Friday, October 05, 2012

Rock Bottom

Michael Schenker Group
Rodeo Nightclub, San Jose, California
Rocktober 4, 2012

Attending this show meant returning to my suburban homeland.  Before heading over to the venue there was an epic hang session with Murder In The Front Row veterans Brad, Big Wayne, and Timo at Gordon Biersch.  Food 'n Beerz were consumed and Old Metal war stories were told.  Brad was back visiting from his current foreign land home for the first time in 5 years... It's crazy how time flies.

The Rodeo Nightclub is a Mexican Country & Western bar that recently started dabbling with booking Metal / Rock shows... However I heard that experiment is ending soon; I guess the economics of hosting local Metal / Rock shows isn't working for them.  Ironically the space was a Metal / Rock venue back in The Day and in 1986-87 hosted a Kreator / Voivod show and also a Megadeth show that ended up being cancelled.

The Rodeo is a weird place.  The stage sits awkwardly in the middle of the room facing sideways from entrance.  The side of the club directly across from the stage is open to the outside and into a large patio bar / smoking area.  There was a guy wearing an Elvin Bishop shirt.  Who the fuck knows who Elvin Bishop is here in the 21st Century??   I wanted to ask him if he had a Pablo Cruise shirt at home.  You can take the 1970's out of San Jose, but you can't take San Jose out of the 70's... I guess.  The vibe of the place was like a big trashy neon beach-themed bar in Reno. 

We missed the first band (Spiral Arms featuring Craig Locicero of Forbidden) but unfortunately caught the middle band.  They featured a guitarist who evidently has won a Guitar Center contest and they played a cover of the Rush instrumental 'YYZ' in the middle of their set.  Dude!  A Rush cover... They should have closed with 'YYZ'.. Just saying.  Wank 'N Roll.

Anyway, this was the 2nd show of Schenker's current 32 show North American Tour.  Our world weary Guitar God walked on to the small stage behind his current anonymous band at around 11:00pm and kicked the set off with a vintage Scorpions double shot of 'Lovedrive' into 'Another Piece Of Meat'.  The set then meandered through a mish mash of early MSG songs ('Assault Attack'.. 'Into The Arena'..) and a couple of newer songs... I think... I'm not sure because I didn't know them.  Then for the rest of the set it was full tilt, pedal to the metal UFO songs with 'Shoot Shoot' / 'Let It Roll' / 'Love To Love' / 'Natural Thing' / 'Lights Out' for the rest of the main set.

I had to ignore Schenker's band because they were too cover band-ish for me, but Schenker's playing was surprisingly great all night.  When he went into his insanely melodic solo during 'Let It Roll' I could feel everyone in the room say "HOLY SHIT!" because it was so good.  'Love To Love' brought the romantic hammer down... which felt awkward since the dudes to chicks ratio in the room was at least 5 to 1.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

However, as great as Schenker played, I couldn't help but feel sad at the same time.   Schenker should be bigger than this.  Schenker should be playing in front of way more than 100 or so people in a suburban neon Country & Western bar that's across the street from a strip mall. 

Despite his current disturbingly gaunt physical appearance, when Schenker is onstage he is like a God who has fallen to Earth and who is ill-fated to wander amongst us mere mortals.   He deserves so much more than that, especially when so many other bullshit guitarists are garnering more fame and fortune with far less originality and influence.  Evidently Pearl Jam's guitarist has a Schenker-era UFO cover band called Flight To Mars. Discuss amongst yourselves.

The late night ended with the 3-song encore of 'Armed & Ready' that led into his signature song 'Rock Bottom' and closed with 'Doctor Doctor'.  The last song featured a guest appearance by fanboy Phil Demmel of Machine Head; that was a nice Bay Area Metal moment.  Thankyougoodnight!

I didn't do a merch audit, but Schenker's merch designs were depressingly uninspired.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  Now go listen to the UFO live album Strangers In The Night and ponder why Schenker is still playing to empty depressing clubs here in the 21st Century.

"Minutes pass so slowly by the hands on your clock... Heaven's door don't open when you can knock.. Rock bottom.."