Hells Bells: UFO land centre-stage in St. Albans

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The UK leg of the current tour by British rockers UFO only took in a few dates this year, which was unfortunate as I’m sure they would have sold out many more venues off the back of their latest album “A Conspiracy of Stars.”

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Phil Mogg, Andy Parker, Paul Raymond, Vinnie Moore and Rob De Luca all put in amazingly fresh and full on performances during the gig I attended at the Alban Arena in St. Albans on October 25, they just didn’t put a foot wrong!  As regular UFO concert going fans have grown accustomed to, it was a mixture of the band’s classic anthems with a sprinkling of newer material.

At curtain up, four members of the group initially bounded onto the stage, minus Phil, who ambled on at a more leisurely pace.  I think everyone at this point was a tad worried, as Phil’s newly shaved head, which amplified the spotlight and almost drowned out his facial features, coupled with a slightly hunched gait, meant that for a moment he looked his age.  However, as soon as he said “Hi” to the audience and broke straight into “Ain’t No Baby”, any fears were soon diminished.  No, there definitely was nothing wrong, as he belted out the song in his usual pitch perfect way.  What followed was a perfectly executed performance from everyone, and even the crowd were in good voice!

One of the things I (and I’m sure a lot of other UFO fans) admire so much about Moggy, is the infectious typically British humour and banter that pours from him in such a natural unscripted way.  The rapport he creates with this intimate exchange with the audience is almost unique.  So refreshing and uplifting to hear, rather than the boring lack-lustre song introductions you get from so many of the younger bands these days.  I received a very unexpected short but sweet personal dedication!  Even then his tongue in cheek approach came to the fore when he muddled up my surname, only to correct it a few seconds later much to the amusement of the gathered masses.

Mogg’s vocal ability has definitely not suffered over time, clear and at full throttle he masters every note with no gimmicks or embellishments needed.  Not always perfect, but totally natural and the way it should be.

UFO, despite the change in line-ups over the years, have always geared towards the guitarist taking centre stage.  This night was no exception.  Moore’s spectacular renditions of Schenker’s classic riffs and solos were performed to perfection, adding his own flair to the mix but somehow staying true to the original sound, no easy feat for even the most experienced axe-man.  You have to bear in mind that Moore is from the neo-classical school of shred, but his unique tone creates a perfect complimentary match to the harder edged rock sound of UFO.

Paul Raymond is the man behind the keys, synths and rhythm guitars, but equally adept at taking charge on lead guitar as need be.  This, as well as superb backing vocals and harmonies, show what an amazing all-rounder he is, an integral part of the band.  The stand-out performance from Raymond at this gig had to be “Love to Love”, where he really proved a powerhouse with his haunting melodies, truly majestic.

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Andy Parker has been a regular stalwart over the years, and still continues to hammer out the percussive backbone of UFO, which drives the music.  Then not forgetting bassist De Luca who had the dubious task of filling the boots of the long missing Pete Way.  Not an envious undertaking it has to be said but he did a lot more than just play stand-in, he’s proved a worthy replacement in the way he commands his instrument and provides some truly memorable melodic bass lines and rhythmic rumble.

The band were rock solid on the night – the UFO machine warming up and gathering speed with every song.  Personal highlights for me were “Love to Love”, “Cherry”, “Rock Bottom” “Lights Out” and of course “Doctor Doctor”.  The band members were really fired up by the closing stages of the encore, but alas it was the end of the night.  Come on guys, more dates around the world needed!

Set-list:

  1. Ain’t No Baby
  2. We Belong to the Night
  3. Fight Night
  4. Run Boy Run
  5. Lights Out
  6. Venus
  7. Only You Can Rock Me
  8. Burn Your House Down
  9. Cherry
  10. Love to Love
  11. Messiah of Love
  12. Makin’ Moves
  13. Rock Bottom

Encore:

  1. Doctor Doctor
  2. Shoot Shoot