Judge P.S. Colbert never cared much for fame and fortune. Obviously, they never cared much for him either.
Are you high tonight?
Hamburg, Germany: January 24, 1981. "Would you please welcome from Europe, The Michael Schenker Group!"
From Europe? The continent?! Wait a minute…Germany is in Europe! Can you imagine Lynyrd Skynyrd playing an Alabama concert hall and being introduced as "Lynyrd Skynyrd from North America" ???
From the opening announcement, to the stage lighting and wardrobe (red and black striped tights), this episode of Rockpalast all suggest This is Spinal Tap, but it's clear the Michael Schenker Group means serious business. In fact, one of rock history's biggest head-scratchers is how German-born guitarist Michael Schenker never managed to rise above the level of cult hero. This mad axeman should have caused millions of rock fans to ask: "Eddie Van who?"
A founding member of The Scorpions, Schenker left the multi-platinum head-banging outfit on the eve of their international breakthrough. From there he joined up with the English band UFO, helping them create several adult oriented rock standards, while building up a steady following through incessant touring. Unfortunately, living in close quarters drove a wedge between Schenker and UFO lead singer Phil Mogg. Tensions came to a head in late 1978, resulting in the Schenker's departure prior to the release of UFO's seminal live album, Strangers In The Night, which launched the band on a one-way trip to oblivion.
Michael Schenker Group: Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends, Vol. 2 is live televised performance, taped for Deutschland's long-running concert program, captures the Michael Schenker Group at the peak of its powers. With a black leather bomber jacket and shock of blonde hair, Schenker looks every bit an Aryan god. He doesn't say a word and eschews the spotlight, preferring to hang back upstage left, clutching his ever-present Gibson "Flying V," through which he ceaselessly throttles pure magic.
A rapturous audience, made up largely of teenage males, show their appreciation by sticking out their tongues and thrusting their middle fingers forward whenever the camera turns its attention their way. The set list includes…
• "Armed And Ready"
Now well past its 30th Anniversary, the Michael Schenker Group has gone through countless permutations; the only constant member being its namesake. For my money, the lineup here is the group's best: bassist Chris Glen, drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist Paul Raymond, and lead singer Gary Barden. Barden's sturdy, elastic baritone is a bit strained by the insane demands of singing over immense noise and smoke. His rapport with the audience never goes beyond "Hey! You feelin' good, yeah? Alright, this next number is called…"
Behind Barden, the four instrumentalists are having a great night, which is not to say there aren't one or two sonic kerfuffles. No medieval motifs, no jungle backdrops, and no dancing. If you're looking for such entertainment, try Celine, Britney, or Circque du Soleil. Me, I don't trust a rock concert without a few bum notes or an awkward pause between numbers for an emergency tune-up.
There is one accidentally comic moment. Barden dedicates "Feels Like A Good Thing" to "all the Frauleins in Hamburg," as the camera desperately pans the crowd, trying to find one female in a room with more sausage than a local butcher.
MVD's standard definition 1.33:1 full frame presentation looks almost good as new, though we are talking about live television from thirty years ago. The 2.0 Dolby Stereo mix does a fine job of pumping out the jams. There are no extras, but once the encore ends and the house lights come up, it's time to take the party elsewhere anyways.
You say you're sick of today's pre-packaged, auto-tuned, soul-free music? Slip in Michael Schenker Group: Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends, Vol. 2 and let yourself be transported to an alternate universe where a packed house of rabid rockers are chanting "David Lee who?"
Guilty as hell, in the manner of all great Rock shows!
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