Slicing, dicing, wailing, screaming, shredding, charging, chopping, noodling, tapping, guitars, guitars, guitars. Well, what else would you expect from a show titled The Ultimate Guitar Tour really? Some (OK, many of you who know me) may question why I would attend such an event knowing that I’m usually less than a fan (and have expressed my general hatred) of lengthy instrumentals and solos. I’ll answer that question simply: Uli Jon Roth! After all his time in rock and all his contributions to music, it took me until the recent Monsters of Rock Cruise in February 2016 to finally see Uli Jon Roth live. That experience simply compelled me to attend his appearance at the Mod Club in Toronto on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
An announcer welcomed us to The Ultimate Guitar Tour and introduced David Klosinski who would be performing his song “Electric Loveland” (I’m pretty sure this was the announced title). This track seemed to go over quite well with the audience and I identified that some of the other band members on the stage were also a part of Uli‘s band. In fact, I later learned that Klosinski himself is not only a member of Uli‘s band but also his protegé.
After that one song, Andy Timmons formerly of “Naughty Naughty” 80’s group Danger Danger took over with a backup comprised again of members of Uli Jon Roth‘s band. Timmons presented a feast of guitar chops which mostly amounted to “noodling” for me. Surprisingly, my attention held reasonably well throughout the whole high energy set as Timmons wailed his way through his own compositions, Beatles covers and a tribute to Jimi Hendrix with the song “Electric Gypsy”. There’s no doubt that this man knows his way around the guitar (he also guested with bands like Winger aboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise), but for me, I really do need the vocal accompaniment in a song. After his set, Timmons was on hand at the merch booth positioned at the back of the room to sign autographs and snap selfies with his fans, several of which were proudly displaying Andy Timmons shirts. He was extremely personable to the fans and I shall definitely make a conscious effort of expanding my horizons and delve into some of Timmons‘ instrumental material.
Up next was Jennifer Batten. A name that I had not heard before, but after some very quick internet research a huge bell resounding gonged in my head as I realised that Batten had at one time been the guitarist for Michael Jackson. Turns out that Batten also spent some time as second guitar to Jeff Beck! Batten took the stage alone, with no band behind her and armed with only a laptop and a video screen placed on her right (our left). The video screen displayed short movies, mostly created by Batten herself I believe, concerning subject matter of UFO’s, Godzilla, cars, India and cats to name a few, to each song she performed. Unfortunately, my attention was quickly dissipating with Batten playing to a synthesised computer and certainly not delivering an energised set compared to the high levels exhibited by Andy Timmons. Her ending track ramped things up and snapped me back to attention with a lengthy medley of tons of identifiable classic rock song riffs and solos through the ages of 60’s-90’s including Michael Jackson‘s “Beat It”. I witnessed Batten rather snub fans on two different occasions near the merch table afterwards, quite a difference from Andy‘s personability.
Uli Jon Roth, probably most well-known from his tenure as guitarist and songwriter in the early days of German hard rockers Scorpions from 1974-1978, took the stage with his band which included Richie Monica on drums, Nico Deppisch on bass, Corvin Bahn on keyboards, Niklas Turmann on guitar & vocals, and Uli‘s protegé David Klosinski on guitar. Leading out the show instrumentally (setlist.fm reports the track as “Sky Overture”), things then moved onto “The Sails of Charon” from the 1977 Scorpions issue Taken By Force. For “The Sails of Charon” the band was joined on stage by vocalist John West who was decked out in what I can only describe as Native Indian attire and wielding a mic stand adorned with large feathers. Uli Jon Roth led his band of talented musicians through a setlist heavy on Scorpions material (as you may have expected), sometimes with West handling the mic and sometimes Roth himself taking vocal duties. West certainly has a strong set of pipes on him including a hefty wail, but Uli‘s vocal prowess was no slouch either. And riffs. Fantastic triple axe attack riffs so thick you had to swat them away from your face. There were lots of instrumental portions and a fair share of guitar noodling being churned out at regular intervals throughout the set as expected from The Ultimate Guitar Tour, but my attention held extremely well for a guy not particularly into this style of guitar music.
For the encore, Timmons and Batten joined Roth on stage for a little jam session that was comprised of two Jimi Hendrix Experience covers “All Along the Watchtower” and “Little Wing”. While these were great to hear, the hour was getting late and with a two-hour bus trip home and an early morning start at work, I took my leave as they began “Little Wing”.
Overall a very enjoyable concert, not my usual “fist in the air sing-along” show, but an excellent time. Definitely, I’ll be looking into some Andy Timmons music and continuing my exploration of Uli Jon Roth and early Scorpions material.
PHOTO CREDIT: Caroline Lauder for Decibel Geek