|UFO/Heavy Metal Kids - Bristol, O2 Academy - 25th March 2012|
|Written by Jamie Richards|
|Thursday, 05 April 2012 05:00|
It's a ridiculously warm springtime Sunday in Bristol, and still smarting with the handicap of being designated driver during a March heat wave when the Wetherspoons annual beer festival is in full flow, I am pleased to finally arrive at an already busy venue, grab a decent vantage point, and bear witness to a real rock 'n' roll legend.
Heavy Metal Kids really are a mysterious beast to me, they are the seldom spoke about stuff of mythology; Like everyone else, I've seen the old Top Of the Pops footage with original singer Gary Holton, but that's about it for me, and I'm genuinely curious to see what the band offer. Tonight, I am pleased to say I am far from disappointed, a tight unit indeed, with a real fattened out rock sound-compared to the East End punk 'n' roll I was expecting. There's been a bit of a revolving door front man policy with the Kids the last few years, but from what I see and hear of Justin McConville then there's no need to keep the position open any longer; his confident style adds more than a little Sunset Strip swagger to the Kids' London strut. 'She's No Angel' is predictably very well received by the already packed Academy, and a superb tribute to recently deceased Ronnie Montrose is readily gobbled up and loudly appreciated. Tonight's gig is a triumph for a really classy band of rock 'n' roll survivors; I look forward to catching them again.
Talking of survivors, It's hard to get across the amount of affection shown by the crowd at the Academy tonight toward UFO, there's a real sense of togetherness twixt those in attendance and their heroes; and when the first teasing riff of 'Mother Mary' emerges from the reliable wall of Marshall's, a cheer given only to heroes resonates around the dungeon like venue. Phil Mogg no longer has the waspish rasp of the young mop haired fella that shrilled effortlessly up and down octaves on their classic albums, instead he has adapted his voice to a wonderfully smooth, much bluesier tone; and his stage persona and charm are as endearing as ever. The confidence in the newer material is well founded, as 'Fight Night' and 'Wonderland' from the very decent 'Seven Deadly', are aired early in the set. In fact confidence exudes throughout the band, who quite visibly enjoy every minute of playing these days, as evident in wall to wall grins sported by each band member. The stability that lead guitarist Vinnie Moore has brought to the band is absolutely priceless, as is his playing, and along with current bass player Rob De Luca, stalwart Paul Raymond, and the ever reliable Andy Parker keeping time with Bonham like precision and power, you can see, and hear why it's such a winning combination.
Before the half way mark, the place is brought to its' already trembling knees with a stunning version of 'Only You Can Rock Me', a triumphant sing-a-long that most bands would struggle to follow; but that's no problem for these guys and their back catalogue, and as the spotlight rests on Raymond's keyboard for him to orchestrate the orgasmic, semi-prog overture of 'Love To Love', the whole audience realises that UFO have indeed- rolled them over and done them again. 'Hell Driver', from 2009's excellent 'The Visitor', gets a deserved outing, before we're picked up and taken for a ride in a hit tornado via a succession of classic tracks that are simply some of the greatest rock songs ever written. 'Too Hot To Handle', 'Lights Out', then the sublime 'Rock Bottom' all follow as the latter sees Moore show off his extensive fret board based talent in an excellent extended mid-section, before the band leaves us to beg for more-and beg we do.
Mogg leads his troops back to the stage to bring about the grand finale, quipping along the way in his charming, and never softened Landahn drawl "scuse us....for a minute back there I thought Parker was gonna get the drugs out again", genuine hilarity ensues around the crowd, before the obligatory work out of the brilliant 'Doctor Doctor'. Then with Moore cranking out yet another of the most recognisable rock riffs ever written, Parker gives it a little cow bell, and almost puts his foot through the floor for one last time, and the band tear through an unforgettable 'Shoot Shoot', and joy and delirium spreads throughout an already satisfied crowd once more.
In 1980, somewhere in a parallel universe, when Led Zeppelin retired UFO got serious. They put the lid back on that bottle of brandy, made a million dollar toilet flush, and became the biggest band in the world. The people that inhabit that alternative "infamous" UFO universe allow themselves to be raped and pillaged by Viagogo, for the privilege of a nosebleed seat in some faceless enormodome, as the Tonka Chapman line up of the band trundle along on their 43rd year anniversary tour. Mogg, Way, Parker, Raymond and Co never speaking directly to one another and travelling in separate buses, each with his own accountant and lawyer constantly by their side. Okay we know that isn't quite how it happened in our world, but when you look at the baggage that surrounds some of UFO's peers from back in the day, the big impersonal venues played by AC/DC, the involvement of lawyers and the squabbling over money with Black Sabbath, ...and here's these guys, still doing what they love to do and with genuine smiles on each of their faces, well that truly helps make it an absolute pleasure to witness, and you have to ask yourself who the real winners are? Tonight that's an easy question to answer for sure, "it's us", the 1,600 people crammed into the basement of an old cinema complex in Bristol city centre, lucky to be in the presence of one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands the world has ever seen.