UFO made some first-rate, kick-ass records during the ’70s. With albums like Force It, Lights Out and Obsession, plus one of the all-time great double-live offerings Strangers In The Night, the band’s back catalog is far beyond impressive. They’ve also been quite adept at staging impressive comebacks, and have had the best of the best occupy the musical ranks, including guitar legend Michael Schenker. Yet, all this has never been quite enough to elevate the band to the upper regions of the rock universe, and I’m really not sure why, since at one time they had all the right elements—the charismatic front man, boyish guitar hero and lunatic bass player, plus a cache of exceptional melodic-rock songs. Whether you put it down to bad timing or the highly publicized personality conflicts, UFO has rarely gotten a break. And even when heavy metal exploded in the early ’80s, UFO was without most of its key members, and largely missed out on enlightening a new generation to its hard-rock magic.
On the bright side, there tends to be a little more creative freedom when you’re the underdog, and the true fans have continued to hang around. But with a lineup that’s been pretty solid for a while—featuring original members Phil Mogg (vocals), Pete Way (bass), and Paul Raymond (guitar and keyboards), plus drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham) and ’80s guitar noodler Vinnie Moore on lead—the band has a new lease on life.
Showtime was recorded in Germany in 2005. This two-DVD set includes the entire concert, plus a second disc featuring a studio jam replete with a miniature symphony. The concert on disc one starts out a little slow, and it feels like Mogg is in a bit of a mood at the onset, but by the fifth or sixth song, the band finds its juice and kicks things into higher gear.Classics like “Shoot Shoot,” “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor” are spirited and energetic alongside newer material from 2004’s critically acclaimed You Are Here album.
Disc two is what really makes this release shine. First there’s an up-close-and-personal recording session filmed at Peppermint Park Studios in Hanover, on May 26th 2005. The band runs through six songs including the epic ballads ‘Try Me” and ‘Love To Love,” which sound voluminous with the string trimmings. There are also loads of extras including interviews with band members who provide keen insights into UFO’s tumultuous history. And there are even a few mentions of ex-guitarist and eccentric, Michael Schenker, who has mysteriously drifted in and out of the lineup over the years.
Although the concert is a little slow in spots, Showtime is a worthy purchase for any UFO fan, the second disc and bonus features making it a well-rounded visual document. SPV has also released a CD companion. Check ’em out.
+ Jim Kaz