Looking at Michael Schenker now it is hard to believe that through much of the noughties he looked on the verge of collapse, a spent force destroyed by the very rock ‘n’ roll spirit he spent his years championing. Come the end of the decade, however, and Michael reappeared shorn, shaved and focused and in the process he released ‘Temple of Rock’, a lean, mean, hungry rock ‘n’ roll animal that bought Michael’s talents into sharp focus. Subsequent performances, including a blistering appearance at last year’s High Voltage festival (much of which is included here as bonus footage) showcased Michael on the form of his life, blazing away on his guitar alongside fellow Scorpions Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz whilst excellent vocalist Doogie White fronts the band with consummate skill and authority.
Released on DVD, Blu Ray, CD and as a special edition containing all three formats, ‘Temple of rock – live in Europe’ is a testament to the strength of Michael Schenker’s work and his return to form. Featuring a full concert recorded in Tilburg in 2012, bonus footage from High Voltage and behind the scenes footage, this is a brilliant souvenir for those lucky enough to witness the man in the flesh and the perfect live album for those who weren’t. Featuring over two hours of music, the DVD is the subject of our review and, as you’d expect from an artist who has revitalised himself with quite such skill, it is a worthy building block in the temple of rock that Michael has spent his life worshipping at.
From the off this is classy stuff. On ‘into the arena’ Michael and his band come bounding on stage looking lean, fit and ecstatic to be rocking such an enthusiastic crowd in Tilburg. The into gives Michael plenty of opportunities to show off his dexterity and then ‘Armed and Ready’ sees Doogie White appear and from the start he has the audience in the palm of his hand as he sings “is it hard enough, is it loud enough?”, the assembled crowd crying out in affirmation. It’s a stunning performance from all concerned and the pristine mix (available, happily, in PCM, DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1) allows the various elements to shine through in all their glory. ‘Lovedrive’ sees the band kick into another rousing blast of melodic hard rock whilst Doogie excels even his own mighty performance on the Tank DVD, his perfect phrasing and blazing ravishing of the high notes a joy to listen to throughout the performance. Next up, the hard-driving ‘another piece of meat’ (another one of the four tracks from the Scorpions’ evergreen ‘Lovedrive’ album) slays the audience with its breathless rendition, whilst the whole band look like they’re having the time of their lives belting out these hard rock classics to an audience who are equally receptive.
Taking a break, Doogie hands over the centre stage spot to Michael Voss who was responsible for writing a large part of the ‘Temple of rock’ album (he also provides the vocals throughout for the High Voltage show) for the excellent ‘hanging on’. Doogie returns for the scarily memorable ‘cry for the nations’ and from then on it’s one raging track after another, Michael peeling out solos that are beautifully fluid and like the very best axemen he plays with feeling and soul rather than simple dexterity, so that each solo has character and emotion shot through it – this is no brazen display of guitar pyrotechnics for the sake of it – each and every solo offers something to the music and the result is a series of hard hitting, hard rock numbers that allow each and every member of Michael’s band to shine even whilst he leads the way with his gorgeous guitar tone.
There’s no point in even trying to pick highlights (although if pressed the brilliant ‘before the devil knows you’re dead’ is a strong candidate) – everyone will have their own favourite tracks – suffice it to say that I have watched this DVD four times from start to finish and never once skipped a track (skipped back to play certain tracks again but never skipped any); it’s simply one of those concerts that seems to vanish in the blink of an eye thanks to the ubiquitous quality of the music, the passion of the musicians and the crystal clear recording which allows you to fully appreciate the Schenker live experience.
However this DVD isn’t just about the Tilburg concert, although if that was all there were to enjoy it would still get top marks, bonus footage sees Michael taking a slightly altered line-up to the stage at High Voltage festival, the sun-kissed, Classic Rock-sponsored event that last took place in 2011. Featuring the excellent Michael Voss on vocals as well as guest appearances from Rudolf Schenker, Doogie White, Jeff Scott Soto and Peter Way (Rudolf on three tracks, the latter musicians on an all-star performance of ‘Doctor Doctor’), it may be a condensed performance, but it gives a grand impression of the joy with which Michael and his band attacked the stage at that great festival and it’s a great bonus to hear several of the songs with a different singer at the helm.
Overall this is an exceptional DVD from an exceptional musician. You couldn’t ask for a better sound mix, the camera work is wonderfully competent without being overly flashy, and the set list is the ultimate mix of vintage Scorpions material (lent further credibility by the appearance of Herman and Francis) and blistering new material. In short, Michael Schenker’s ‘temple of rock’ is a place you’ll be choosing to worship in for many months to come and this DVD is the perfect way in which to do it.
“Michael Schenker: Temple of Rock – Live in Europe” is released on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and Ltd Deluxe Edition by inakustik. Michael’s Temple of Rock UK tour starts 9th April 2013. Book online: www.thegigigcartel.com, Ticket Hotline: 0844 478 0898. Further info: www.michaelschenkerhimself.com.
Photo Credit: (c) Stephen Fourie