signed out from the local public library. I used to spend hours pouring over the card catalogue in the popular/rock section, flipping through the laminated cassette sleeve choices, curious about but not knowing of any of the bands. The cover I chose to sample depicted a gloved hand holding a guitar neck shaped like a mechanic’s wrench. The album was titled Mechanix from a band called UFO. For some reason, that cover and that cassette just jumped out and stuck with me. I took it home and was hooked by the end of the first song, "The Writer". Mechanix received a ton of playing time in my youth and still comes out great to this day. With this album I was now a UFO fan!
1976. Keyboardist Paul Raymond joined the band in 1977 for Lights Out. While the previous three albums produced several hits and fan favourites, UFO would achieve substantial critical acclaim with Lights Out. 1978’s Obsession preceded the magnificent live recording Strangers In The Night from 1979 which brought with it critical and commercial success. At the end of the tour Schenker departed UFO due to alcohol abuse and tensions with Mogg. The next album, 1980’s No Place To Run did not do as well and the self produced Wild, Willing And the Innocent in 1981 that followed performed only marginally better. 1982’s Mechanix had a minor hit in the
Schenker’s shoes and UFO released You Are Here in 2004 featuring Jason Bonham on drums. Andy Parker returned for The Monkey Puzzle in 2006 followed by The Visitor in 2009 which put them back on the
I have had the opportunity to see UFO in it's current incarnation twice previously, on the first Monsters of Rock Cruise as well as at Sweden Rock 2012 (at which Schenker was present and performing with Europe, but alas his joining UFO on stage as I had hoped for did not come to pass). I was elated for them to smash their 26 year Torontonian hiatus and roll into town for not one, but two shows on back to back nights.
The first took place on Friday October 11th, 2013 at The Rockpile West in Etobicoke. I arrived in the area early and chose the local pub for an excellent dinner of English style fish & chips. While there I was approached by a gentleman asking if I knew where The Rockpile was. I suspect that he was alerted to my planned attendance at UFO due to the "Sweden Rock" t-shirt that I was sporting. I found out that this gentleman had travelled from Ottawa, about 5 hours away, for the event. He was not the only Ottawa area resident to make the trek as I had planned to meet up with John Tennant, guitarist for one of the greatest unsigned Canadian bands from the later 90's, Shock. The Great White North has been deprived of UFO for far too long, proven by the strong ticket sales of both shows.
Now usually we get a barrage of local music prior to the head liner, sometimes up to five bands on the bill, but tonight was enjoyably scaled down with Top Dead Centre being the lone opening act. From Hamilton, Ontario, lead singer David Russ distributed some 3-song promo EP's to the crowd prior to the start of their set. They charged into their first selection titled "Lights Out", it was an original song and not a cover version of what we were to hear later on. They continued with their original compositions, such as "Tu Ride", "On A Train" and "Can't Touch You" and I noticed that the line-up on stage was not only short a man according to the list on the back of the CD, but the names that David Russ called out during the introductions did not match up. Top Dead Centre's videos are available on you-tube and they have worked with former Helix guitarist Brent Doerner and his Red D Film & Editing Company on the production of them.
|Photo by Brian Ronald|
|Photo by Brian Ronald|
|Photo by Brian Ronald|
The very next night UFO were again in town, this time at the newly opened sister venue Rockpile East in Scarborough with local Toronto sensation J'nai setting the stage this time. If you have not seen this band of university aged youths then you're seriously missing out! They have a stage chemistry and show filled with well choreographed moves as a backdrop to their expertly crafted compositions that compares to very few. Taking up a position stage side right (if you're facing it), the dry ice smoke machines billowed out their foggy product enveloping the stage. A cover of Rainbow's "Kill The King" led the audio visual barrage followed by Heart's "Barracuda" of which they do an excellent rendition. Front woman, Jeanette Ricasio may be small in stature, but she fills the stage with her presence and "Barracuda" is a perfect showcase for her. Their latest video release "Away From You" began their original songs, followed by "In The Light".
"In The Light" features unison bouncing by all four members not seated (ie: drummer Rui Cimbron) along with Jeanette's wacky dance moves and guitarist Stephan Nakamura whipping a ninja sword from a sheath on his back to play a little slide guitar. From the soundtrack of an up coming film starring Christopher Walken is "Accident" and I can see that J'nai is once again winning over new fans as I study the crowd. My absolute favorite J'nai song, "Skipping Stones", features synchronised kicks that highlight the song in a live setting even more. Jeanette took a turn bashing on Rui's cymbals during their presentation of "Gone" followed by their newest song, currently recording at Studio 92, "Lights Out" (again, not a cover of UFO, just a popular song title). We got "Defeat Them All" next and I marvelled at how professional this band of youths are. There's no song stalls between tracks aside from Jeanette addressing the crowd, the band is always ready to jump into the next in a well oiled machine unlike some more professional acts that I've seen fuddle around between songs. A new trick (well new to my eyes) from J'nai saw bassist Dave Alcordo at
front and centre stage lean over and Jeanette "roll" over him back to back displaying some kicks in the air. A regular feature during the "Defeat Them All" song is the guitar switch. Richie Nguyen and Stephan Nakamura exchange their instruments by hurling them at each other mid song, each catching the respective guitar and continuing to play. I've seen them perform this at least ten times with only one fail and it comes off magnificently, with tonight being another success. "What is our name?" Jeanette screamed out to the audience as we responded with power, "J'nai", before they blasted into a Rage Against The Machine cover and closing out with their regular ending of G 'n R's "Welcome To The Jungle" or more aptly Welcome to the Rockpile for a 45 minute assault on all visual and auditory senses. These youths play hard, giving all and leaving everything on stage by the end, go check out J'nai live!
UFO's second night of performance went much the same as the first with the same two songs being passed over on the set list. Phil's rambles this night included the removal of his tie, how he should have used it for something else and yes, he did say that we could take that any way that we wanted to, jokes about his fly being open for the first half of the set and how a few ladies in the crowd understood the German swear words he had spoken. The crowning glory was during "Let It Roll" when a guy, who I believe was Daniel Dekay, guitarist for excellent local band Diemonds, ran onto the stage and dove off into the crowd. Phil's response to this after the completion of the song was "I'm glad that you all were witness to our tour manager doing a suicide leap", delivered with his dry British style. Phil Mogg at 65 Years old has not lost a step with his vocals and he sounded fresh both nights. Vinnie was flawless on guitar and Andy Parker pounds the skins harder than ever. Touring bassist Rob De Luca from the band Spread Eagle and long time member Paul Raymond on keys and rhythm guitar round out this expressly tight playing unit. Phil’s monologue was quite humorous although I fear some of the British humour may have gone over a few drunken heads, but nonetheless this is a band you must see live and soon!