Motor Fist - ST
Its a vehicle for Ted Poley, and bugger me, he hasnt half put a band together - Greg Smith, Chuck Burgi and Steve brown, and the result is brilliant. Hardly a shite song to be found, with 'Shameless', and 'Put Me To Shame' are killers. (he likes the word 'shame'). I just hope that there will be a second album on the cards, and not just this, as it really would be a 'shame'





1. Lionheart - Second Nature
Ok, so its not exactly 'AOR', more 'classic rock'. The fact that its on AOR Heaven makes it on the list for me. Lionheart have made a comeback of massive proportions (30 yrs in the wilderness, it obviously made them hungry). They came back for a festival appearance and it was that good, they thought they would write an album. With founding fathers Dennis Stratton, Steve Mann, Rocky Newton and Clive Edwards, they went for THE 'go to' guy for quality vocals, one Lee Small, the Aldi version of Glenn Hughes ('Aldi' in a very good way. Lets face it, Glenn is Glenn). '30 Years' is instantly memorable, 'Angels With Dirty Faces' is melodic rock at its finest, and they even throw in a cover of 'Dont Pay The Ferryman'. I keep stating on reviews the past few years that Lee Small has eclipsed himself with his performances. He's done it yet again with Lionheart.

I never thought that a Chris De Burgh cover would sound as good as this....!



Tuesday, 12 December 2017

CRRs Top 10 Albums of 2017


Chesyrockreviews Top 10 Albums of 2017

Its that time of year again where lists are coming out of everyone's blog, website, twitter polls, etc etc etc

What I have here is a list of my favourite albums of 2017. One thing that I stand by is that all of these albums have been bought. Over 50% were from labels in stream format, but as I enjoyed them so much, they were purchased, with the remainder being bought without the request to review.

Here goes the Top 10

10. Inglorious - 'II'
I sware that someday soon, Nathan James and Inglorious (hopefully) will be a household name. They are building up momentum and I feel that their next album could be make or break for them. The big league is beckoning guys. Stand out songs are 'High Class Woman', 'Making Me Pay', 'I Dont need No Loving' and 'Taking the Blame'. If the next album (probably called 'III') can consistently match or pass these four songs then huge rewards await them.

9. Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire
The guys have truly laid the Thin Lizzy jibes to rest. This third album which hit the heady heights of No 6 proves that there more in them than just a glorified tribute band. The first three songs alone are worth the fee alone. 'When The Night Comes In' is one of the anthems of the year.

8. Thunder - Rip It Up
Considering a few years back I witnessed them on their farewell tour, Thunder have since gone from strength to strength. 'Wonder Days' was good, this on the other hand is great, and second only to their debut.

7. Daniel Cavanagh - Monochrome
Anathema have been around for donkeys, and its taken all this time for main man Daniel Cavanagh to bring out his first solo album. It's an album that is just delightful, emotional, deep and upbeat. He brings in one of his best mates Anneka Van Giersbergen on three tracks and in its entirety Monochrome is simply a beautiful album.


 




6.Steven Wilson - To The Bone
I don't think that there's many people as prolific as SW. When he's not remastering iconic bands back catalogues, he churns out music for fun. I just can't believe that this is only his fourth solo release. The Independent stated he was 'The most successful British musician most people have never heard of'. True, but those who know his work will follow him to the edges of the world. 'Permanating' is an Abba style song dedicated to his mum, there's the moody 'People Who Eat Darkness', and the wonderful duet with Ninet Tayeb, 'Pariah'. Brilliant stuff.


5. Black Country Communion - BCCIV
I never thought these guys would get back together after their Twitter spat a couple of years back. Last year Hughes made the best album since his Purple days and I was not exactly expecting another morsel out of BCC. Thankfully they did, and the result is one to weep over. 'Collide' is akin to Zep's 'Black Dog', and 'Over My Head' is a calling card to all the young guns that BCC are one of the bands to beat. Not bad for a combined age of 208! Bands don't make albums like this any more! Of course they do. Its only BCC though.



