BB King’s Blues Club & Grill, NYC, New York, Wednesday, March 29th 2017
Set List: Battering Ram/This Town Rocks/Sacrifice/Power And The Glory/Chasing The Bullet/The Eagle Has Landed/Dallas 1PM/Motorcycle Man/The Hell And Back Again/Crusader/Wheels Of Steel.
Encore: Strong Arm Of The Law/Denim And Leather/Princess Of The Night.
It was a 1980’s flashback on this New York City evening. BB King’s Blues Club hosted Saxon and UFO on the same bill. Both of these bands played to a packed, sold out house. Saxon, I had the pleasure of seeing at L’Amour - native New Yorkers will fondly remember this former rock paradise.
However, believe it not this was my first time seeing UFO live. I am familiar with their music but I honestly can’t say why I did not catch them in their heyday. I met many fellow fans, the evening of my show, who had travelled quite distance to attend the two sold out shows. This was a serious rock crowd decked in concert t-shirts from various eras. There were in attendance for both bands, citing no particular favourite.
Experiencing legendary bands in intimate settings produces a closer bond. For those of us who saw many bands in larger arenas or were not able to get tickets to sell out shows, this is always a special experience. Having the chance to see these bands on such a stage and have them sound just as good as they did in their heyday is priceless.
Great Britain was representing well this evening. Having churned out several massive bands over the years, they have dominated the ‘Rock/Heavy Metal’ genre for most of our music lifetime. American bands are no slouches either but I don’t think one can be a true music fan with out having a strong love for at least a few artists from our friends across the pond (Iron Maiden in my case.)
Saxon took the stage first with their opening number ‘Battering Ram’ by hitting the stage like battering rams. These guys meant business. They were every bit as strong as I remembered. Looking ever the rock star, front man Peter ‘Biff’ Byford dominated the stage with his vocal prowess and stage presence.
Byford and Quinn, the two original members, flanked by long time members: Nigel Glocker, Nibbs Carter and Doug Scarratt carried on treating the crowd to the best of their catalog with many hailing from their albums with the most notoriety: ‘Wheels of Steel’ and ‘Denim And Leather’. However, the band touched upon their extensive history. Song after Song: ‘This Town Rocks’, ‘Power And The Glory’ and ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ followed each other without missing a beat.
Saxon closed their set with two of the numbers that aided their popularity, ‘Denim and Leather’ a song based on the required heavy metal fashion of the 1980s and, of course, ‘Princess of The Night’.
Set List: Mother Mary/Long Gone/Run Boy Run/Lights Out/Baby Blue/Let It Roll/Only You Can Rock Me/Burn Your House Down/Too Hot To Handle/Messiah Of Love/Love To Love/Rock Bottom.
Encore: Cherry/Doctor Doctor/Shoot Shoot.
After their stellar performance, I would not want to follow Saxon but UFO had the capacity to do so. As I mentioned early, this was my first live introduction to this band. I love their music but it is all about how songs translate live and how a band commands the stage. I had no doubt that UFO would delivery and that they did.
Phil Mogg and Andy Parker were the remaining original UFO members. The band has had a revolving door of major talent including Billy Sheehan, John Norum, Michael Schenker and a plethora of others. Tonight, Mogg and Parker were joined by guitarist Vinne Moore, New York bassist, Rob De Luca and keyboardist, Paul Raymond who joined the band in 1976.
Traipsing through an over 20 album catalog, the range of song choices covered the majority of their long reign. ‘Mother Mary’ opened the set, a track from the band’s 1975 album ‘Force It’. The current line up was well received by the BB King’s Club crowd. De Luca’s great stage energy and smooth, tight bass lines and Vinnie Moore’s guitar wizardry added valuable elements.
Mogg and company carried on with ‘Long gone’ and ‘Run Boy Run’ but decided to introduce one of the well known numbers early in the evening. ‘Lights Out’, the title track of one of the band’s most popular albums, came in third. This was UFO. This was the UFO that graced my teen radio stations. As with any anticipated song, the audience were head banging, dancing, singing; in other words they loved it.
Following close behind was ‘Baby Blue’ a song writing by Moog and Moore and featured on the ‘You Are Home’ album. Not the Badfinger song of the same name (which is a personal favorite) but a well written hard edged melodic rock number. This was the first time I heard this song and it enticed me to check out this album. When a band has that affect on their fans, they are doing their job well.
Four songs farther down in their pleasurably long set, UFO chose to give us their other cherished number ‘Too Hot To Handle’ a song that put them on the AOR radio map stateside. This upbeat semi pop number even the hardcore UFO fans admitting they like it. I don’t find it unusual when musicians choose to play their most popular songs during the set as opposed to an encore choice. It removes the predictability and leaves the audiences guessing where the set list would take them next.
The set ended with ‘Rock Bottom’ from ‘Phenomenon’; after the usual brief pause, the band returned to the stage for their encore numbers. ‘Cherry’, ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’ were tonight’s mystery choices. This was a good set list and a brilliant performance.
Bands come and go throughout our lives; but there is something said for staying power of raw talent, well written songs and mastering your instrument of choice. The blood, sweat and tears that go into recording, touring and performing translates to artists that remain timeless. This is not something that all musicians achieve but those that do are well rewarded by dedicated fans.
These two rock pioneers still have that x factor; they have solid songs; they rule their stage and appreciate their fans. This is why I chose to write about these shows; I, too, am a rock fan who understands just what I am witnessing. As long as these bands are still out there doing what they do, we will all be along for the ride.
By Dawn Belotti