Concert Review: UFO at Showcase Live in Foxboro, MA
As established bands age the approach to constant touring take on one of a few possible options : a necessity to endure your legacy and to keep proving to yourself and your critics that you still have what it takes and always did, a money maker because you didn’t save enough and still need to make ends meet as a working musician or simply playing live for the love of the music and to get that rush that only performers can get playing in a live environment. I don’t know what motivates the classic UFO members Phil Mogg (vocals), Andy Parker (drums) and Paul Raymond (keyboards and rhythm guitar) to keep recording new music and stay on the road but I for one can say I’m glad they have. Truly having “new blood” with veteran guitarist Vinnie Moore and Barry Sparks on bass gives the band a lift on stage and clearly keeps the guys driven, focused and supplying a quality set to a packed house at Showcase Live.
I was able to catch up with Vinnie Moore prior to hitting the stage and asked him about his time in UFO and more importantly about the new greatest hits CD that came out late last year titled The Best of a Decade. I wondered, had he changed his style at all as a guitarist or songwriter to fit the UFO mode or if this is just his personal evolution as an artist over time? “It’s just my natural evolution over time. If you listen to my last few solo records prior to joining UFO I think I started to change then. I was starting to explore different territory and going in some new directions. It was bound to happen no matter what I was doing.” Opening with “The Wild the Willing and the Innocent” from the album released in 1981 by the same name you could see right away the “Sparks/Moore” factor paying immediate dividends. Their endless supply of energy and enthusiasm combined with great play gave older fans a new reason to cheer and cheer loudly they did.
Old school fans delighted in “Mother Mary” from the 1975 album Force It up next and it’s just so enjoyable to see these guys perform so effortlessly yet so solid at the same time. ‘Saving Me” from 2009’s The Visitor was my favorite of the newer era of UFO and had a dazzling acoustic intro from Moore and great vocal from Phil who seems to have lost very little range at 63 years young. The crowd seemed to be pumped looking for the next classic UFO track as the set moved along at a pretty rapid rate. I had asked Vinnie if there were any real differences between UFO fans/crowds in Europe as opposed to North America. “I get asked that question a lot and I see no real difference at all in the passion”. “Our fans are the greatest and whether it’s Russia, Korea, Europe or here in the States – they are just really into the music and ready to rock.”
Trying to create a set list from one country to the next never mind one night to the next has to be a daunting challenge after 19 studio albums. According to Moore “Everybody kicks in their ideas but with this band a certain portion is obvious because you are expected to do so many of the classic tunes and then with the newer material we get together and talk it over before we decide what will go over better live.”
The next three tracks were a good mix of the old and new with “Let It Roll” “I’m a Loser” and “Hell Driver” all with Phil Mogg’s dry British sense of humor shining through in between songs…mostly at the expense of bass player Barry Sparks, without question the most physically active of the bunch trying to replicate the antics of original member Pete Way.
Avoiding comparisons to original guitarist Michael Schenker is something Vinnie Moore has to deal with almost since the moment he joined the band. ‘Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass but by and large I just ignore that aspect and those comparisons and do my own thing my way. The fans seem to enjoy my playing, my own style and my take on the old stuff.”
The remainder of the 14 song set included a lot of UFO classics such ‘Doctor Doctor”, “Shoot Shoot” and “Love to Love”, my personal favorite of the night. It was the most demanding of Phil vocally and he was able to pull it off brilliantly. I think it’s very unfair for anyone who has not seen UFO in the past 5 or 6 years to write this off as a tribute band or nostalgia act just because you’re missing such key components to the sound in Way or Schenker. True they did create a lot of what made UFO the giant band it became but do fans still go to see the Boston Bruins even though Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely are not walking through that door? The answer is yes and it would do a disservice to the UFO legacy to turn away now, not to mention depriving yourself of a solid band still performing as well as they ever did.
Opening act Mindflow from Brazil certainly opened a few eyes and ears as they ripped through a 30 minute set of aggressive yet melodic styled metal in support of their fourth album “With Bare Hands”. Fans of Dream Theater, Primal Fear or Symphony X will dig them. Look for this band to make some noise here in the states very soon.
UFO Set List
1. The Wild the Willing and the Innocent
2. Mother Mary
3. Saving Me
4. Let It Roll
5. I’m A Loser
6. Hell Driver
8. Ain’t No Baby
9. Only You Can Rock Me
10. Try Me
11. Too Hot To Handle
12. Love To Love
13. Doctor Doctor
14. Shoot Shoot
For remaining UFO tour dates visit their official website