4. Anathema - The Optimist
Remember when Anathema were a Doom band? I do. Their breakthough for me came with 2010's 'We're Here Because We're Here', and since then they have gotten bigger and better which is something you cannot say of a lot of bands from the early 90s. I could run out of adjectives describing Anathema. So I will settle for just the one...beautiful. The following statement is easily banded about, but I really do believe Anathema deserve to be huge. Songs such as 'The Optimist', 'Springfield' and 'Back To The Start' are wonderful.


3. Chris Stapleton - From A Room - Vol 2 (and Vol 1) !!
If you haven't heard of Chris Stapleton before, stop reading, and check out the pipes on this fella. He is well known within country rock circles penning tunes for big hitters such as Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker, and songs of his have appeared on albums by Brad Paisley, Tim Mc Graw, Dierks Bentley and Adele. A master of his work he is bridging the gap between country and Southern Rock with ease. Along with his wife on songs like 'Millionaire' its pure ear candy.



2. Lionheart - Second Nature
Lionheart have made a comeback of massive proportions. They came back for a festival appearance and it was that good, they thought they would write an album. In comes the 'go to' guy for vocals, one Lee Small, the Aldi version of Glenn Hughes (in a very good way. Lets face it, Glenn is Glenn). '30 Years' is instantly memorable, 'Angels With Dirty Faces' is melodic rock at its finest, and they even throw in a cover of 'Dont Pay The Ferryman'. I keep stating on reviews the past few years that Lee Small has eclipsed himself. He's done it yet again with Lionheart.


1. Ayreon - The Source
The brainchild of one Arjen Lucassen, Ayreon has been around for some 22 years now, building momentum with every passing release. He has an address book (or a blackmail book) to die for - Simone Simons, Floor Jansen, Tommy Karevik, Hansi Kürsh, Russell Allen, Tobias Sammet, and James LaBrie (and more!). It's a proggers wet dream I tell ya. The album that Dream Theater should have made instead of 'The Astonishing' one we got! Epic stuff from start to finish. I dont tend to follow the story (many will), but I just like a good foot tapper/headbanger/air guitar & drums kind of song. If you like the opening track, the rest is like feeding candy to a baby.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Blood Red Saints - 'Love Hate Conspiracies' Album Review


Blood Red Saints – Love Hate Conspiracies

Do ya believe in fate? Nah, me neither! But I write this up on the second anniversary of Blood Red Saint’s debut album launch. Spooky!

Now then, this may put the cat amongst the pigeons, but BRS are no longer a nice pink and fluffy melodic rock/AOR band. With ‘Love Hate Conspiracies’, it brings a new direction for them, and I have to say….. It’s a bloody good one! In fact it’s not good, it’s fantastic!!

The new album also sees two new Saints baptised to join original members Pete Godfrey, Rob Naylor (bass) and Lee Revill (guitars). Neil Hibbs (formerly of Arkhams Razor, Shy) joins to add a harder edge with crunching guitars for a tougher approach for both live and studio work. Andy Chemney (drums) was an obvious choice having worked with Rob in their previous band 'Angels Or Kings'.

Rob Naylor takes up the story. "I've known Andy nearly all my life, he was the guy I wanted for our band and we are so pleased to have finally got our man"
So, what can we expect from 'Love Hate Conspiracies?' Lee Revill …"it's musically in a heavier direction than Speedway. We still wanted big melodic choruses but we wanted to toughen them up a bit too. We've got such a strong set of songs here and we are all excited to finally let people hear them, on the album and also live, these songs are gonna kick ass"

This collection of songs certainly does live up to its Ronseal guarantee….the songs kick ass. Opening song ‘Another Freak’ it is more US than UK as its style sits somewhere between Shinedown and Red Sun Rising  with the verse modeling itself on Nickleback’s’ ‘Burn It To The Ground’, and is heavier and metal(er) than anything they did on their debut. There’s still a lot of melody to be found here and its the type of song that would get major play on US rock radio, especially if the guys were from Manchester NH, than Manchester, UK.

