Rock City, Nottingham
Despite being a fully paid up member of the denim and leather brigade in the 80s, I’ve never seen UFO live before, never even owned an album. The closest I got was when “Lights Out” was a track on the “Live and Heavy” compilation I had as a boy, and the first gig I ever went to was MSG, who played “Doctor, Doctor” and “Rock Bottom” as encores. You know a fair few UFO songs though, despite them never quite cracking it as a “big” act, remaining generally a Championship team, if you’ll forgive the football analogy. But of course, their “Lights Out” double live is a thing of rare respect, universally held up to be one of the greats. I didn’t own that either. (See above)
So, my first UFO gig is their farewell tour. This is a band who released their 4th album when Barry Sheene was world 500cc champion the first time. Me and the band are 51 as I write…
Tara Lynch (“Gui-Tara” apparently…) gets the place warmed up with some full on shredding rock instrumentals and a decent tune or three, getting a decent response for her troubles.
UFO still feature 2 original members. Phil Mogg on vocals (71 this year) and Andy Parker on drums (67), with Paul Raymond (73) on upside down strung rhythm guitar and keyboards having been there on and off since 1976. There’ve been some ups and downs over the years, but add a couple of younger guns on guitars and here you are in 2019.
After the on stage bell is rung (the tour is called “Last Orders”, see what they did there?) they come on stage to Faith Healer by SAHB, and plunge straight into Mother Mary, from 1975’s Force It album. Mogg looks uncannily like my Grandad in his all black outfit with braces and hat, and there’s not an ounce of fat on him, as he holds his mic stand aloft, in the way only he does. Raymond is the left handed double of Stuart Maconie, to these eyes anyway. The noise is mighty, loud but not overpowering; clear, not distorted. The crowd is near sold out.
All of which matters not a jot. Let’s be honest here, I’ve seen a far few (shall we say) more heritage bands lately, and come away sometimes a little disappointed. Tonight, I’m left with the feeling that if UFO have ever sounded better, I’d have absolutely loved to have been there. The band are as tight as you like, and Mogg’s vocals are spot on. Age does not seem to have taken any toll on them at all.
Mogg is a natural host, witty and self deprecating between songs. Once he’s stopped announcing songs from the wrong setlist (much to Vinnie Moore’s amusement) it got a bit less improvised, and the big “hits” just keep coming, with minimum fuss. Lights Out and Only You Can Rock Me are in the first half of the set, such is the plethora of huge rock tunes they have at their disposal. Love to Love is dedicated to the fan Vinnie met at the curry house, whose birthday it is, the dedication being read off a paper plate, by Mogg. Somehow that’s not chintzy at all. Too Hot to Handle and Rock Bottom are two tracks that any other band would probably have in the encore, they’re that good. They close the main set here, to rapturous applause and cheering.
Mogg (and Raymond, to be fair) visibly loosens as the gig progresses and he takes his hat off (“It’s like baking a pie under there”) and almost morphs into a double of Phil Collins by the end. The encore of Doctor, Doctor and Shoot, Shoot (rock classics both) is received with adulation, and the band have done their job in spades. My only regret is not being more of a fan up to now. Frankly, a tremendous gig from a band who could teach many a newer band many a thing.
Rather predictably, the entire crowd looked like a massive focus group shortly to be used by Classic Rock magazine.
It made me think..
Some bands never quite get what you might think they deserve. But they have a high old time of it anyway.