Michael Schenker - LIVE: Islington Assembly Hall, London 2016

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Spirit On A Mission Tour
January 30
Capacity 800

On the final date of their UK tour, Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock were electric. Before that though, a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the openers, L.A rockers Venrez, which was somewhat surprising given their relatively unknown status in the UK, and with a sound slightly reminiscent of Alice In Chains-meets-punk, they weren't exactly the best fit for Temple of Rock, so despite their best efforts and enthusiasm they struggled to excite the crowd. Perhaps it was the speeches about politics, or just a misfit of artists, but other than the odd member nodding their head, it was clear to see that the majority of the audience were merely patiently waiting for the main act.

The last time Temple of Rock visited London on a headlining tour was at Shepherd's Bush Empire, though this time around the noticeably smaller Islington Academy Hall, less than half the size of the Empire, was the host. Having visited London twice last year (the second time opening for Judas Priest in December), it may have been too soon a return for some fans, but if they were expecting a re-hash from the shows last year, then they would be mistaken.

There's no prize for guessing what Temple of Rock opened with. Doctor Doctor kicked off the proceedings as it has since Summer 2014, and rightly so, if there's been one consistent feature of the German's sets over the last couple of years it's been opening with his most recognised intro. But unlike on the previous UK run, Temple of Rock introduced plenty of changes after that. Given the strength of Spirit On A Mission it's no surprise that they included four tracks from the album, yet there were also some numbers from the first Temple of Rock release that had not previously featured live, and other than Good Times, the majority of the new material went down as well as the likes of decades-old classics Lights Out and Lovedrive.

Doogie White's part in just how good Temple of Rock were should most definitely not be understated either. The Scot put on a charismatic and energetic performance that worked the crowd all night. On the previous ventures of Temple of Rock one of the biggest benefits of having White in the band is that his range is able to convincingly cover much of Schenker's back catalogue. However now that Temple of Rock is coming into it's own entity, and not just a platform for the guitarist, the fact that White is able to perform a lot of his own material only does him more credit. It seems Schenker has found an excellent counterpart in White whose role in Temple of Rock seems to grow more important with each release and tour.

As for Schenker himself, since the guitarist's return to action a few years ago he seems to improve with each tour. On this occasion he was even more energetic than usual and his unique and instantly recognisable playing was as brilliant as ever, with Coast To Coast and Rock Bottom being particularly stand-out. His double neck 'V', dubbed 'the flying M' brought with it some fun visual presence that complemented the sonic weight of one of Schenker's heaviest tracks to date, Saviour Machine. However, if there was one weak point to pick on from the night, it would be this number. There were a few hiccups and timing problems with what was one of the strongest tracks on Spirit On A Mission, and while it was in no way a total disaster, it didn't quite reach the same level as the rest of the show.

The band remained on-stage to perform the encores of Attack of The Mad Axeman, a track that had been missing from Temple of Rock's set for too long, and Communion, a number that has the potential to be an encore for a while to come. The set finished with Schenker climbing onto the monitors in front of the stage to rip into a fierce version of the Scorpions classic Blackout; the crowd lapping it up in the same way they had all night.

One of the most interesting things about the show itself was the confidence that Temple of Rock had in their new material. So much so that the likes of Cry For The Nations, Into The Arena, and most surprisingly, Armed And Ready, didn't get a look in. Though in truth, they weren't missed. Introducing fresh material that is a better representation of the collective band, as opposed to rolling out the old guns, feels like the right direction for Temple of Rock, and if this particular date is anything to go by then there's certainly some weight to the concept. All in all it was tremendously enjoyable watching the Blonde Bomber and his crew blitz London again.

“ Temple of Rock were electric ”

Setlist: Doctor Doctor / Live And Let Live / Lights Out / Where The Wild Winds Blow / Natural Thing / Before The Devil Knows You're Dead / Victim of Illusion/ Lovedrive / Coast To Coast / Vigilante Man / Saviour Machine / Too Hot To Handle / Good Times / Lord of The Lost And Lonely / Rock You Like A Hurricane / Rock Bottom / Attack of The Mad Axeman / Communion / Blackout

Written by James Abel
More: 2016, Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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