‘Live & Die’ also follows suit with its heavy groove, and they have made the correct decision in going for the jugular, as Pete Godfrey has never sounded better. ‘Wake Up’ sounds just like a companion piece to ‘Dangerous’ from the debut. ‘Exit Wounds’ is all about the harmonies, and had it been 1985, the lads would be onto a sure-fire winner. ‘Something In Your Kiss’ is a song that has seen BRS take snippets from the 80s and Def Leppard in particular and uses them to great effect. In fact, it’s more Leppard than Leppard! ‘Love Hate Conspiracies’ is wonderfully executed with its multi-layered harmonies and newsreel action in the mid section. ‘Arms Wide Open’ you’ll be please to know, isn’t a Creed cover, it’s a full on ballad. It’s a good one, don’t get me wrong, but I’d have loved an album full of rockers, but as a live song I can really see it ‘Kickin’ Up Dust’ (see what I did there? No? Oh well!).

‘It Is Over’ sees one of our Antipodean singers take the mic (and co-wrote), and that’s one Paul Laine. Both Paul and Pete’s vocals sit very well together for the chorus and side by side for a duet of sorts, and is definitely one of the bigger songs on LHC. The guitar and keyboard riff is as infectious as it is to music, as Ebola is to humans. ‘Sometimes’ is a song that is the closest they get to anything on their debut, and ‘Rise Again’ is a bit darker and moodier before resetting the dial back to ‘melodic’ for the chorus. We are quickly to the sharp end for the final track ‘Turn On The Night’ a song written by Steve Brown of Trixter and Tokyo Motor Fist. It’s probably the most positive and ‘happy’ song on the whole album. A definite summertime listen with the top down anthem and the closest they come to a Bon Jovi sound.

 If it were me, I would grab the audience at next years HRH by the balls and play this in its entirety. Its that good, and worthy.

I’ve noticed there’s a bit of Pete talking on this album, I don’t know if he is subliminally putting himself out there as a voice over artiste?

Final verdict, it’s a little firecracker of an album. So, dig out your denims, leg warmers, Union Jack tee shirt, layered wig and rock out to one of the best rock albums of 2018. Harder IS better.

Score 90/100

Tracklisting -

Another Freak
Live & Die
Wake Up
Exit Wounds
Something In Your Kiss
Love Hate Conspiracies
Arms Wide Open
It Is Over
Sometimes
Rise Again
Turn On The Night

Blood Red Saints –

Pete Godfrey – Vocals
Rob Naylor – Bass
Lee Revill – Guitars
Neil Hibbs – Guitars
Andy Chemney – Drums

The album is released Jan 26 2018  through AOR Heaven and there is also an album launch at Manchester Academy 3, Friday 9th Feb 2018. Tickets £8 ADV/£10 OTD



Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Raintimes - ST Album Review


Raintimes – ‘S/T’

Raintimes is a new melodic rock/AOR project band featuring Pierpaolo ‘Zorro’ Monti (Charming Grace, Shining Line) and Davide Barbieri (Wheels Of Fire, Charming Grace), and Michael Shotton (Von Groove, the ‘S’ in LRS). It’s rounded up by Sven Larsson and Ivan Gonzalez on guitars and Andrea Gipponi on bass,

“Raintimes is an album that I really wanted to use as a tribute to my love and admiration for The Storm,” says Pierpaolo Monti. “I have played to death their two albums (especially “Eye of the Storm”). Their tempos, steeped in pure melodic class, are the perfect crossroad between AOR and Melodic Rock. The choice of Shotton as front man was based not only on my admiration for his talents, but because I wanted to give a strong personality to the album and make the music more personal and original.”

Well, as a first impression, Pierpaolo is correct in his statement that he has a love for The Storm as this certainly fits into that melodic rock style. The production values stand out by a country mile. A lot of hard work has gone into this level, in fact, it has more polish than the good people at AutoGlym can muster (other polishes are available!). Opening ditty ‘Forever Gone’ fits firmly into Pierpaolo’s vision for an 80s track that’s akin to anything Messer’s Valory/Smith/ Ramos/Chalfant could produce. Shotton sounds great and the guitar work from González and Larsson is excellent. ‘Make My Day’ just screams ‘pink and fluffy’ in a good pink and fluffy kind of complementary way. ‘Don’t Ever Give Up’ goes more for the jugular with is heavy widdly-twiddly riff before settling into its AOR comfort zone, and is a very catchy tune. ‘Swan’ is a slow burn for me, as I get less tolerant to ballads as I grow older, but after repeated listens, it’s a little gem. ‘I Need Tonight’ is the melodic rock I prefer, a nice punchy riff, with an edge to them and is my favourite of the album so far. Title track ‘Raintimes’ is an intro leading into ‘Just A Little Bit More’, and sees Frontiers ‘go-to’ guy Alessandro Del Vecchio on keys and BVs, and it’s a nice an uplifting song. ‘Together As Friends’ is a song that is the cream of the crop and screams quality. It’s one of those songs that you only have to hear the first few bars/ or lines and know its good.

