With PM’s illustrious (!) Ireland editor laid low with a dose of the lurgy, it was up to yours truly to venture first into the rare bright sunny evening and then into the darkened venue for what promises to be rip roaring gig – and my first encounter with the legendary UFO.
Unfortunately the crowd is quite small as the Russian quintet Reds’cool take to the stage, and immediately the twin guitars tear through the venue. They are as tight as a badgers ass. The vocals and drums kick in and the first problem of the night is clearly evident: singer Slava Spark can not be heard. Unaware of the problem, the frontman is very animated and his amazing stage presence shines as bright as the lights. As they run straight into the next song, the band come across a bit nervous. The vocalist banters with the crowd, but we can’t make him out apart from the title of the next song: ‘The Way I Am’ begins just vocals and a drum beat, but really comes to life when the guitars burst to life, but the problems with the sound mix continue. Nevertheless, the growing crowd are really enjoying this wee band, from the 80s influence to their music through to the performance from the frontman as he pulls all the classic stage poses – and the fact that he has picked out two ladies near the front to flirt with.
As their set progresses their confidence grows. ‘Hey You’ (not a cover, lol) is a real sleaze song, as Spark rubs his groin erotically, telling us he’s gonna give us what’s he got. The high energy and very sexual performance have won this crowd over, especially the females. As their power ballad ‘Strangers Eyes’ ends, he stares straight into my eyes smiling as he sings “I love you” (must have singled out my PlanetMosh shirt, lol); it is safe to say he knows his trade and does it well. The sound is finally sorted and they power through their last few songs, whipping the crowd up as they go and, as they leave the stage, it’s clear they have gained a few new fans in our wee country.
UFO amble on to the stage in a very understated manner; but, as the the appropriate ‘We Belong To The Night’ begins, they prove that their music doesn’t need any flamboyance, and quickly envelopes the whole place. The sound problems continue as Phil Mogg’s vocal mix is way too low. However, as they fire straight into the second song, ‘Fight Night’, the band’s experience is clear for all to see and hear.
‘Run Boy Run’, the first song of their new album ‘A Conspiracy Of Stars’ is next and, when the mix allows us, when can hear that Mogg has not lost his voice, it is still as clear as it was 30 (and more) years ago. But, there is one question nearly everyone is asking: wtf is wrong at the mixing desk? Feedback and distortion plague their set. Although the band is quite static on stage – well they are (mostly) in their 60s – the passion and the full power of their music resounds around the venue – and the crowd are loving it. The sound improves slightly, allowing ‘Lights Out’ to showcase Mogg’s amazing vocal range to be heard. ‘Killing Kind’, another new song, proves that UFO can still give a lot of younger bands a run for their money.
With the sound improving again the true masterfulness of this band is actually on show, and the mix of young and older fans are eating up the electric atmosphere and ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ has the crowd going nuts. ‘Burn Your House Down’ slows the pace a bit as the bass line takes precedence on this track and vibrates throughout the room. There is another blast of feedback as ‘Cherry’ begins – but with this the sound finally seems to be right and we can enjoy the quality of music that UFO are known for. ‘Love To Love’, with its slower bass driven riff fills the PA with the clearest sound of the night while main set closer ‘Rock Bottom’ has everyone dancing around me.
The encore has the crowd going wild as the room explodes with ‘Doctor Doctor’ and the best sound of the night. This is hard rock at its best and the calibre of these musicians really shines through as they rip the Limelight a new one with a blasting ‘Shoot Shoot’. Finally, it’s cameras out and the band taking photos of the crowd before leaving the stage, bringing to an end a night of fantastic performances from both bands. The two performances may both have been plagued by bad sound – but everyone has thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
UFO’s tour continues in Exeter tonight (Saturday), with the remaining dates as follows:
Sunday May 3 – Salisbury, City Hall
Tuesday May 5 – Brighton, Concorde 2
Wednesday May 6 – Oxford, O2 Academy
Thursday May 7 – London, HMV Forum
Photographs by Marc Leach. (c) PlanetMosh 2015