Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock / Graham Bonnet Band – Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, June 19, 2015
The evening started promptly at 7:00 pm – you gotta love the Japanese for that! The sellout crowd – the third in as many nights here in Tokyo – was fully assembled and ready as Graham Bonnet came out in his signature untucked shirt, with red tie and jacket, looking like it was the 80s. But Bonnet has been coming to Japan for 40 years, and his fans couldn’t care less what he wore, as they shouted the words to “All Night Long”, raising their fists in time with the chorus. Bonnet likes to chat with the crowd in between songs, and he casually joked as he started to loosen his clothing, since it was so hot, that he would not be removing his shirt or his pants (referring, of course, to the reason he only had one album with Michael Schenker).
Graham Bonnet Band setlist
All Night Long (Rainbow)
Love’s No Friend (Rainbow)
God Blessed Video (Alcatrazz)
Makin’ Love (Rainbow)
Since You Been Gone (Rainbow)
Suffer Me (Alcatrazz)
The Mirror Lies
Lost in Hollywood (Rainbow)
Bonnet’s voice was a little strained on the early songs in his set, but I’m putting that down to his illness (something else we learned between songs) and the “opening band” sound system. By the time the band got to “Suffer Me” – a great Alcatrazz song that he explained he wrote for his mother – Bonnet choked back a few tears and sang with a powerful voice, while guitarist Conrado Pesinato played a brilliant, sorrowful solo. Introducing the band – Pesinato, Chase Manhattan on drums – Bonnet brought out his secret weapon, bassist and girlfriend Beth-ami Heavenstone, to speak to the crowd in Japanese. She introduced their new song “The Mirror Lies”, and Bonnet played guitar for the first and only time. Bonnet, at 67 years old, looked like a youngster onstage, and is still putting out great new music, which perfectly complemented the mostly Rainbow and Alcatrazz set.
As with apparently all bands in Japan, Michael Schenker came out to some dramatic intro music, and broke right into UFO great, “Doctor Doctor”. I’m not all that familiar with UFO’s music (a terrible oversight in my musical upbringing), but based on what I heard tonight, I’m going to rectify that quickly. Straddling his trademark V guitar, tied into the sound system by hardwire so no notes were missed, Schenker was on fire from the first solo.
Schenker’s band Temple of Rock moved easily among the different periods of his long career. After “Doctor Doctor”, the oldest song in the set, for example, they played “Live and Let Live”, from the brand new album, Spirit on a Mission followed by another UFO hit, “Lights Out” from 1977. In fact, except for the Temple of Rock songs, the entire set was from the decade-plus between 1974 and 1984. Schenker obviously also has a long history with his audience here in Japan, and he roamed the front of the stage reaching out to touch a few of them during the first couple of songs.
While the focus was on Schenker’s guitar playing, it would not be possible without the stellar support he receives from the rest of the band. Doogie White did a nice job replacing multiple singers on the older tunes, and took time to introduce the rest of the band – guitarist Wayne Findlay, who also plays keyboards, and ex-Scorpions mates Francis Buchholz on bass and Herman Rarebell on drums. They allow Schenker to do what he does best – rip out solos. In fact, many of the songs, including “Lights Out” and “Rock Bottom”, in particular, devolved into long outros by Schenker, who’s unbelievably fast picking was clean and creatively genius.
The Scorpions link is strong, and they played a couple of 80s hits that originally featured Buchholz and Rarebell, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Blackout,” on which Findlay played the album solos and Schenker put his stamp on them by creating new ones. The highlights of the evening were when Bonnet returned to the stage to perform songs from Michael Schenker Group’s Assault Attack – the only album they recorded together. As promised he kept his pants on, and “Desert Song” and especially “Assault Attack” (on which he was accompanied by White) saw Bonnet’s vocals at full strength. When Schenker began the riff to “Blackout”, ending the show and their limited run with Bonnet, I’m sure many wished they would play a 4th night!
Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO)
Live and Let Live
Lights Out (UFO)
Where the Wild Winds Blow
Natural Thing (UFO)
Victim of Illusion (Michael Schenker Group)
Coast to Coast (Scorpions)
Shoot Shoot (UFO)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Lord of the Lost and Lonely
Desert Song (with Graham Bonnet)
Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions)
Rock Bottom (UFO)
Assault Attack (with Graham Bonnet)
Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock website / Michael Schenker Facebook / Michael Schenker Twitter
Spirit on a Mission and other Michael Schenker albums are available on Amazon through the Decibel Geek link
Written by: Dave Glynn
PHOTO CREDITS: Dave Glynn, Masahiro Kawakami