Whilst it isn’t quite at the level of ‘The Storm’, I fail to find a complete duffer of this album. It will surely be near the top of many an AOR fans fave lists come the end of 2017. It’s chock full of good songs, but not great songs.

I just have a gripe over the name, as ‘Raintimes’ is cack!

There’s been a lot of ‘average’ coming out of Frontiers this year, I for one would like to see much more of albums and bands like Raintimes coming out of the Frontiers stable in 2018

It’s definitely for fans of any of the Italian AOR scene, and the likes of First Signal, and Work Of Art in particular

Score 80/100

Tracklisting –
Forever Gone
Make My Day
Don’t Ever Give Up
Swan
I Need Tonight
Raintimes
Just A Little Bit More
Empty Days
Together As Friends
Missing Piece
I See The Light 


BAND MEMBERS:
Michael Shotton – Lead & Backing Vocals
Iván González – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Sven Larsson - Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Davide Barbieri - Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Andrea Gipponi - Bass & Fretless Bass
Pierpaolo Monti – Drums & Percussion

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Niclas Olsson - Keyboards on “I Need Tonight”
Philip Lindstrand - Backing Vocals on “I Need Tonight”
Alessandro Del Vecchio: Keyboards & Backing Vocals on “Just A Little Bit More”
Erica Trovato: Backing Vocals on “Together As Friends”
Jesús Espín: Backing Vocals on “Missing Piece”
Daniel Flores: Percussion on “I See The Light”
Michele Luppi: Keyboards on “I See The Light”

PRODUCED BY: Davide Barbieri & Pierpaolo Monti
STUDIO: PriStudio
RECORDED BY: Davide Barbieri & Pierpaolo Monti
MIXED BY: Roberto Priori
MASTERED BY: Roberto Priori



Thursday, 23 November 2017

MYLES KENNEDY - signs with Napalm Records! First solo album "Year Of The Tiger" will be released in Spring 2018!

First solo album "Year Of The Tiger" will be released in Spring 2018!

He is the distinctive voice of Alter Bridge. He as well gained incredible recognition with being the voice of Slash's back band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. He jammed with members of Led Zeppelin, he worked with the best of the best... he is undeniably one of the greatest rock singers of our time.

After the successful collaboration between Alter Bridge and Napalm Records, Myles Kennedy as well decided to sign with the Austrian label to release his long awaited first solo album.

Myles states:
“I’m excited to announce I’m teaming up with Napalm Records for the release of my first solo record YEAR OF THE TIGER. This record is something I’ve always wanted to make and I’m grateful to Napalm for believing in me enough to get behind it.”

Napalm Records' whole staff is super excited and more than proud about teaming up with this incredible talented artist. "Year Of The Tiger" is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Watch out for more news!!! 


For more info visit:
www.MylesKennedy.com
www.facebook.com/OfficialMylesKennedy
www.twitter.com/MylesKennedy
www.instagram.com/OfficialMyleskennedy
www.napalmrecords.com

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Santa Cruz - 'Bad Blood Rising' Review


Santa Cruz – Bad Blood Rising

I have a theory about Finnish rock  & metal bands, once they have finished college they have to do a years National Service (something that would benefit the ‘yoof’ of today here in the UK who expect everything on a plate). I'm certain that a part of this National Service is to start a band, such is the number of Finnish bands!

They have been praised by Rolling Stone mag as ‘One of the Top 10 bands you need to know in 2017’ for their ‘debaucherous, flamboyant flair’. High praise indeed.

They are partnered with a new label M-Theory Audio. Previously they were with Spinefarm. So what about ‘Bad Blood Rising?’

