I found it immediately hard to believe that Michael Schenker was still going strong and performing actively at various concert halls in Europe. The German-born Schenker was an original member of the heavy metal band Scorpions (with his brother Rudolf), and the Schenkers' propensity for using the Gibson "Flying V" guitar has become their signature tool in their performance, even after Schenker left the band and went on to be part of the bands UFO and McCauley Schenker Group (or MSG). He also has been close to being attached to other bands since his Scorpions departure, with legend being he auditioned separately for the guitarist spots in the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, but he has continued on as a solo act, with various musicians coming in and out of Schenker's circle to comprise a group.
Schenker (with fellow former Scorpions in bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer (and Werner Herzog doppelganger) Herman Rarebell, along with singer Doogie White) have continued to tour and release albums, the latest of which being 2011's Temple of Rock, and one of the concerts from the show was recorded for distribution on Blu-ray and DVD platforms. The concert, from Tilburg, Netherlands in May 2012, includes the following songs:
"Into The Arena"
"Armed And Ready"
"Another Piece Of Meat"
"Cry For The Nations"
"Let Sleeping Dogs Lie"
"Coast To Coast"
"Before The Devil Knows You're Dead"
"On And On"
"Let It Roll"
"Rock You Like A Hurricane"
Over the course of the more than 90 minute set, I have got to admit I was taken back in time with Schenker's music. Not in the sense that I remembered his songs (though most of them are familiar, with only one that I could tell from the new album being played in concert), but the riffs on the Flying V made me feel oddly nostalgic for the days of high school, where I would blast the Scorps, Motorhead and Metallica. Days when I would piss off my parents by accumulating Marlboro Miles and smoking weed from a makeshift bong. But most of all, I think Schenker and the band is certainly comfortable performing these songs now. The crowds in front of them are comfortable with the music and are there to maybe recapture some of the feelings I experienced when watching, or perhaps are looking for something different. But the crowd is having fun and it comes through with the performers.
In terms of the songs I was not familiar with, while sounding generally similar to things that would have been plucked from a Scorps/UFO show (the rhythm section of the Schenker group does not help in that regard), they have subtle wrinkles in it that are made their own with Doogie's vocals, and the Rarebell-Buchholz work is familiar and more than capable, providing for some independence past the superficial. As for Schenker's fretwork, it remains as polished as it was in its heyday, remarkable for someone of his age and compared to similar peers at that level who would maybe just be comfortable doing the power chords every so often. Schenker does take a breather on songs occasionally and plays rhythm, but he is out there handling himself well and the result is a good show.The Blu-ray:
Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and in high definition (1080p, compared to similar shows that have been previously released in 1080i) using the AVC codec, and looks solid. The show would appear to have some decent production value thrown into it, with multiple camera angles, everything shot in HD and looking about as good as one can expect, despite some image noise and occasional pixilation inherent in the source. Image detail is adequate in some areas and lacks in the wider shots, and black levels are fairly consistent though not entirely deep. Perfectly acceptable viewing material I think.Audio:
You get your choice of a two-channel LPCM stereo track or a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround one. In switching tracks on the fly, one can certainly tell the difference between the two. Experiencing the lossless one, the low-end activity participates when it is called upon, but the sound stage is filled quite nicely between the guitars, drums and PA. The song lyrics sound clear and the ambient crowd noise provides an immersive experience to those who listen to it. One would expect a sharp audio track, and this does that.Extras:
The disc includes a small five song set with the group (with Rudolf appearing as well) to perform "Armed And Ready," "Another Piece Of Meat," "Rock You Like A Hurricane," "Hanging On" and "Doctor Doctor," which they performed at the High Voltage Festival in London. In addition, we see the group in two different areas: the first is during the band's sound check for the Tilburg show (21:34), the second is just before the band takes stage (10:43), where Schenker puts down Red Bull after Red Bull and goes over the set list and walks up to the stage before the Tilburg show, while the band (save for Doogie, who waits and points out genitalia drawn comically on a wood table) gets ready and go.
It should be noted that there is a Limited Edition set which includes CDs and a standard definition DVD for the Schenker-est of the Schenker fans.Final Thoughts:
Temple of Rock pleasantly surprised me in the way Michael Schenker brought some adrenaline to the stage when he very easily could have mailed it in at some point. He plays his hits, but does so in a way that makes you enjoy them, even if you have heard them countless times before. Technically the disc is quite good and has a decent-ish peek at things from a bonus material context. Definitely worth watching if you have had any fondness for '80s heavy metal, non-hair band category