Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – ‘On A Mission – Live In Madrid’ DVD Review

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Anyone who caught Michael Schenker on his recent tour will know that he not only has the band, but also the songs of a lifetime. Whilst Michael’s career may have been built upon the releases of his youth, what is remarkable about this release is that the man’s passion, enthusiasm and talent has reached a new peak and his outings with Temple of Rock have been nothing short of sublime.  Seeing Michael tearing across the stage building an amazingly tight rapport with the audience is endlessly entertaining and something that this latest DVD captures perfectly. However, whilst Michael may be a focal point, what has made the Temple of Rock project so very special are the musicians with whom Michael has chosen to work. Wayne Findlay, for example, brings depth and low end rumble to proceedings (just witness ‘Saviour machine’) whilst former Scorpions rhythm section, Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell, lay down a thunderous backdrop that is an object lesson in precision and power. Last, but by no means least, is the wonderful Doogie White, who only seems to improve as the years go by. A formidable stage presence and a charismatic vocalist, Doogie is an awesome presence, and it is arguable that his work with Temple of Rock is the crowning jewel of his storied career. In short, Temple of Rock is a flesh and blood band, comprised of some of the great talents of hard rock, and this DVD sees the band giving their all in front of a rapturous audience.

Filmed in Madrid, ‘On a mission’ is a two-hour extravaganza drawing on material from across Michael Schenker’s career and the result is nothing short of electric. Featuring 22 tracks (as well as a couple of short bonus features) and offering up both stereo sound and a DTS 5.1 track, ‘on a mission’ offers plenty for long-time Schenker fans to get their teeth into. For those who witnessed the tour from which the DVD is drawn, this is the perfect souvenir of an evening that offered myriad delights. For those who missed out, this is a window into one of last year’s most enthralling tours and it is not to be missed.

Available in a variety of options, our review copy is a single DVD, packaged in a standard, see-through plastic case complete with an informative booklet offering liner notes (a welcome, yet depressingly rare addition), pictures from the tour, a detailed track listing (complete with handy songwriter credits and guitar info) and production info. At a time when the majority of record companies seem to be cutting costs everywhere possible, it’s always good to see a bit of care go into the package and the booklet is a welcome addition. The set is also available as a 2 CD set, a Blu Ray (the best way to take advantage of the stunning picture quality) and a limited deluxe edition which includes 2 CDs and 2 Blu Rays, packed with bonus features such as rehearsal material and candid interviews. In short, if you’re a Schenker fan, there’s plenty here to get your teeth into.

Opting for the DTS audio that is available on the DVD version, the set opens majestically as the camera lingers over the beautifully lit stage prior to the band’s arrival. What an introduction! Michael comes on looking fighting fit, playing the sort of achingly fluid solo that leaves most guitarists weeping over their fretboards. Absolutely crystal clear, it’s obvious that a lot of work went into getting the audio just right and as Doogie bounds on stage for a rousing rendition of the evergreen ‘doctor doctor’, Herman Rarebell’s taut percussion thunders out of the speakers with plenty of low-end heft. In short, the audio mix is never less than impressive and, turned up plenty loud (as it should be) it comes pretty damn close to reference quality.

In terms of image, it’s crystal clear and one of the best DVD pictures we’ve seen outside of the Arch Enemy ‘Tyrants of the rising sun’ release, clearly the result of the set having been filmed in 4K HD (set for a future release). Well-paced, the film gives plenty of screen time to each member of the band and really captures the intense, communal atmosphere of the show. It’s unadorned with foolish gimmicks and the editing (Bernhard Baran & Dougie White) matches the dynamic thrust of the music.

With the show off to a flying start, Temple of Rock keep things hard ‘n’ heavy, and, as they launch into the awesome ‘live and let live’ from ‘spirit on a mission’, you can all but smell the sweat such are the energy levels evident on stage. Doogie is on fire, belting out the vocals with conviction whilst Michael seems unable to stay still, tearing around the stage without respite. It’s a truly blistering show the band have in store for the packed audience, and a swift run through ‘lights out’ is followed by the chugging might of ‘where the wild winds blow’, a heavy blast of metal (and a stand-out highlight of the show) that sees Michael delivering some truly sublime lead work. Watching on a suitably sized TV you can certainly get an idea of what it must have been like to be present, and it’s a genuine pleasure to watch the experienced band interacting with each other and the audience as if they’re still feeling the thrill of playing live for the first time – a feeling that you can’t avoid as the band charge headlong into ‘natural thing’.

It remains a high octane show throughout, and for all of my rhapsodizing about the amazing ‘spirit on a mission’ album, the experience pales in comparison to seeing a real, blood and thunder rock ‘n’ roll band simply flattening a live audience with a set if near-impossible precision. Highlights of the set include an emotional ‘before the devil knows your dead’, dedicated to the late, great Ronnie James Dio, whilst a storming rendition of ‘Vigilante man’ (apparently about Lawyers, politicians and bankers) is catchy as hell and delivered with a fire that eclipses its recorded counterpart with an easy grace. More to the point, the new material slots in alongside classics like ‘lovedrive’, rock you like a hurricane and ‘too hot to handle’ with an ease that suggests that these songs will, in time, be considered classics of a rock renaissance that Temple of Rock are spearheading. Of course, songs like ‘rock bottom’ will never age, and watching Doogie work the crowd is a masterclass in showmanship that should be mandatory watching for any up and coming rock musician.

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There is no substitute for the power of a raw, raucous rock ‘n’ roll show, and ‘On a Mission, Live in Madrid’ is perhaps one of the very best examples out there. Few artists have the catalogue to work with that Michael Schenker does, and watching him careering around the stage, a huge smile almost permanently on his face, you can’t help but share in the joy he so obviously feels. The sound on this DVD is simply fantastic – pretty much reference standard – and the visuals barely lag behind, thanks to the 4K cameras used throughout. More to the point is the show itself – an absolute treasure trove of beloved anthems and hard-rock-classics in the making that never once lets up. This is timeless music, unencumbered by fickle trend, played by a group of musicians at the very peak of their game and it leaves you absolutely elated. If you ever wanted to demonstrate what it is about rock ‘n’ roll that makes the hair stand up on the back of the neck and set the adrenalin flowing, then this is the perfect example.

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