Tag Archives: Graham Bonnet

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2/11/17

Michael Schenker’s career, as well as his personal life, went through an increasingly erratic period a decade or so ago. Having seen Schenker a couple of times in recent years with his Temple Of Rock project, however, it was clear that he has absolutely, undisputably got his shit together again. If more proof was needed, tonight’s gig provides overwhelming evidence of that.

Tonight’s gig, dubbed Michael Schenker Fest, features all three vocalists from the three key eras of MSG: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Barden is first up. While I won’t say he is the strongest of the three vocalists who will appear on stage tonight this is undeniably my favourite era of the band and the classic songs come thick and fast, transporting me back to my teenage rock fan years: Victim Of Illusion, Cry For The Nations, Armed And Ready….

Schenker is on stunningly good form with some stunningly good guitar work coming from his signature Flying V. On stage there’s other familiar faces from the old MSG days, too: Chris Glenn on bass, Ted McKenna on drums and Steve Mann on keyboards.

Next up is Graham Bonnet and while I have heard him struggle a bit at times during previous gigs he is definitely on form tonight. Originally recording one excellent album with MSG and playing just one disastrous gig where he drunkenly flashed the audience and promptly got sacked, much water has passed under the bridge since then. It feels a privilege to witness Bonnet perform Dancer and Assault Attack with Schenker and properly celebrate the part he played in MSG’s legacy. Even the sound system crashing in the early part of Bonnet’s set didn’t dampen the mood (and allowed me a much-needed loo break!)

Then it is the turn of the third of tonight’s vocalists. Robin McCauley is easily the strongest of the three singers tonight. Although set-wise, the earlier songs probably have far more resonance for me than the McAuley Schenker era, he certainly doesn’t disappoint tonight. To end the set he delivers a brilliant rendition of Rock Bottom from Schenker’s UFO days.

That sets the tone for a brilliant out-of-this-world encore which becomes a complete and utter UFO-fest. McCauley, Bonnet and Barden all come back on stage for Doctor Doctor, followed by Shoot Shoot, Natural Thing (with Schenker’s son Tyson joining his father on guitar) and, finally, Lights Out.

Three great vocalists, a brilliant gifted guitarist, some top class musicians and song after song of unforgettable rock classics, this was definitely one of the best hard rock gigs of 2017.

Set-list:

Searching for Freedom
Into the Arena
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Victim of Illusion
Cry for the Nations
Attack of the Mad Axeman
Armed and Ready
Coast to Coast
Desert Song
Dancer
Assault Attack
Captain Nemo
No Time for Losers
Save Yourself
Bad Boys
Love Is Not a Game
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot
Natural Thing
Lights Out

http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/home.php

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Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

There is enthusiastic and generous applause for former Rainbow frontman, Graham Bonnet, as he takes the stage for the first night of the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend in Minehead this year. Looking as cool as ever (eschewing, as always, the 70s/80s heavy rock get-up in favour of the 60s spiv look) he launches straight into songs from the classic Down To Earth album he did with Rainbow: Eyes of the World and the unforgettable All Night Long. Later on we get to hear Lost in Hollywood and the inevitable Since You’ve Been Gone, as well as his 80s solo single Night Games. It is an absolute sheer joy to be singing along to those songs with a crowd of equally enthusiastic punters.

Some rock vocalists unwittingly, but nevertheless helpfully, make life easier for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery and a choice of songs they’ll forever be associated with that they can still pull off with ease several decades later. Mr Bonnet has perhaps not made life as easy as possible for himself in this regard. What I did begin to notice, however, was that his voice was much more at ease with the Rainbow material than with the harder-edged and more high-octane Michael Schenker Group and Alcatraz material from slightly later in his career. Those latter songs did appear to be placing more of a strain on his vocal chords.

There’s been mixed reactions to Bonnet’s live performances in recent years. I enjoyed the Butlins show and loved singing along with the crowd. However, if I were advising Graham Bonnet I would probably be urging him to centre his live performances mainly around the polished, commercial rock of Down To Earth (and perhaps his subsequent solo album Line-Up which is very much in a similar vein) rather than trying to represent all stages of his career. Indeed, the previous time I saw Bonnet back in 2014 this is exactly what he did.

Look, Graham, you made one of the most iconic and memorable rock albums of the late 70s. You still deliver those songs well and people definitely want to hear them. Plus you’ve got some great musicians. Let your live shows be a celebration of the wonderful songs on Down To Earth rather than unnecessarily straining your voice on material that it is less equipped to deal with these days.

Still a great night though – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

http://www.grahambonnetband.com/

2016-01-29 22.28.00

Previous review: Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Islington

 

Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Highbury 19/3/14

In the late 70s/early 80s every collection of hard rock/heavy metal would include at least a few records by Rainbow.  By 1979 the initial mystical/medieval-tinged lyrics had given way to more traditional rock content and original singer, Ronnie James Dio, had been replaced by Lincolnshire-born Graham Bonnet with whom they  recorded the album Down to Earth. This turned out to be Bonnet’s one and only album with Rainbow. As a teenager this is one of the first rock albums I ever bought and was played very, very frequently. Sadly, Rainbow was one of the few big-name rock bands I didn’t get to see at the time. So the chance to catch up with Graham Bonnet performing Rainbow classics at the Garage in Islington for a very reasonable £16.50 seemed like a tempting offer. Of course, of the rest of the band who created the Down to Earth album, bass player Roger Glover has long been back with Deep Purple, now joined by keyboard player, Don Airy. Rainbow guitarist, Richie Blackmore, is now performing with his wife Candice in a medieval style minstrel band and drummer, Coz Powell was tragically killed on the M4. The only connection to the original band on stage tonight, therefore, was Bonnet himself, although Cozy Powell’s drum kit was did make a welcome appearance on stage and was used throughout the gig. As they were on the Down to Earth album, Bonnet’s vocals were powerful and melodic and a strong backing band delivered superb renditions of classics from that album. Certainly, the crowd sang along to them, particularly when Since You’ve Been Gone made an early appearance as the third song in the set. It was great to hear other Bonnet-era Rainbow classics, too, like Eyes of the World, Love’s no Friend and, of course, All Night Long.

Good as Down to Earth as an album was, however, I did wonder whether there was enough material on it to sustain a whole gig, knowing this album was only a small albeit significant part of Rainbow’s total output. My fears were unfounded, though, firstly because the tracks on Down to Earth are so bloody good. And secondly, because Bonnet supplemented them with a couple of well-chosen Dio-era Rainbow classics: Catch the Rainbow and Long Live Rock n Roll. That nod towards Rainbow’s earlier history, presumably songs that Bonnet would regularly have performed with the band when he was in Rainbow, were very well received by the crowd, many of whom it’s fair to say looked like they had been followers of Rainbow through its many different incantations.

North London is blessed with some excellent mid-sized live music venues, the Garage being just one of them, and if they continue to have rock acts on of this calibre it won’t be long before I’m back there, I’m sure.

Setlist:
Eyes of the World
Love’s No Friend
Since You Been Gone
Bad Girl
Makin’ Love
Kill The King
Catch the Rainbow
All Night Long
Lost in Hollywood
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

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