UFO, The Empire, Middlesbrough. 29.10.2016
UFO, The Empire, Middlesbrough. 29.10.2016
Well it is now Wednesday and 3 days before the legendary UFO take to the stage at The Empire at Middlesbrough, I bought my ticket today and I am like a big kid going to his 1st gig albeit about my 100th. I also enquired about a photo-pass and the girl took my details and said someone will get in touch.
I have loved UFO from their earliest days back in the 70’s when I 1st heard an album called ‘Profile’ which is not listed in their back catalogue it was sort of a ‘K Tel’ mix up of songs from their 1st 2 albums UFO-1 and UFO-2. I would love them to play Prince Kajuku again but somehow I doubt it. Phil Mogg’s voice is at the top of the tree of vocalists for me, right there with Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickenson et al.
It’s been 3 years since I saw them and due to queues getting in I missed most of the set as they opened up the main stage on Saturday at Download 2013 and I only caught Rock Bottom. UFO are now in their 5th decade and entertained millions of people worldwide headlining festivals, playing arenas, big gigs and small gigs across the land. I must admit I was a little surprised on the venue as The Town Hall is only next door and more akin to gigs but I kept an open mind.
My scepticism about the photo-pass was now a reality I received a call from a phone with a foreign dialling code with a guy with a Russian accent on the other end, I was a bit perplexed but he said I can take as many as I want from anywhere I liked but not the pit using any camera I have just no videos – Happy Days indeed. Turned out it was one of the support band Reds’Cool team so thank you very much.
This is a compact venue and a Nightclub at weekends; it is a beautifully ornate Victorian building that has kept all of its beautiful carved features and historical beauty. The bars are within the concert room so you won’t miss anything even if you pop for a pint. One of the real beauties of these smaller venues is that you’re only about 1m from your hero’s and idols and quite often the acoustics reverberate throughout the room in a way open air, big stage places don’t match.
After the support band finish the stage is quickly stripped of their kit the room is now packed out, judging by what little space is available this must be a sold out gig, no space on the floor in the centre of the room, people standing outside the 2 entrances on the stairs. Unfortunately the balcony was not open as it had been set for the following Halloween party for the usual Saturday night night- clubbers.
The lights dim, the crowd start chanting UFO-UFO, Andy Parker sits at his drums in the near darkness, Paul Raymond creeps behind his keyboard, Vinnie Moore and Rob de Luca’s silhouettes enter with guitar and bass and finally Phil Mogg and they start to blast out ‘We belong to the Night’ following straight into ‘Fight Night’ and ‘Run Boy Run’.
Then the 1st chord of ‘Lights out’ is struck and the crowd instantly know what’s coming one of the greatest anthems in Rock, this is now awesome. Staying in the Schenker era they move into ‘Venus’ quickly followed by another iconic crowd pleaser in ‘Only you can Rock Me’ and it’s time to cool things down and let the audience catch a breath with the melodic ‘Burn your house down’ and ‘Cherry’ and staying on the melodic side they continue with the superb ‘Love to Love’. That’s about it for the love songs so now we are just over half way through the set and it’s time to give the crowd something to make them start rocking again, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ gets them going and another from the new album A Conspiracy of Stars in the shape of ‘Messiah of Love’ followed by my favourite from The Wild the Willing and the Innocent , ‘Makin Moves’ this song is as punchy as hell after a soft but rhythmic lead in.
Andy, Paul and Vinnie leave the stage and Phil Mogg quips, ‘Well what are we going to do now? There’s only me and the bass player’, turns around to see if anyone is coming back, ‘looks like they have gone’ and has a bit of banter with Rob de Luca, ‘nope can’t play that….can’t do that either, hang on Pauls back we have keyboards, oh now we have a drummer’ and finally Vinnie appears.
Phil bobs down at the front of the stage and beckons to the audience and although I couldn’t hear him, he looked as though he was gesturing as much to say ‘What do you want to hear next’ the reply rings out just like it did in Chicago during the making of ‘Strangers in the Night back in 1978, ‘Rock Bottom’ goes the shout – ‘Got it, ok this is something called ‘Rock Bottom’ It’s good job this place has a solid floor under it as ‘Rock Bottom’ flowed straight into ‘Doctor Doctor’ and the place was jumping and to close what was a brilliant set, the final song of the night and another sing along for the crowd ‘Shoot Shoot’ with an extended ending as Vinnie Moore went on a little walk about down the stairs, offering his guitar to a few fans to have a little pluck at, through the pit area and back up the other side.
Sadly the main lights go on and that’s it over. Thank you UFO – take a bow.
Full set list.
- We belong to the night
- Fight night
- Run Boy run
- Lights out
- Only you can rock me
- Burn your house down
- Love to Love
- Too Hot to Handle
- Messiah of Love
- Makin Moves
- Rock Bottom
- Doctor Doctor
- Shoot Shoot