Venue: The Valley of Charlotte (Dolina Charlotty)
Festival: 5th Legends of Rock Festival
Line-up: Phil Mogg Vinnie Moore Andy Parker Paul Raymond Rob De Luca
Set: 1. The Wild The Willing and the Innocent 2. Mother Mary 3. Saving Me 4. I’m a Loser 5. Hell Driver 6. This Kids 7. Ain’t No Baby 8. Only You Can Rock Me 9. Too Hot To Handle 10. Love to Love 11. Rock Bottom 12. Lights Out 13. Doctor Doctor
Encores 14. Shoot Shoot
Shooting Stars in the Valley of Charlotte
Yesterday nocturnal sky looked entirely cleared up. Unfortunately when UFO were rocking down the place it was cloudy and there was no way of watching the astronomical ‘Perseid meteor show peak’ which was happening on the night of the show. No harm done, UFO totally made it up…
Prior to the show, at around 6 pm, the musicians gathered in the hotel bar to do a short press conference. Before that, they signed the pub wall and that added up to the collection of on-the-wall autographs. A moment after a palpable glitch with some unprepared journalists occurred. The person conducting the conference did not know the band’s last studio offering. Her questions were based on the short info about the upcoming album that made it to the Polish press once UFO’s appearance at the Legends of Rock festival was announced. The band took the questions with a pinch of salt and with their usual charm answered them willingly; especially Phil, Andy and Vinnie. So, according to what was said the new album is coming out in January next year, there is no possibility of specifying musical direction the band will record in simply because there’s none, and it is all spontaneous really. The longevity of rock and roll? The music, the fans and the approach they treat the band with keep them going. The most exciting times in music for Andy Parker? Late 60’s and the 70’s. They also got a question regarding the future appearance at High Voltage Festival. Vinnie was confused: ‘We played there last year.’ Ummm, yes. Funny thing was one guy demanding the band to play their first two albums… Ok, then I thought I could save the reputation of Polish media by asking Phil about Sign of 4. A glint in the eye, scallywag-like smile and: ‘Now I hate this guy’ response made me laugh. Of course, he appreciated the question but said there’s no possibility of resurrecting the project because of problems with the logistics as everyone lives miles away from each other. After the conference the band gracefully and patiently posed to pictures and signed everything the fans brought along. Truly great people.
Preceded by a long-lasting, cold shower the festival started at around 8 pm but UFO were not to come on stage up until 12 30 am which really added to the overall excitement. TSA, Polish rock legends, commenced the show. They are pretty popular in Poland among the fans of rock music and many people appreciated them opening the whole thing. TSA’s music is heavily rooted in the 70’s, their Led Zeppelin influences are more than evident and they managed to pull off a great show and went off stage to fans’ generally positive reaction. Having said that, I got the impression the sound producer did not manage to squeeze everything out of TSA’s heavy rock.
SAXON were next on the bill, and judging from the T-shirts you could tell that many fans came down to the Valley of Charlotte to experience SAXON. It was my first time with SAXON and I have to say they were very good. Monster, gritty sound, characteristic vocals and wonderful interaction with the audience made SAXON deserving great applause. Biff Byford was all over the place chatting about SAXON’s Polish history before the songs. I always wanted to hear ‘747’ and it was indeed part of the encore. Great, heavy metal show, and it was to get even better with
…who came on stage very late at night to the intro of Peter Gunn theme song. When I heard that I had the uncanny feeling the show was going to be awesome. With UFO you are guaranteed to get a stunning show, however the band has always had this recognisable element of surprise and improvisation, manifesting itself especially in Vinnie Moore’s fine instrumentalism. Nearly two years after ‘The Visitor’ was released, you would suspect the band to be a little bit bored and the show a tad stale. You would be surprised because there was no sign of boredom and the show was as energetic as ever. Phil Mogg once again proved that he is the master of on-the-spot phrasing and inimitable stage antics (and a linguist); Vinnie Moore (aka Vincenzo Mariani according to Phil) never ceased to amaze with his interpretations and magical guitar playing; Andy Parker’s thunderous drumming still resounds in my bones; Paul Raymond was keeping an eye on everybody and filling the air with his tasteful organ/guitar licks; and as for Rob De Luca (not Pete Way who apparently was there according to the journos), his bass playing was very good and steadily complimented Andy’s drumming. Rob is also a singer and both with Paul did a helluva job when singing along with Phil. Truth be told the musicians are masters in their own fields, and it would be satisfactory just to see them playing solo, but UFO is what they are here for – to bring rock music to the fans all over the globe firing on all cylinders. They do it all with style that is so rare, even among their contemporaries. This is what you get: straight rock and roll with no theatrical tricks. The music, and ability to see the guys performing is as entertaining as watching a beautiful actress of your preference performing a lap dance just for you, if you like metaphors.
As I said earlier, the show started at 12 30 am with a phenomenal rendition of ‘The Wild The Willing and the Innocent’ and for some it must have been a welcoming surprise. Phil later joked that next time in Poland they will perform ‘Belladonna’ , referring to one of the questions he got at the conference earlier that day. Without a stop in between, the band blasted into ‘Mother Mary’ which got the audience, nearly 4 000 people, to their feet. ‘Saving Me’ was up next and along with ‘Hell Driver’ it was the only representative of Vinnie Moore era in the set list. Both songs were performed with fire, and Vinnie was particularly displaying his virtuosity. It is great to see him changing between the electric and acoustic so easily in ‘Saving Me’. Au contraire to the studio version, ‘Hell Driver’ ended with particularly nice keyboard work from Paul. ‘I’m a Loser’, ‘Ain’t No Baby’ slowed things down a bit, and the rest of the show comprised of classics such as ground shattering ‘This Kids’, riffy and melodic ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, however the main dish was still to come. ‘Too Hot To Handle’, good ol’ UFO rock and roll is always a dance along song of the evening. It was the fiery showstopper of ‘Love to Love’/’Rock Bottom’/’Lights Out’ which transported me somewhere I have never been to. It all started with Vinnie’s magnificent solo in ‘Rock Bottom’. As a close follower of the band, I could tell he was going to go somewhere with it, but it really got me in trance. I was observing him playing and suddenly I felt a spiritual bond with the guys on stage. Everything was in tune, and Vinnie was headed for a musical dimension so I took a ride with him. Looking at Vinnie-Andy-Rob-Paul jamming together was something I have no words for. The musical understanding the guys shared and the willingness to take the audience with them, especially in that ‘Rock Bottom’ solo was, to quote Wordsworth ‘a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ and let it stay that way. ‘Love to Love’ belonged to Phil and his heart clutching vocal part, the intro from Paul was sending chills down my spine. ‘Lights Out’ showcased Andy Parker who drummed with intensity and feeling that only old school drummers have and this song alone showed who ruled that memorable evening, or should I say ‘night’? ‘Lights Out’ closed the first part of the show and left the audience craving for more. ‘Doctor Doctor’ was the first encore and seeing the band at arm’s length allowed the classic to flourish again in my heart. After that the UFO chant began… With ‘Shoot Shoot’ the band returned on stage and I caught Vinnie’s pick (a fluke – the wind was blowing my way) and his smile which will stay with me forever, same as when he spotted me at the conference.
All things considered, the audience’s reaction could have been better and I was dying to hear ‘Try Me’ however, on a personal level it all boosted the impression of what UFO’s virtuosity is all about – it is for the band what philosopher’s stone would have been for the alchemists had they eventually found it! Go and see the band for yourself. You will thoroughly enjoy the experience! They are sensational!