Corporation Sheffield have certainly upped their game recently with their gig bookings. I didn’t imagine that an international guitar virtuoso like Uli Jon Roth, founder member of The Scorpions and pioneer of the Sky Guitar, would be gracing Sheffield with his presence, let alone in our dark corner of Milton Street. I was slightly disappointed that this now elder statesman of neoclassical metal had been appointed the Little Room (it’s smaller than the Main Room, and helpfully named!), usually reserved for smaller up-and-coming bands or tributes. But the former Scorp was at Corp, and who can argue with that.
The band attempts to open the night with a lesser played instrumental number, Amadeus – they launch into the first few epic bars, but no-one can see a thing. The stage is being lit by 8 spotlights at the back, and nothing else. I wonder if this is for a dramatic, silhouette effect, but Uli quickly stops proceedings and asks to have some lights up, please – “It’s not a bat cave..!”. Lights up and bats banished, the Mozart-eque epic begins.
Uli himself still looks every bit the hippy God of the 70s, in a tie-dye blue velvet tunic, a piratical lace-up shirt and black velvet leggings. In contrast, the rest of the band are muted in style, all in black and grey. Uli is up front as the blue exotic bird with the 7-string Sky guitar, a lady with dangerous curves, pulsating lights and inlaid with moonstone.
Throughout the evening he seemed to enjoy talking to the audience, introducing most songs individually and telling stories about them. ‘The Cry’ is a haunting, soaring instrumental, that we’re told should have a big screen video accompanying it, but alas the technology doesn’t allow for it tonight (damn you, Little Room). But the keen of ear can make out that the audio from the video is Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. There’s an emotional rendition of ‘Don’t Tell The Wind’ written by his late brother Zeno Roth, with vocals from bass player Niklas Turmann.
The ambitiously career-spanning set takes in everything from early Scorpions material such as In Trance and Fly To The Rainbow, to the newly remastered and rereleased ‘Earthquake’ album under the Electric Sun banner. As they re-enter the stage for an encore and launch into All Along The Watchtower, I’m reminded that all of rock’n’roll is connected. Uli and Jimi both had intimate connections with Monika Danneman in the 70s, as she contributed to the ‘Taken By Force’ album and also painted album art for Electric Sun.
The Fantastic Dreambird of ‘Yellow Raven’ closes out the night, everyone a little stunned and in awe of what and who we just witnessed. In the Little Room, no less!
Nice crowd. Lady in front of me was interpretive-dancing all evening like a Woodstock flower child, all flowy arms and big satin sleeves. Not my personal brand of gig appreciation, but it takes all sorts.
It made me think..
If you’re not familiar with the man and his music , check out his work on The Scorpions 1978 live set The Tokyo Tapes, or the early Electric Sun albums.