Ahead of their performance at Ramblin Man Fair, UFO finally returned to Birmingham after a rather lengthy absence, one that was noted at the start of the show to be most of their career, so there was an eager appetite amongst the diehard fans ahead of the performance.
Also scheduled to be playing Ramblin Man Fair was support act Jared James Nichols (JJN), a relatively new singer/guitarist on
the live circuit in the UK, JJN commands the stage pouring his 70’s inspired blues rock into the ears of those assembled including the infectious ‘Can you feel it?’, the audience certainly could, as appreciative applause and cheers increased throughout his set. Initially you could barely hear his vocals, but this was adjusted after JJN heard complaints from the crowd.
JJN and his accompanying musicians Eric Sandin on bass and Dennis Holm on drums are clearly enjoying being on stage at Birmingham Town Hall, after all it is not every day you get to play inside a Grade I listed building. JJN did a fine job of warming up the crowd with elements of audience participation. JJN showed great resonance in his playing and you can see how much he feels his music in his facial expressions. Around the heavy riffs of ‘Now or Never’ JJN threw in covers of Rick Derringer’s ‘Rock and roll, Hoochie Koo’, featuring some good vocal harmony with Eric, as well as ‘Norwegian Wood’ by The Beatles and Mountain’s ‘Mississippi Queen’. With over an album’s worth of material the choice of three covers seems a bit much, but maybe this was a means of appealing to the audience, there was a sizable queue for CD’s in the interval so it certainly worked, a job well done by JJN.
Despite not having been to Birmingham for a few decades, UFO did not make this simply a greatest hits show, but made sure more recent material was also covered such as ‘Run Boy Run’ from their ‘Conspiracy of Stars’ album.
Classic track ‘Lights Out’ got a big sing-along from the audience before the delicate opening of ‘Baby Blue’ on acoustic guitar, played beautifully by Vinnie Moore. As the concert progressed, there seemed to be some disgruntlement amongst the audience at vocalist Phil Mogg’s inter-song banter, of which there was plenty, perhaps at the ultimate expense of an extra track or two. When he was singing, his voice held well, there are others of his musical generation who have lost their vocal ability sadly. Other hits such as ‘Only you can rock me’ and ‘Burn your house down’ with a sweet little solo from Moore, were a treat to hear. ‘Cherry’ with its solid drum arrangement gave Andy Parker a chance to shine.
‘Love to love’ was a particularly enjoyable with its piano opening building into what is a very groove ridden song. The bridge was particularly special, UFO certainly know how to do these well.
‘Rock Bottom’ with its beastly guitar solo managed to stir one audience member from his slumber; after all these years and you miss part of the show!
Flanked by the impressive pipe organ, UFO predictably rounded off their set with ‘Doctor Doctor’ and ‘Shoot Shoot’. UFO were a perhaps understandably toned down version of their youthful exuberance, but played an enjoyable set covering a good selection of songs from their career, old and new.