Lights Out In Birmingham (Shades 521)
Town Hall Birmingham England UK June 5, 1977
Disc 1 (50:44) Intro, Lights Out, Gettin’ Ready, Love To Love, On With The Action, Doctor Doctor, I’m A Loser, Too Hot To Handle, Out In The Street, This Kids, Shoot Shoot
Disc 2 (43:28) MC, Rock Bottom, Let It Roll, C’Mon Everybody, Can You Roll Her, Boogie For George
With the core of Way, Mogg, Schenker, and Parker UFO had released a string of records that had established them as a leader in British hard rock but there were limitations to the line up and for the No Heavy Petting record they added keyboard player Danny Peyronel to help fill the sound. While he did do so on record, in the live setting he did not gel well with Schenker and at the tours end he was ousted from the band. For the Lights Out record the band drafted ex Savoy Brown man Paul Raymond to fill the keyboard roll and since he was also an accomplished guitar player also he could switch to rhythm guitar to help flesh out the sound live. Enter producer Ron Nevison, who had worked with such acts as Bad Company, The Who, and Led Zeppelin and the results is what many considered the bands finest studio record of the 70’s and most importantly what is now considered the classic line up of the band was in place.
The success that came with Lights Out brought uncertainty with guitarist Michael Schenker and on the eve of the bands American tour he went awol, for UFO guitar player Paul Chapman was brought in the fill the guitar position and eventually Michael surfaced and was drafted back in for the rest of the tour.
The Birmingham show has been issued before on Birmingham Tapes (Bondage BON 278/279/280), an excellent release that also features recordings from the same town from 1974 and 1976, a review can be found on this site. The source for that release and this new one from the folks at Shades utilize the same audience source, and recently on a well known tracker a first gen was available and is the source for this title. When comparing this new release with the old Bondage title there one can easily tell that this new release is a very nice upgrade in sound, it is clear and vibrant while the old one was flat sounding. I rated the Bondage title as good to very good, this new one is easily very good and borders on excellent with the cymbals at time being to shrill for my taste, it is still a little distant and there is at times a natural echo that comes from the tapers position in the hall and is over all a joy to listen too, the band is on fire and play with a combination of intensity and bravado as they were riding on the heels of their new found success.
The band hit the Stage with the title track from the new record, Lights Out and one could only imagine being there and what could possibly be a better opening tune, it sets the pace for the rest of the show. Gettin’ Ready, also from the Lights Out record, is played live and one of my original motivations for seeking out the Bondage title. The song works so well with its pop rock nature is a perfect prelude to the new records finest piece, the brilliant Love To Love. Heavy and moody piece perfectly augmented by Paul Raymonds keyboards and an incredible Schenker solo that shreds to end the piece.
A track that did not make the set list on the previous tour is featured here, On With The Action is dark rocker with great lyrics and a riff reminiscent of early Scorpions (which Schenker was a member in his early days…one only has to say Lonesome Crow). The show really begins to heat up as they rip into a string of classics beginning with I’m A Loser with another great Schenker solo right through fan favorites like Too Hot To Handle and Out In The Street. This Kids is a heavy masterpiece with its Sabbath like ending, the riff is so heavy ! and a fast moving Shoot Shoot ends the first disc.
The show has been building to a climax, the audience has been clambering for it and the band has held them off, until now. Rock Bottom is the climax, the quintessential UFO song and a hard rock classic. Schenekr starts the song with a riff style jam that is different from the one immortalized on the Strangers In The Night Opus until Scheneker has enough and goes into the songs familiar riff, one that as a UFO fan for close to 30 years never is boring and always gets me up for and banding my head and doing a little air guitar. His solo is basically in lesson on ability, he starts it off slow and lets it build before delivering an incredible burst of notes that couple intensity whit melody as only the master can. The crowd goes bonkers, and I must say I did also and give the band a huge ovation as they leave the stage.
The encores begin with the bombastic Let It Roll, it does what its title says it will and levels the audience, the harmony solos between Schenker and Raymond it perfect with keyboards and guitar in perfect unison. What I found particular interesting is how Can You Roll Her is sandwiched between Eddie Cochran’s C’Mon Everybody and the band’s early live favorite Boogie For George. I like the song live and was definitely a stepping stone in the bands musical progression. A ten minute Boogie For George closes the concert and gives the band the ability to stretch out and jam, of course the songs features some incredible leads from Michael and some nice bass from Pete but it is Phil Mogg’s ex rated tale of a sexual rendezvous that never fails to deliver ! An Excellent concert from start to finish and one that would cement the band legacy as a live act.
The packaging is great, full color art worked with the cover being a variation of the Lights Out record with some great live shots on the inside all packaged neatly in a slim line jewel case. UFO silvers always peak my attention, especially from the Schenker years and this one is a nice upgrade over the older release and until the master surfaces, if it ever does, this is the definitive version on and incredible gig. My parting comment is simple…..give me more !