Michael Schenker's Temple Of rock - Manchester academy 28/01/16
I read my text, listened to the master’s healing words, dressed in my worshipping attire and journeyed off to pay homage. Taking the religious teachings tonight would be several scholars well versed in both old style and the modern. Utilising the tunes of past rock legends MSG, U.F.O. and the Scorpions and modernising the flavour with some new Temple of Rock songs. Since I last worshipped at the Temple of Rock the band have issued a new proclamation - the "Spirit on a mission" tablet. Tonight, this would be visited often over the course of the evening.
A sound and solid foundation would be provided by Saints Herman and Francis, formerly of the Scorpions. The pulpit would be shared by the maestro, Michael Schenker, and the voice of Doogie White. Leading the choir of backing singers would be Wayne Findlay on both guitars and keyboards. Opening with the much loved hymn, "Doctor, Doctor", ensured a favourable reception from the audience. This ensured the congregation’s attention was captured from the outset. The difficulty with presenting different and new texts to a devout audience unfortunately meant that reaction to them was mixed. Not entirely negative, but not at the same level of enthusiasm that the older templates were received. While well versed and prepared in "Spirit on a Mission" numbers I was able to view them as friends, familiar and not as complete strangers.
Doogie White as the Temple’s figurehead was engaging and passionate in his delivery. Winning over both longstanding Temple members as well as new converts to the Rock cause. Combining a successful fusion of old and new appeared to work after several minor early technical difficulties in the vocal delivery department. Unsure if this lay with the singer or the sound man, I found that a slight adjustment in congregation placement soon resolved that difficulty.
I have been fortunate to witness the new era Schenker several times in recent years - a brighter and much more positive being, both sonically and spiritually. Several interviews in recent years have also attuned to the fact that he is in a completely different head space these days. This is reflected in his playing, which seems to be on a totally different plane these days. Despite the band not being able to sound check and only arriving 10 mins before they were due on stage, he exhibited instant karma. Being totally at peace with his instrument and the live arena, his natural enthusiasm instantly shone through. Michael appears to relish and, indeed, revel in performing live for an audience.
Doogie paid his respects to fellow Scot and, sadly, recently deceased musician Jimmy Bain in the pre-song intro to "When the Devil Knows Your Name". At this point the band had won over the audience totally. While Temple of Rock have their own brand to push and, indeed, six new tracks were present in the set, they have to maintain a difficult balance with the heritage and legacy tracks. Drawing on their huge back catalogue of the individual components of the Temple of Rock also allows some set variation, keeping it fresh for both fans and the band themselves. I enjoyed hearing some of the classics that had formulated my youth, and the subsequent time transporting that those anthems still had the ability to deliver. Letting Wayne Findlay take the solos on those Scorpions tracks that Michael didn't originally play on also showed his own technical ability and prowess.
The legendary Bucholz/Rarebell rhythm were also utilised and allowed to flourish creatively. Indeed, the legendary Herman Ze German was given his own solo spot - not in the traditional drum solo format, though. He instead led the vocals on the audience participated "Rock You Like A Hurricane". Engaging and entertaining, Doogie proved a dynamic front man, always with a twinkle in his eye. Vocally the man could do no wrong, as he seemed to effortlessly switch between longstanding classic rock anthems and the soon to be regarded equally favourably new tracks.
In conclusion, Michael and the Temple of Rock have found their spirit. The mission, however, is an ongoing one.
Review by: Mark Dean
Photo Credit: John Bull