One of my concert highlights for this year was to finally see German guitar legend Michael Schenker on the live stage for the first time. Michael’s 50th anniversary tour arrived at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale (north of Pittsburgh) on October 17.
Besides seeing Michael Schenker for the first time, this was my first time ever catching a concert at Jergel’s after several years of hearing about this venue. This is a great venue to see live music! The venue has a good-sized stage, in-house sound and a large floor in front of the stage to accommodate concert-goers, as well as a two-level table area for folks who want to dine while enjoying their concert. Seating on the upper level wraps around behind the stage, so some folks can view the show from above and behind the stage.
Although I tried to arrive as soon as I could directly from my day job, I still just barely missed openers Images Of Eden, who had already wrapped up their set by the time I got there. (Images Of Eden recently issued their new EP “Weathered and Torn,” and singer Gordon Tittsworth will talk about the album and being on the Michael Schenker 50th Anniversary Tour on the December 4 edition of the “Homegrown Rocker” on Q94 Classic Rock!)
But moments after my arrival, Mr. Big frontman Eric Martin and his band took the stage. Flanked by lead guitarist Paul Pesco, bassist PJ Farley and drummer Jason Hartless, Eric performed material from his Mr. Big arsenal. Some of the songs included “What If We Were New,” “Alive and Kickin,’” “Dancin’ With My Devils,” “Take Cover” (which Eric dedicated in memory of Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey, who passed in 2018), and the group’s version of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” Eric still has the voice, and he and his band generated the energy and enthusiasm to fire up the large crowd.
That crowd then went wild as The Michael Schenker Group (MSG) entered the arena and launched their performance with two numbers from the 1980 self-titled debut album – the dramatic instrumental rocker “Into the Arena” and “Cry for the Nations” – before playing the first of several numbers from Michael’s well-known prior band UFO, “Doctor, Doctor.” Wielding his Flying V guitar, Michael showed his mastery on the strings early and often; flanked by lead singer Ronnie Romero, bassist Barend Courbois, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Steve Mann and drummer Bodo Schopf. They did songs from throughout Michael’s catalog, including earlier classics like “Armed and Ready,” “Assault Attack” and “Looking for Love,” and newer numbers such as “We Are The Voice,” “Under the Red Sky,” “Sail the Darkness” and the new single “Emergency.” They peppered the main set with two more UFO classics; “Lights Out” and the set-closer “Rock Bottom,” the latter showcasing Michael’s extended guitar solo fireworks. When the crowd yelled for the encore, MSG responded with five more numbers from the UFO catalog – “Shoot Shoot,” “Let It Roll,” “Natural Thing,” “Too Hot to Handle” and “Only You Can Rock Me,” each which kept this crowd celebrating at a feverish level. At age 67, Michael showed that he still has the fire and passion for rocking audiences, and can still work and shred on those guitar strings! I’m glad I finally got to see him in concert!
(The photos below show Eric Martin and Michael Schenker during their respective sets.)