I recently watched “MSG: Live in Tokyo 1997,”
a DVD which I honestly believe is a “must view” for
any Michael Schenker fan. Released under the
Metal Mind Productions label, it has a running time
of three hours and 48 minutes. The bulk of the
disc is a two-hour and 36-minute concert by the
Michael Schenker Group, in support of their
“Unforgiven” album. Their set of approximately
30 songs is the longest one that I can ever recall
by a Hard Rock band, with songs ranging from all
of the most popular UFO tunes from the 1970’s to
their then-current MSG songs. They even played
“Another Piece of Meat,” from the Scorpion’s
1979 album, “Lovedrive,’ which featured contributions
by Michael Schenker (1955 – ). What was even
more surprising was their cover of Mott the Hoople’s
“Long Way Home From Memphis.” This was a
generous outing, to be sure!
Schenker’s brother, Randolph, was the founding
member of the Scorpions, and Michael Schenker
played on their first album, “Lonesome Crow,”
which was released in 1972. After quitting UFO in
1978, Schenker formed MSG in 1979, and has
been busy playing and recording with the
ever-changing lineup of this eponymous band.
There were brief reunions with UFO along the way,
and I actually attended one of their concerts in
the mid 1990’s. For this 1997 Tokyo concert, the
band members included vocalist David Van Landing
and bassist Barry Sparks, who played a six-string
Due to his fine melodic sensibility and uniquely
characteristic tone, Michael Schenker has long been
one of my favorite Rock guitarists. As a rule, he’s
refrained from using the “tricks of the trade,”
exhibited by so many Hard Rock / Heavy Metal
guitarists, wherein sound effects were the rule
instead of the exception. It’s nice to hear such
refreshing melodies alternating with his fine rhythm
playing. These traits were on ample display
during this concert, and most of the time the
sound engineering captured his playing quite well.
He appeared to play like a man possessed!
Nevertheless, when playing many of the old UFO
favorites, MSG couldn’t match the original versions
from the “Strangers in the Night” album. This might
have been an impossible task, because that
classic 1979 double “live” album raised the bar so high!
Although Phil Mogg was UFO’s lead vocalist and
single constant member since their formation during
the 1970’s, David Van Landing’s vocals were so
adequate at this concert that I didn’t miss Mogg’s
singing as much, during the UFO songs. However,
there were times when Van Landing strained a bit,
which is common in the Hard Rock world.
Vocalist/guitarist Kelly Keeling was introduced by
Van Landing as a part of the recent album, and he
sang some of the newer MSG songs, as well as
occasionally playing rhythm guitar. This standard
configuration of the band long favored by Schenker
was the usual five pieces, featuring vocals, lead guitar,
drums, bass, and rhythm guitar doubling on
keyboards. However, Schenker was the real star
of this lineup.
Worthwhile extra features included a 26-minute
interview with Schenker, along with a 48-minute,
10-song “bootleg” clip, taken from a 2000 concert
given in Japan. This concert had a different lineup.
Apparently, frequent personnel changes kept things
“interesting” for Schenker! Both the sound and
video of this clip were of poor quality; however,
I remained entranced by the melodies coming from
him, and found this extra feature worthwhile.
At least I was warned that it was “bootleg” footage!
The actual MSG play list can range from mundane
and mediocre Hard Rock/Metal fare to melodically
inspiring tunes, such as “On and On” and
“Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” which are two of my
favorites. Fortunately, even the lesser songs in
a “live” context were often redeemed by
Schenker’s nice fretwork.
Many have remarked about the poor camera work
of the main concert on this disc, and we won’t even
consider the aforementioned “bootleg” footage.
While it’s apparent that only one (!) camera was
used for the concert, thereby cheapening the
entire production, I was still able to enjoy
the show, primarily due to Schenker’s playing.
At least the camera found him–most of the time!
Despite all of the obvious shortcomings, I highly
recommend this DVD to Michael Schenker fans.