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Live in Chicago, July 2005

Review by Greg Olma

There was a UFO that landed in Chicago on a hot July evening. No, not the kind that transport little green men but the English rock institution. That's right; UFO Mk. 82 has come to Chicago for 2 shows at the House of Blues. For those of you who keep griping about how it isn't UFO without Michael Schenker, get over it! UFO has existed for just as many years with him as they have without him. The band that played tonight is just as good, if not better than all of the other versions. Yes, Schenker was part of the "classic-era" line-up but he was undependable. You never knew if he was going to show up or play the full set. Now, I will get off my soapbox and review the show.
"Hello Chicago, would you please welcome from England and America, U-F-O!" The old intro got a little revision but the band rocked just the same. They opened with "Mother Mary" and right from the start, you could tell that the band was on fire. Phil Mogg had the crowd in a frenzy even before the guitar solo. Following on the heels of "Mother Mary', they unleashed the stage favorite "Let It Roll". These two songs really set the mood for the show. After 2 classics, they played "When Daylight Goes to Town" off the new album "You Are Here". Even though the song did not get much crowd reaction, it does stand up alongside the older classics.
Knowing that the crowd was there to hear the older songs, the band pulled out "I'm a Loser" and "This Kids" for an airing. Vinnie Moore deserves some credit. He honors Michael Schenker's style while letting you know he is still Vinnie Moore by occasionally slipping in a few extra notes. "Wild One" was, in my opinion, the only song that really didn't fit the set. While being a good song on the album, it loses something live. It just didn't have that X-factor that the other songs had.

After the (very) slight misstep of "Wild One", the band redeemed itself by playing "Only You Can Rock Me". It just doesn't get any better than this. The crowd reacted enthusiastically which made the band play that much better (not that they needed it). "Mr. Freeze" was up next and quite frankly, it was one of the best songs played tonight. I hope this song becomes a staple in the live set in years to come. Phil and the boys continued with another great song off the new album "Baby Blue". Vinnie Started this one off with some great acoustic guitar right before Phil delivers his most passionate performance of the evening. Don't cheat yourself by going to the beer line during this song. You will really miss out on a great performance.
Well, after 2 new songs, we went back to the classics with a surprise performance of "Cherry". Jeff Kollman, standing in for the absent Pete Way, started this little rocker off. The crowd went nuts when the song started and I was surprised at how well it was received. It is one of those songs that rarely makes it into the set but by judging the crowd's reaction, I think we'll be hearing this one live more often. Just to make sure that the crowd got a little bit of a breather before the home stretch, Paul Raymond ushered in "Love to Love". Paul is one of those players that are often over-looked but are key to the sound of the band. I for one was glad to see (and hear) him back in the band.

If this was a boxing match, UFO were just about ready to go Mike Tyson on us. The one, two, three punch of "Too Hot to Handle", "Lights Out" and "Rock Bottom" barely left us standing. I know a lot of people feel UFO shouldn't play "Rock Bottom" without Michael Schenker but Vinnie Moore pulled it off just fine. He played it in Michael's style but changed the solo a bit to make it his own. Jason Bonham and Jeff Kollman are a rock solid rhythm section and their performance during the middle section of "Rock Bottom" proves my point.

For the first of 2 encores, we were treated to a surprisingly upbeat "Doctor Doctor". I'm sure Phil is tired of singing this song but that night he sang it like it was his first time doing it live. Even though I have heard "Doctor Doctor" a million times, I still enjoy seeing it played live. UFO finished the evening with "Shoot Shoot". During the song, Paul Raymond was hit in the face with Jeff Kollman's broken bass string. I was afraid that he might have gotten hurt but he finished the song without missing a beat.

If you won't go to see UFO because Michael Schenker is not with them, get over it. You are cheating yourself out of seeing a great band. My only complaint is that they didn't play anything from the Paul Chapman-era. I, for one, will be back next time and the time after that (and the time after that).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at
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