Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. Joe Namath and the Jets upset the Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969. And UFO formed as an early hard rock group in 1969. You would think a band that has been rocking for 47 years would have gone through musical transformations, lineup changes and have a faithful fan following. In this case, you would be right as they have been voted #84 in VH-1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. And three of the original members have recorded and toured together for most of that time. And a packed house at the Gas Monkey Live couldn’t wait to hear UFO rock their faces off.
MOTHERSHIP and LEGACY performed well to open the show as people jostled to get in front of the stage. They warmed up the crowd, but this was a night for UFO-aholics.
The GML staff took great care of us, as they always do, and the crowd shouted “U-F-O” in unison as the lights dimmed and the members of the band walked onstage to thunderous applause. Everyone was in great shape and sounded very tight as they started with a rocking jam before jumping into “We Belong To The Night.” Vocalist Phil Mogg has a slightly deeper voice, which fit him and the songs perfectly, and he still carries the microphone stand around the stage, just as he’s always done. The guitarists were three abreast across the stage and showed everyone that rock and roll is here to stay.
The applause kept going as Phil began “Fight Night” to the adoration of the fans. Lead guitarist Vinnie Moore launched the first of his many solos that revved an already hyped-up crowd. Rob De Luca, a standout bass player, also shined with a solo on this KISS-sounding song.
Andy Parker then sparkled with a dirty drum beat on “Run Boy Run” off their newest album, Conspiracy of Stars, their 22nd studio album. Keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond had a hand in the 3-pronged guitar attack before switching instruments to tease us with a keys solo. A pure rock and roll ending made this song an early fan favorite.
Phil ditched his leather jacket and sniffed his armpits to let the audience know he didn’t want to offend anyone. Vinnie again had a highlight spot on “Lights Out” before they slowed it down and Phil carried “Rollin Rollin” with its very personal lyrics and haunting melody.
A few ladies wearing painted-on jeans showed up in the standing room only area as Mr. Mogg toasted the night with a beer and the band played “Venus.” The other two guitarists turned it into a jam as Vinnie had a helluva stint on the type of song I played as a kid to drive my parents crazy, “Only You Can Rock Me.” Once again, Phil’s voice and stage presence carried “Burn Your House Down” while Vinnie made the notes linger long after his fingers left the strings. Afterward, Phil gave a salute to Keith Emerson of EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER fame as we’re losing way too many legends and childhood heroes and then laid down a wicked drum beat as the band played “Cherry.”
Paul opened the next song with a mystical keyboard solo that reminded everyone of the greatness of Mr. Emerson before “Love To Love” turned into a classic 70’s rock jam.
Rob got nasty on the bass, then a hard chord change evolved into a heavy guitar solo that pulsated through the audience. Phil enjoyed himself as the spry 67-year-old danced the song away. A drunk woman pulled the “Look at me! Look at me!” routine, but most of us were able to maintain our focus on the band. We’re glad we did as “Messiah Of Love” was pure rock and roll.
All the musicians had solos on “Makin’ Moves,” my new favorite UFO song. The crowd erupted for Andy’s drumming and loved watching Phil bust a move again through the instrumentals. They finished with “Rock Bottom,” a song made for concerts. Everyone got a chance to put their talents on display, lead and rhythm dueled and played off each other and all three jammed for several minutes to show the youngsters how to close out a rock and roll show.
Deafening shouts of “U-F-O!” brought them back for an encore starting with my old favorite, “Doctor Doctor.” Even though it’s on my personal playlist, it never sounded better than it did Friday night. The five talented musicians on the stage were having fun, especially Paul, who swung his guitar like Machine Gun Kelly robbing a bank. This was contagious as the crowd reacted to the music and the antics.
If that had been the finale, the crowd would have been thrilled, but they added “Shoot Shoot” to top off a great night. Once again, each one showed their prowess on their instrument. Andy and Rob highlighted before they finished with a kick ass jam that did indeed rock our faces off. Damn, it was fun! The eclectic crowd of heavy metal T-shirt wearers didn’t want the show to end as this Friday had all the subtleness of a full moon Saturday night.
Some people traveled in packs, some were lone wolves and one hot mom brought her teenage son to introduce him to good music. I watched to see if she used him as her wingman, but lost sight of her in the overflowing crowd.
There were many highlights during the night as one would expect of such a seasoned band. Along with the three long time veterans, Vinnie Moore has been with them for 13 years and Rob De Luca has played for eight. It shows as they play off each other well, fill in for one another well and have put together a show that flows, builds up excitement and leaves you knowing you have been a part of the show, not just another concert attendee. Their music speaks for itself as their discography also includes over two dozen live and compilation albums.
Starting with album rock in the early days of FM, when DJs played entire albums, they perfected their craft by constant touring, making a big splash in Japan and Germany. They also learned from others as they played so many stadium concerts with ten or 15 other bands on the bill. All this has made for a tight unit that still puts out damn good music and delivers an exciting concert for their legions of fans! A special thanks goes to Brice at Gas Monkey Live for all his help.
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS
LIVE PHOTOS: GUZPIX