Concert Report by Shayson Clay
MSG at the House of Blues, Chicago, IL
December 19, 2003

Added on 12/21/2003

Last nites show at the house of blues in Chicago was nothing short of magical. I dont think I have ever seen that place as packed before you could feel the energy, Chicago really loves Michael, anywhere you walk in the club you hear stories from the UFO days up to his last tour, one guy I talked to has seen UFO over 40 times, a lucky man indeed. The openers were Chicagos enuff z nuff and boy did they stink up the place, they are just plain terrible, people were shouting "get off the stage" and the like. Next up was George Lynch and his band Mr.Scary and let me just say the last time I saw George was on Dokkens Tooth and Nail tour, and he has just gotten better over the years, I'm not familiar with his stuff after Dokken but it is refreshingly different, and his version of "Voodoo Chile" and Dokkens "when heaven comes down" were classics. As soon as MSG hit the stage opening with "Ready to rock" the place lit up like a firecracker, everybody was fixated on the stage. The audience was singing along so loudly to "only you can rock me" it was hard to hear the band! The set was the typical set with "Because I can" from the Beware of scorpions album thrown in, and he played the encores this time. One thing about this show is that it seemed as if he was improvising more on the solos even on some of the newer songs (which got a great response, I remember the written in the sand tour it was like nobody knew he had a new cd out!!!) what blew me away though was his solo on "Rock bottom" absolutely shredding it, its hard to describe but it was different but yet it sounded like thats the way it should be by far the most impressive live solo I have ever heard from him. After the show I was off to the merchandise booth so I could get my picture with him and my thank you 4 cd, once again he was very nice and was happy to take the picture. Briefly talked to Wayne about the show and we had to get on the road back home. once again a wonderful night compliments of MSG. Watch out Japan, sounds like he's coming!!!

Concert Report by Shelly Harris
MSG at the House of Blues, Chicago, IL
December 19, 2003 (originally posted on

Added on 12/22/2003

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! And -- there's no overstating it -- Christmas came early for those legion Michael Schenker (and MSG/UFO) aficionados in attendance at his first (of two) sold-out shows at Chicago's House of Blues on December 19th. When Schenker is truly "on" and in good spirits, no one -- but no one -- delivers melodic, dynamic, straight-ahead guitar rock better than he does, and this night The Maestro was absolutely on fire, in that understated, effortless, yet supremely incendiary style that has made him a legend for over 30 years. Moreover, it was one of those rare times when all the right elements came together for the kind of rock show euphoria that dreams are made of.

First off, while trends have come and gone, Schenker (like UFO) has remained incredibly renown and popular in Chicago since the bulk of the classic UFO Strangers In The Night double live album was recorded here in the late '70s (at the old Amphitheater), and no amount of past "sins" (i.e. unpredictability and canceled tours, etc.) have ever depleted the unconditional love for Schenker, in particular, in all the intervening years. But actually the omens -- and a charged air of expectancy -- for a spectacular show were all in place well before MSG and Herr Schenker even stepped onstage. In mingling with the crowd before the show (primarily educated, intelligent, enlightened male folk in the 30 - 50 range), it was obvious that almost all were up on the ebb and flow of Schenker's career in recent years, and were also "in the know" about his recently revitalized and upbeat attitude towards his music, touring, and his own fans. Furthermore, they were also aware that the Chicago dates were the potential heady, crescendo-producing conclusion of a tour that had already been lauded on earlier dates. In fact, like almost every MSG/UFO Chicago tour stop before it in years past, this show was packed with hordes of long time fans who are all extremely cognizant of not only Schenker's music (including the many big UFO/MSG "hits" along with the newer or more obscure numbers), but also highly aware and attuned to the precise rarity and genius of his gift. On top of that, the particular venue, House of Blues, because of it's compact lateral design and pitless (but elevated) stage setup, is also a place where the combined intimacy and sound swell can potentially be explosive both from an audiovisual and crowd feedback perspective.

So, following the "warm up" bands (the home-grown Enuff Znuff and the impressive outing by George Lynch's new project, "Mr. Scary") the stage was figuratively set to be ignited in more ways than one. (Schenker never needs any fancy stage set up or any other props for that matter, to accomplish his brand of fireworks; his mere presence on the stage -- in his typical, outwardly low-key manner -- is enough on its own to send mega volts of electricity circulating through the audience.) However, from the opening notes of "Ready to Rock" it did not hurt matters that it was evident that Schenker, looking healthy and shyly smiling, was indeed -- like the rest of the crowd -- on a natural upper just to be there himself. (In removing his sunglasses at the outset, it was a perhaps symbolic gesture that he had every intention of connecting with this audience to the fullest extent possible.)

Really, no particular run down of the set list is necessary, although it did follow almost exactly the list on previous shows and included some of the best known and loved UFO and MSG songs, along with a couple of cuts off the excellent MSG album released last summer, Arachnophobiac. More important to note was the stunning and progressively building chemistry and electricity between Schenker, the band, and the audience -- which truly did build up to a religious-like crescendo with the final number, Schenker's signature UFO masterpiece, "Rock Bottom." With each song, as the audience sang along at full throttle, Schenker -- though never the ostentatious showboat -- delivered, with deceptive calmness, precision, and clarity, some of the most inspired, emotive, and delicately nuanced guitar work you will ever have the pleasure of witnessing and hearing. Note too that although most of the solos on the best known songs could all be recited note for note by the crowd (regardless of whether you play the guitar or not), Schenker has a way of delivering the expected thrilling notes, while also improvising something more -- something a step beyond. Caught up in the vibe himself as each song upped the ante, Schenker even stepped nearer the edge of the stage than is typical, began swaying back and forth in time to the rhythm with the rest of the masses, and could not resist returning the bountiful smiling and eye contact that was coming in swells from the crowd. By the time the band ( vocalist Chris Logan, bassist Rev. Jones, drummer Pete Holms, rhythm guitarist/keys Wayne Findlay -- who were all up to the task in inspired form) got to numbers like "Doctor, Doctor" (featuring a stunningly different and delicate version of the famous lead intro), "Too Hot To Handle," and the aforementioned "Rock Bottom" the floor was swaying and the whole venue was really up for grabs, aurally and spiritually, too. The crowd, in a state of heady euphoria, was, amongst other things, chanting "Maestro, Maestro!" along with "Michael, Michael!" and it certainly was not exaggerated praise. Simply put, it was a night of satisfaction guaranteed: authentic, spectacularly executed rock 'n roll at its best and a couple of highly rarefied hours of experiencing a supremely gifted musician/guitarist at his pinnacle. Cloud 9 just doesn't get any better than that, folks; just ask anyone in the HOB in Chicago on the night December 19th, 2003.

Interestingly, as Schenker recently noted in the pre-tour interview I did with him, his primary motive -- from his earliest days as a teenage guitar prodigy -- has always been that he "wanted to be able to do something like what Jeff Beck did to me with his guitar playing -- to give people goose pimples and make people enjoy themselves with some sounds." It's safe to say that he has indeed been doing that throughout his lifetime, and -- from all indications this night in Chicago -- the best is actually still yet to come.

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