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Michael Schenker - Michael Schenker Fest Live

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In Akustik Music
Produced by Isamu Watanbe

Michael Schenker Fest Live is of course the latest live release from Germany guitar hero Michael Schenker, but this time it captures his performance at the Tokyo International Forum in the Summer of 2016 for one of his rare "Michael Schenker Fest" shows. These shows were particularly special as they delivered a Michael Schenker Group set with a revolving door of the group's past vocalists, Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, in addition to the returning cast of Ted McKenna on drums, Chris Glen on bass and Steve Mann on guitar.

Primarily packaged as a double CD and DVD set (although also available separately) the footage offers a crisp and vibrant picture which manages to sufficiently capture the energy of the performance. The lighting and visuals of the show are all successfully reproduced and wisely sidestep the overemphasis concert DVDs often place on the stage show. Similarly, the camera angles are varied enough to provide a sense of action without detracting from the performance itself. In terms of the sound production, the releases offers a rich and balanced mix which picks up the nuances of the live show. The audio also translates equally well through both a hi-fi system and standard television speakers. Based on DVD quality alone, Michael Schenker Fest is a dramatic improvement on the guitarist's last visual release and corrects a lot of the problems that were found on the On a Mission Live In Madrid DVD released a year prior.

As for the actual content of this release, the show is broken down into three mini-sets which are separated by instrumental sections. The best of these is arguably the first, which features Gary Barden. Of all of the vocalists to perform with MSG over the years, Barden's work has arguably resulted in the greatest number of classic tracks. Armed And Ready, Attack of The Mad Axeman, Victim of Illusion and Cry for The Nations are all classic Schenker fan favourites, which begs the question as to why Barden's set was placed at the start of the show as opposed to opting for a huge finish of classic numbers. With all due respect to McAuley and Graham Bonnet, there's an infectious quality of belonging that comes with seeing Barden and Schenker reunited. It’s the sound of classic MSG and is one of, if not the, highlight of the release.

At only three songs long, Bonnet's set is noticeably shorter than the others, but the vocalist makes up for this with a ferocious attitude that particularly shines on Assault Attack. The addition of Dancer also goes down well and rounds off a short but respectable run. McAuley's set is equal in length to that of Barden's and also offers up some classic Schenker on UFO favourites Shoot Shoot and Rock Bottom. Of all the vocal performances on offer McAuley's is potentially the strongest as the Irishman sings with a potency and dominance that makes for highly entertaining viewing, before the inevitable conclusion of Doctor Doctor with all three singers.

Yet the real gem of this release is Schenker himself. The last few years have seen a continuous stream of strong releases from the guitar player, yet his performance on this DVD is arguably the best he's released in years. It appears that since his resurgence he has continued to develop his signature style, which culminates here in some of the cleanest, tasteful, and most fluid playing that the German has ever delivered on record. It's an inspired performance that highlights why he should be regarded as one of the most important rock guitar players of all time.

In general, Michael Schenker Fest Live is a strong release which captures a unique performance that any MSG fan should own. It's definitely worth picking up the DVD/CD box set as both platforms offer enough quality to be necessary. With that said, the only real tarnish on an otherwise excellent release is the order of the set-list. While the performance in general is very strong, there's an overriding feeling that the album takes a small dip in song terms after Barden's set and doesn't really get up to speed again until the last two tracks of McAuley's. Yet despite this minor complaint there's more than enough content to warrant it's inclusion in even the smallest Schenker fan's collection.

“ a dramatic improvement on the guitarist's last visual release ”

Tracklist: Searching For Freedom / Into The Arena / Attack of The Mad Axeman / Victim of Illusion / Cry For The Nations / Let Sleeping Dogs Lie / Armed And Ready / Coast To Coast / Assault Attack / Desert Song / Dancer / Captain Nemo / This Is My Heart / Save Yourself / Love Is Not A Game / Shoot Shoot / Rock Bottom / Doctor Doctor

Written by James Abel
More: 2017, Hard/Heavy Rock, Live Albums, Live DVDs,

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