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Live DVD Review: Michael Schenker Fest, Live In Tokyo

I’ve said this before, but when it comes to icons of rock, Michael Schenker is always one of the names that comes to my head.  Very few names have endured as much as his. A guitarist whose style has adapted to the times and is recognised world-wide. In August 2016 Schenker went to Japan to put on what he calls Michael Schenker Fest.  No a surprise, if there is one place on earth that praises technical ability above anything, it’s Japan. Now we’re getting to experience this show with the band with the release of this CD/DVD combo set. The live recorded and filming is brought to us by Inakustik and the show we get is a pretty damn good one. Spanning the career of the Michael Schenker Group and bringing together the early 80’s line up of: Ted McKenna on drums, Steve Mann of guitar and keyboard and Chris Glenn on bass for the core line up. With Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley on vocals for the show.  

The show is really well put together.  The stage show isn’t one of these over extravagant affairs.  It’s simple and to the point, a rock band is coming on to play a show. It’s a basement gig being played at an arena. Which is fine, but from a visual aspect it’s a little bare bones.  Some Co2 or pyro wouldn’t have gone amiss. Still, it’s a well put together concert and the setlist is great. Filled with brilliant songs and invigorating guitar solos. The band is a well oiled machine playing as tight as ever.  With, of course Schenker, looking like an absolute mega star. The opening number establishes everything going on and sounds really pretty. The set is really broken down into three sets, with each of the vocalists so I will cover it that way.

Gary Barden’s set opens on “Attack of the Mad Axeman” and whilst I like these songs, Barden’s voice is not quite working for me.  I mean, I guess it’s serviceable but there is just something off about the man’s voice that makes this portion of the set not up to par. Luckily, the music is excellent, and sounds wonderful. Schenker’s skill shines through so well, it carries the rest of the band to an amazing show. Barden’s set really kicks up a notch for me with “Let the Sleeping Dogs Lie”.  This is where every aspect of the band really works. With this high energy song and the great musicianship. It all plays a little to Barden’s strengths as a vocalist. The crowd look like they’re enjoying the set though. Yet, I wish we got to hear that on the DVD, as this feels more like a live album recording rather than a live gig recording.  This section ends with “Armed And Ready”, and…. Yeah. This one is awesome, I can’t fault it.

This melts seamlessly into the instrumental “Coast To Coast” which highlights how well these guys work together as a band. The tight production and pitch perfect style is wonderful to watch.  Moving on to Graham Bonnet’s set and on to some of the songs I knew a little better. The likes of “Assault Attack” and “Dancer make their appearance here.  The live production is once again top notch. Although I will point out that I would have liked this a little more if there were some more focus on the crowd sing along.  Especially on “Dancer”.  It’s almost like they’re doing everything to cut the audience out of the show.  The point of a live DVD is to make the viewer feel like they’re at the show.  I don’t know about you but I’ve never been to a show where the crowd has been silent throughout. So for my taste the quality of the show is too good for a live DVD. I know it’s the norm in Japan to be quiet, as a mark of respect, that’s fine, but when it came to the parts where there is clearly meant to be a sing-a-long, you can barely make out that there is a crowd. That’s pretty much my major flaw with this CD/DVD.

Moving on. Bonnet’s portion of the show is short and sweet, with his voice soaring above and really giving a great performance. He really seems to really get this set and delivers with a fantastic performance.  The band continue to sound phenomenal and Schenker really delivering with the guitar licks.  This culminates with the instrumental “Captain Nemo” which, again, sounds brilliant.  The instrumental portions of the show are superb and well performed.  With Schenker and the boys really bringing out the best in the sound. On stage comes Mr Robin McAuley.  Who really excels in his performance with some of the best songs of the whole show. “ Save Yourself” and “Love Is Not A Game” are welcome additions to the set and really add another element of flavour to the show.

With an awe inspiring guitar solo in “Rock Bottom” from Schenker that was the point I knew I was in love with this DVD.  Like I’ve said in the past, there’s a reason his music and guitar style has endured all of these years, it’s because he’s great at what he does. Despite the shortcomings and knit-picks I’ve made about this, it’s definitely something I would pay money for live. Ending on the all-time UFO classic “Doctor Doctor” and the show felt complete. It was played to a fantastic standard and, I won’t lie, I love this tune a little too much. This really was a road trip of a great tunes and amazing performances.  If you’re a fan of Michael Schenker or just classic rock in general, then this is one for your collection.

If you want to see this show, buying the DVD is one way.  But Michael Schenker Fest is coming to Europe and the UK.  See the Poster below for the dates: