UFO, with support from Tara Lynch.
Tara Lynch is something of an impressive presence on stage, a mane of flaming red hair and a voice to go along with it, this evening’s support act is exactly the kind of warmup up you need for a band of UFO’s stature. An enthusiastic audience lap up the slightly earlier support set and we’re treated to half an hour of pristine metal noise. Tara takes on lead vocal and lead guitar duties and puts on a virtuoso performance as she wrangles riffs, licks and solos in abundance from her guitar. How she manages to sing and do all the widdly bits on the guitar at the same time is completely beyond me! Set highlight is the anthemic ‘Antidote’ which has been on repeat here since hearing it for the first time last night.
The last order bell rings out on stage before UFO wander out to the stage to rapturous applause. It’s already well-known that this is to be lead singer and founder member Phil Mogg’s last foray with the band before retirement, although he doesn’t mention this (and doesn’t need to) during the evening – why put a dampener on things? Fifty years is a good innings for any career, but in music, especially nowadays, it’s particularly impressive. For a band of their vintage, lineup changes are almost inevitable but Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond have been the mainstay of the band for much of that time. They’re joined by bassist Rob De Luca on bass and Vinnie Moore on lead guitar, although the latter two have now been with the band for over ten years so they can hardly be termed as ‘new’ members.
Opening with ‘Mother Mary’ this set is exactly what you’d expect, blistering pace, guitar solos (so many guitar solos) a bit of banter from the irrepressible Mr Mogg and plenty of hits to please the fans. It seems uncharitable to mention Phil Mogg’s age, but the man is seventy for goodness sake and proves that age really is just a number. Vocally he is flawless throughout and arguably sounds better than he did all those years ago when the band first started out. There’s a rich timbre to his voice that adds depth to the songs and makes me wonder if he could be persuaded to hang around for a bit longer. ‘Baby Blue’ from 2004 album ‘You Are Here’ is testament to that fact; it’s a tune that I didn’t rate all that much on the initial release, the production values had it sounding a little thin and reedy, but the live version has a considerably more depth and passion and it’s an emotive tune that works well tonight.
‘Love to Love’ is one of three songs from album ‘Lights Out’ from 1977 and it’s one of the highlights of the evening. Already clocking in at over seven minutes the live version sounds considerably heavier and proggy than the studio version. It opens with Moore’s delicate picking on the acoustic guitar accompanied by Raymond on keys before flitting between powerhouse metal riffs and the more delicate verse. The obvious hits like ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Rock Bottom’ are, as you’d expect, received with enthusiasm and pumping fists.
My only real note of complaint is that Vinnie Moore’s showboating on guitar does wear a little thin after a while. I do get it, he is a remarkable guitarist and certainly one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. But some songs do suffer with extended solos that don’t really add an awful lot, other than confirming Moore is quite good at playing the guitar behind his head. Even Mogg recognises that the upcoming guitar solo was a little on the long side, ‘you could probably have kids and have them grow up and leave home’ in the time that it takes him to complete it. But I guess it is an excuse for some members of the band to take a bit of a breather, and members of the audience to nip to the loo! It does comes across as a little self-indulgent but then I suppose that is kind of the point of a metal show, it’s all about showing off.
If, like me, you’re an Iron Maiden fan, then there’s a good chance that ‘Doctor Doctor’ was your first experience of the band. The song has been played before every Iron Maiden since the eighties (bigger Maiden geeks may want to correct that one for me) and was my first intro to UFO and the song holds a special place in my own metal heart. Judging by the amount of Maiden t-shirts it’s a view shared by many others too. The song gets its airing during the encore and it’s nearly overshadowed by a triumphant ‘Shoot Shoot’ that brings the house down and the curtain down on what will be Phil Mogg’s last visit to the Highlands on stage, although he did say he’d be back up on holiday!
Fortunately there’s plenty more to come this year if you’re a metal and rock fan. The Quireboys, Glen Hughes and Monsterfest featuring GUN are all coming this year, so there’ll be plenty more guitar riffs in our future at the Ironworks.