'Young Blood Rising' gets the album off to a powerful start with is more of an anthem for the disaffected youth, aimed squarely at arena rock and a blistering guitar solo. ‘River Phoenix’ uses the audio from the police call on that fateful night. It enters into a pop rock affair that seen on the likes of Scuzz. Decent, but not captivating enough. ‘Fire Running Through Our Veins’ tries a lot harder to be different. Its thumping enough, but its like there's a formula being laid down with similar choruses to the previous tracks.

‘Drag Me Out Of The Darkness’ is a mid paced song that does not grab you by the balls and make you listen.  “Breathe’ with its whistling opener, thankfully doesn’t morph into Winds Of Change. Archie Kuosmanen has a decent voice, but this, along with ‘Back From The Dead’ and ‘Breathe’ are clearly not playing to his talents. ‘Voice of a New Generation’ is the kind of song that Shinedown do better. Its good, but it could be bigger and better. ‘Pure Fucking Adrenaline’ does what it says on the tin – it’s a Metallica x with Crue x Megadeth style song. ‘Get Me Out Of California’ is more on the melodic rock/AOR side, and after the opener, it’s the second best for me on the album, its more Mr Big than Mister Crowley. Another 4 or 5 of this quality, and it would be a great album.

Santa Cruz showed some good touched early on in their career and have had some success in their native Finland and snared some decent tours.

Glam was almost dead in the early 90s. Whilst there are a few keeping its head afloat, I don’t see many making a killing out of it. I cant say that I don’t like this but there’s not enough on here that’s decent enough to make me ‘love’ it.

There’s too much ‘average’ being settled for by labels in the Melodic Rock/AOR/Sleaze these days. I’ll certainly go watch them live as I think that some of these will come across a lot better than they do on the album.

Score 65/100

Santa Cruz are –
Archie Kuosmanen – vocals/guitar)
Johnny Parkkonen – (guitars/vocals)
Middy Toivonen (bass)
Taz Fagerström – (drums)

Tracklisting
Young Blood Rising
River Phoenix
Fire Running Through Our Veins
Drag Me Out Of The Darkness
Breathe
Voice Of The New Generation
Back From The Dead
Bad Habits Die Hard
Purer Fucking Adrenaline
Get Me Out Of California
River Phoenix (Pt 2)


Santa Cruz will return to the UK in December for a headline tour. Dates for the run are:

05.12. Nottingham, UK - Rescue Rooms
06.12. Milton Keynes, UK - Crauford Arms
07.12. Grimsby, UK - Yardbirds
08.12. Sheffield, UK - Corporation
09.12. Birmingham, UK - The Flapper
10.12. Glasgow, UK - Cathouse
12.12. Manchester, UK - Academy 3
13.12. London, UK - Underworld
14.12. Chester, UK - The Live Rooms
15.12. Swansea, UK - Sin City
16.12. Bournemouth, UK - Anvil
17.12. Norwich, UK - Waterfront



Saturday, 4 November 2017

Michael Schenker Fest - O2 Academy, Sheffield 3rd November 2017


Michael Schenker Fest – O2 Academy Sheffield

Many months ago I got the chance to review the then ‘one-off’ MSF DVD that took place in Japan. (Review here - http://www.chesyrockreviews.com/2017/02/michael-schenker-fest-live-review.html ) I got a bit misty-eyed watching this gig, especially when I think back to Cozy Powell, and thought how great it would be to have him alive and involved in something like this. It would have been the cherry to top all cherries.

Thankfully, someone had sense to take this on a wider tour. It was announced for the UK. YAY! I’m not sure if ticket sales had been poor as it was recently announced that Sheffield was offering a 33% discount via the people at HRH. Bastards!!! Not HRH, just the fact that tickets were heavily discounted. This tactic worked. Whilst the balcony wasn’t really utilized, the floor was pretty packed, and these punters had excellent foresight.

Schenker these days is a completely different bloke to the poor state he was in 10 years ago. Upon entrance, he was happy, beaming with joy to be precise, and this immediately shows in his playing. In fact on the opening salvo of ‘Into The Arena’, its probably the best I’ve seen him since the early 80s. In fact, this happiness seems to have rubbed off on all of the band. All of the 3 vocalists stints – Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, are interjected with an instrumental classic – ‘Into the Arena’ for Barden, ‘Coast To Coast’ prior to Bonnet, and ‘Captain Nemo’ for McAuley.

Barden is first, and while he doesn’t have the voice of Budokan, he still handles his vocals with charm and polish. There’s nowt vocally from ‘Built To Destroy’, all of Barden’s are classics from the first two albums, ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’, ‘Victim Of Illusion’, ‘Cry For The Nations’, ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’, and ‘Armed And Ready’. Such is the enjoyment, thirty minutes goes past in a blink of an eye. Chris Glen, looks every inch the star (and nutter) as he was in the 80s, and with Ted Mckenna the groove is well and truly covered. McKenna’s Bass drum, and Glen’s bass notes pummel your body with the groove. Steve Mann, the youngest at 61 (I want whatever he’s drinking!) handles the rhythm and keys excellently. My only gripe, no ‘On and On’, which is probably my fave MSG song of all of them. Gutted.

Graham Bonnet looks every inch the fashion icon as he was in his Rainbow days. The guy looks resplendent in his aviator sunglasses, black shirt, red tie, salmon jacket (yes…..salmon!) and jeans ‘n sneakers. It took him just a minute to joke about the infamous incident at Sheffield City Hall some 35 (ish) years ago, when he got his knob out when he was pissed as a fart. In this venue, instead of pulling out his willy, out came a banana. You rock guys…..! The excellent ‘Desert Song’ from the underrated (not in my house) ‘Assault Attack’ was up first, followed by ‘Dancer’ with Barden and McAuley on BVs, with ‘Assault Attack’ bringing up the rear. Bonnet is almost 70 and is in amazing nick. Chris Glen stated this was the first time this song had been heard and having Bonnet back in the fold was superb.

Robin McAuley’s voice (whilst no spring chicken either) is identical to his Grand Prix and McAuley Schenker Group days. Superb vocally, he has no right to still be this good! ‘No Time For Losers’, ‘Save Yourself’, ‘Bad Boys’, and the superb ‘Love Is Not A Game’ and ‘Rock Bottom’ covered his stint. McAuley looks every inch the star, and went down a storm. The solo from Schenker for 'Rock Bottom' was just sublime.

The encore continued in the UFO vein with stellar renditions of ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Lights Out’ with all three taking on vocal duties.

I was looking forward to this, after seeing the DVD a few months back, but in reality it was much better than I expected it to be. Schenker was stunning, wringing every note out of his various flying V’s (Dean), and it was a joy to witness up close. Being in a happy place suits the guy.

If I’m honest, this is the set list I’ve been itching for on the 4 times I’ve seen Temple Of Rock, this was as good as it gets. The only icing on the cake would have been Michael bringing in Rocky Newton, Paul Raymond, and I would have desperately loved to see the late, great Cozy Powell just one more time.

I'm not 'age-ist', but I would like to state that the total age on show here tonight was 452! In fact, what I saw tonight was a band that was better than the MSG I saw on the 'Rock Will Never Die' tour in '84. Remarkable stuff. Well done fellas, and thank you for a superb night.

Personally I think it’s a mistake having two gigs (Sheffield and Manchester) so close, which is why I think sales of the Sheffield gig were being pushed. That said, at £30 it was value for money, but if you paid the 20 quid, then it was probably the best value gig of the year by a country mile.

(Note - As a regular gig go-er, not necessarily to Sheffield, watch out for those thieving NCP bastards next to the O2. £17 for four hours. Now for my next review of them in Trip Advisor!)

9.5/10

Michael Schenker Fest –
Michael Schenker – lead guitar
Chris Glen – Bass
Ted McKenna – Drums
Steve Mann – Keys/Guitar

Vocalists -
Gary Barden
Graham Bonnet
Robin McAuley

Tracklisting –
Yin And Yang
Searching For Freedom
Into The Arena
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Victim Of Illusion
Cry For The Nations
Attack Of The Mad Axeman
Armed And Ready
Coast To Coast
Desert Song
Dancer
Assault Attack
Captain Nemo
No Time For Losers
Save Yourself
Bad Boys
Love Is Not A Game
Rock Bottom

Encore
Doctor Doctor
Lights Out