Saturday, March 01, 2014

Let It Roll

Michael Schenker
Heritage Theater, Campbell, California
February 13, 2014

Again, I must point out how far behind I am with writing these days... so please bear with me as I attempt to relive events from over 2 (TWO!) weeks ago. Anyway, the legend who is Michael Schenker visited Downtown Campbell?!  Downtown.  Campbell.  If you had told me when I was a teenager that The Mad Axeman would be playing in the middle of suburbia in a former high school theater I would not have believed you.  Also, here in the 21st Century, Schenker sold out the 800 capacity venue.  I'm pretty sure this was the first time I've seen Schenker in a proper venue instead of a sports bar or other weird venue since the 80's.  The crowd was mainly the expected aging old school Rock people but the energy in the lobby was younger given how obviously special it was seeing Schenker in such a civilized space.

Evidently they ran out of beer at the concession stand, but thankfully I had one with dinner earlier in shockingly posh downtown Campbell.  While waiting in line for the Men's Room a random guy randomly asked me "Aren't you that book guy?"  Awkward.. but Murder is everywhere I guess.  Thanks, dude... but can I take a piss first?

After my brush with fame at the urinal, we took our seats up in the old man balcony section that gave us an unobstructed view of the stage.  However, as the set began the venue's past as a high school theater became obvious from the lack of stage lighting (the house lights were dimmed but the lights over the stage were left on the entire set) and the small PA... which actually didn't sound that bad but it looked funny having literally only 3 speakers on either side of the stage.

On paper the setlist was pretty solid:  Starting with MSG and solo songs, then easing into a couple of Lovedrive-era Scorpions songs, some rudimentary new songs, and then finishing up with the expected run through of UFO classics.  When they started 'Let It Roll' I was waiting for Schenker to hit the solo to see if he was really *on* tonight.. and he NAILED it. It was rather breathtaking actually.  Listening to The Mad Axeman play here in the 21st Century is as close to having a time machine as you can get.  He's still got *it*..

Unfortunately, Schenker's band on this trek bordered on amateur night.  The bassist jumped around and literally danced half the time and I swear he was only playing half the time as well because he was posing so much.  He looked ridiculous; I'm not a musician but a Rock bassist should hold things down and not jump around. The singer has worked for Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore in the past but I was hard pressed to believe his resume because he said silly things between songs and tried to lead crowd cheers during a couple of Schenker solos (!?).    I'm not a frontman but a Rock singer who is basically the hired gun for a legend should know his place a bit more.  He also twice got on the drum riser and started gyrating (for lack of a better term) to the point where the riser itself was moving back and forth at an alarming rate and looked like it would fall over. The drummer looked pissed.  Given that we were in an old high school theater you'd think 1/2 of Schenker's band were still in high school.  Seriously.

Thankfully Schenker was amazing and flawless but it made me wonder how much better he'd be with a more solid and professional backing band. He must really get along with these guys and it might be a trade off: No band drama instead of a better band.  It's sobering to realize that one of the greatest guitar players of his generation still charges only $20 for tickets while more mainstream guitar "greats" have ticket prices up to 5x that but they have far less relevancy now.  Of course, Schenker is still playing old high school theaters backed by 2nd or 3rd string players.  Sad... but on his upcoming tours of Japan and Europe he will have the rhythm section of Scorpions veterans Francis Buchholz and Herman "Zee German" Rarebell (!!).   Can you imagine?  I can't because I still have visions of the hopping bass player in my head..

If you bought one of every Schenker merch item you would have paid around $80 I think.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I made the long commute to this show because I want to see my old heroes whenever possible before they're gone. However, I unexpectedly came out of the show inspired from seeing Michael Schenker's virtuosity in person again.  At least for the drive home, I felt the same as I did after the first time I saw The Mad Axeman in 1980 on a rainy night in Oakland.  Time travel does exist.

"When our nerves were razor sharp and we'd all let it roll. Let it roll.. Let it roll."