Concert Report by Robert Knowles MSG at Carling Apollo Hammersmith, London, UK July 30, 2007 Added on 08/01/2007
Michael is clearly very ill and fragile and attempting to overcome enormous obstacles in order to play at all. Given how ill I actually think he is, I think he made a tremendous, almost superhuman effort. I think the tracks were as follows: Are You Ready to Rock, Dust to Dust, Lights Out, Too Hot to Handle, and Dr Dr. The only way to review what happened is to hold several observations and thoughts in tension, as follows:
(1) Michael was very disorientated, and his motor-functions were badly impaired. He lost all sense of timing at some points - and where he was in the track as well on a number of occasions. He also wandered over the stage in strange ways, got down and kneeled as he played (great for the photographers!), and also wandered over to Wayne at one point to find out where the band was up to in the track. He was very unwell. I do not agree with the other reviewer that alcohol is the only issue here - I think Michael should be in hospital at the moment, or at least seen by a doctor.
(2) He looked very much like he was trying his very best, as though trying to overcome some enormous physical impairments. It was as though he knew exactly what to do, but just couldn't make his body do it. At the end of the show, he threw his hat down in frustration. This was clearly anger at himself, and not at others. He genuinely attempted to please the crowd.
(3) Between the MSG and Scorpions sets, people were saying that Michael was "just a shadow of his former self", or that he had "lost it". This is to confuse categories, and I wish people wouldn't say it, since this contributes to Michael's condition negatively. For example, one of my friends is a lawyer, but when he gets ill I don't say, "he's lost his legal skills", or "he's a shadow of his former self". That would be absurd. Rather, the issue is simply illness and its causes and effects. This is proven when we consider Michael's great US '07 performances, his stunning playing on the Endless Jam Continues and Tales of Rock and Roll, and the fact that some of his very greatest solos have, actually, come SINCE the millenium! I have proven this beyond all shadow of a doubt with my published list of Michael's best solos on Amazon. Illness doesn't abolish a gift - it just inhibits its use.
(4) There seemed to be signs that Michael was trying to alter the solos in the tracks. It would be easy to say that he just couldn't play them. However, it's more complicated than that. I think that Michael has been forced to play the same old set so often, that he can't take it any more. It almost looked as if new shapes were beginning to form from the chaos during the gig. It wasn't just bad, though I admit it was pretty bad most of the time. Rather, there was also some creative force happening. There were actually very brief flashes of something stunning trying to happen. The only analogy I can draw is with Jimi Hendrix. When he was on fire, no-one on earth could touch him. Much of the rest of the time, however, Hendrix was simply awful, as anybody can tell from the bootlegs. Last night Schenker was like Hendrix on a bad night. Yes, it was awful - but there were some eye-openning moments as well. I think that Schenker's musical foundations are being re-paradigmed.
(5) I spent the entire evening in close personal contact with Michael last Thursday. One of my friends was there, called Ted Fell, who is a skilled Pastor, and about to be ordained into a leadership role in the Church of England. Ted has only heard Michael's playing occasionally, and is not very familiar with the whole Schenker scene. Yet he told me that he was extremely impressed with Michael's attitude at Peterborough. He pointed out that Michael's humility (at least on that occasion) was breath-taking. At one point, five of us were gathered around the bar, and Michael was setting up this tiny practice amp all on his own, fully prepared to do a show for only five people. There was not even a hint of his taking offence at such humiliation. It was impossible not to warm to Michael, and he won everybody over. As more people arrived, he got the crowd to be the percussion section whilst he played the entire US set. Though obviously suffering tremendously from what looked like exhaustion, he seemed to be unwilling not to pour out everything he had. He signed everything from CD sleeves to mobile phones. He could barely stand by the end, but made a point of saying goodbye to everybody individually. It was as though some great but old and fragile saint had visited us, and there was something very very attractive about the man's whole demeanour.
(6) I think that Michael is very alone and has received blow after blow - so much so that his present condition could almost be described as 'not able to take much more'. At Peterborough, there was a rumour that his latest friend had run off with the money from the US shows and dumped Michael. I don't know if this is true, but it is as though every time Michael attempts to do anything, demonic forces beyond his control just seem to slap him down. He needs very good friends around him to protect him, and FAST. So, I call everybody who knows him to rally around him - otherwise there is a real chance that he will no longer be with us. The sense of fragility was palpable. He almost needs to be guarded at the moment. Forget the music - we are talking about a human life here. I'm sure none of us want to see him leave this earth just yet. We love the man, we want to know him, so let's look after him and shield him before it's too late. It's easy for us to attack him for not always being the genius we want him to be. But this needs to stop. We need to remember that he has done great things for us, and so we should return the favour. It is easy to become angry - but not if it tears somebody apart or ends their life. So, let's not keep buying him brandy.
(7) It should be noted that the other band members of MSG did a superb job in looking after Michael at the Scorpions gig. Wayne's guitar was turned right up, and was superb. Jari sang brilliantly, and engaged the crowd like a true professional. The drummer and bass-player were very tight. But they were all looking out for Michael. I hope they hang in there with him and keep looking after him. They must realise that his condition is critical and that he needs his buddies now more than ever. Michael's promoter was also a lovely guy, and I hope that he goes the distance as well.
(8) Going back to the Hendrix analogy, it should be remembered that genius and psychological extremes come hand in hand very often. It's like the engine on a dragster - it's the most powerful car engine on earth, but it blows up every second run! The mind of a genius is often like that. When it's up and running, stand back folks! But most of the time the bonnet/hood is open and the engine is being worked on in the mechanic's garage. Schenker is like this. He seems to be in the grip of primordial forces that most of the time he can't handle, and can't understand. But, just occasionally, he seems to harness those forces and give us a glimpse of the divine - technically, a "Kairotic moment". Thus, most of the time, somebody like Steve Lukather will give Schenker more than a run for his money. But every now and again, Schenker will play something that neither good old Steve - nor anybody else for that matter - could ever repeat. Something harrowingly beautiful. So, let us remember this as we decide how we are going to behave towards him. Michael is our friend, and we love him - even if he is the mad axeman! Let us rally round in support at this time.
Concert Report by Celine MSG at Carling Apollo Hammersmith, London, UK July 30, 2007 Added on 08/03/2007
Just a quick hello to the guys when they arrived at the venue, and when they came on stage, the same as the first day, Michael wasn't on the top of his form, they played not even 20 minutes, and after one song, everything stopped, the band would like to continue another song, but Michael apparently didn't know what to play. again whistles, that makes me sad, I know if you pay for a gig, you want that the musicians on the top, but forget the music, people, even if it's a rock star, he's before all a human. And human are fragile, so they had ups and downs, and when someone you pretend love and admire is down, the only thing you can do is let him know you are by his side, not whistle him like that. So just like the last day, looked at him, and send him a kiss, to let him know that I will not shoot him down. He saw me and give me a kiss back, so I think he understood, I'll be with him, he needs help folks.
So to the people who say that they're MS fans, write him a little word, just to encourage him, and let him know he can be back on top soon.