UFO – Helsinki 29.5.2014

One of the most long awaited concert performances yet to be experienced had to be British cornerstones of hard rock, UFO. They have soldiered on now for over amazing 45 years.

Some years before, the band was scheduled to play a show here at Nosturi but due to vocalist Phil Mogg’s voice problems that particular gig of the tour was cancelled. So in 2014 I got the second chance which I was definitely not going to miss. From the original line-up, drummer Andy Parker and Mogg still remain, vocalist being the only constant factor in UFO’s turbulent history. Also keyboardist and occasional rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond can be considered part of the classic core as he’s been there on and off since the late 1970’s. Guitar wizard Michael Schenker departed for the final time more than 10 years ago and his replacement from the US, Vinnie Moore has done more than respectable work considering Schenker’s immortal status. Legendary bassist Pete Way had to exit as well some years ago due to health and visa problems and well known session bassist Rob DeLuca has filled in since then.

Without further introductions, Mogg and co. stepped on stage and threw themselves into one of the all-time UFO- classics “Lights Out.” Band’s albums from the past decade have been somewhat varying in quality. Good songs have featured throughout but the move towards bluesier direction from UFO’s famous brand of hard rock hasn’t been nearly as enjoyable for an older fan. The group’s at that time latest record “Seven Deadly” fortunately again presents couple of hard and heavy belters, including “Fight Night” and “Wonderland” which were both rolled out back to back after opening number. Especially “Wonderland” with its excellent guitar riff got the audience involved from the beginning. Also at this point after slight rustiness in the beginning, band got their playing together more cohesively and continued to do so until the end of the gig.

The audience were few in numbers but enthusiastic enough to sing and dance along, and shouted song requests continuously. Mogg answered these with his usual friendly sarcasm and seemed to attend to these requests occasionally. Judging by the band’s quick response and printed set list on the floor, no deviations were made to agenda. At some point Mogg laughed “you know I have a paper here which should tell me what song is next.” Set list itself was mostly combination of standard hits from the 1970’s and newer material. “Love To Love,” “Let It Roll” and “Only You Can Rock Me” are classics which always work extremely well when played live. From the new album three songs were aired and seemed to be the best picks. Also there were couple of surprises compared to earlier tours.

The crowd seemed to request tracks “Mother Mary” and “Makin’ Moves” simultaneously. Mogg picked this up and asked which one people preferred. “Makin’ Moves” won this round and the band kicked it off instantly. Great and rocking rendition of this forgotten classic from 1981’s “The Wild, Willing & The Innocent”- album was a welcome addition. As was “Pushed To The Limit” from 1995’s comeback album “Walk On Water.” That one was also played superbly.

To close the main set, we got familiar ”Rock Bottom” stretched out for over 10 minutes. Vinnie Moore played the classic guitar solo with style and substance, it might be impossible to recreate Schenker’s phenomenal feeling in this section, but Moore did more than respectable job. Encores offered no surprises either, as band’s anthem “Doctor Doctor” and always reliable “Shoot Shoot” concluded the show.

The group didn’t disappoint, although the gig was relatively short with only 13 songs played. There have been lengthier set lists on earlier shows. Moore’s playing is a mixture of classic British style and his own more technical US influenced shredding. Schenker’s melodic intensity might be out of reach, but Moore brings his own important mark to the band’s music regardless. Raymond and Parker delivered their parts with ease and had no unnecessary solo spots, also bassist DeLuca was solid. Pete Way is missed but if you closed your eyes, everything sounded good enough. We are left with possibly the most crucial part; Phil Mogg’s voice. Slight deterioration can be detected and his age is starting show on the performance as well. Still what most young singers can only dream of, Mogg’s charisma, good humor and quality carries him through with flying colors. Sonic picture at Nosturi has usually been good and that night was no exception. Mogg’s vocals could have come out a bit louder, but this was a minor quibble.

All in all, I was more than satisfied with the evening’s performance. Everyone should take the chance to see these bands with a 40-50 year career behind them, you never know when it’s all over. UFO however still has the power and stamina to carry on and hopefully there will be more tours and records to come.

Set list:

Lights Out
Fight Night
Let It Roll
When Daylight Goes To Town
Pushed To The Limit
Makin’ Moves
Burn Your House Down
Only You Can Rock Me
Love To Love
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot