Michael Schenker, Blue Oyster Cult and Girlschool at Hard Rock Hell

The grand finale of Hard Rock Hell 2014

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There are not many musicians out there that can be classed as a bona fide rock guitar legend, but Michael Schenker is unquestionably one of them. Unique and influential in his style of playing, he has not only seen success with his solo projects, but has also played a significant part in the success of NWOBHM heroes UFO as well as being instrumental in the early success of German rock legends Scorpions. It’s no surprise then that the room is absolutely filled to bursting point to by the time the intro music kicks in and his current solo incarnation, Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock [8], burst onto the Hard Rock Hell main stage.

As opening moves go, kicking things off with the UFO classic Doctor Doctor takes some beating and not surprisingly the gathered beer-fuelled hordes go nuts as they bounce and chant along to a song of a calibre that a lot of bands would give anything to close with. Still, when you have an arsenal of UFO, Scorpions and not to mention MSG tracks to pull from, it’s no real biggie and Schenker and co. certainly take full advantage of the catalogue of classics at their disposal as they belt out Scorpions tracks such as Lovedrive and the instrumental Coast To Coast as well as UFO’s Shoot Shoot – all the while Schenker cutting that familiar figure, hunched over his flying V as he rips up the fretboard in his own inimitable style.

It’s not just all about the old-school tonight though as Temple Of Rock tracks get a look in too. “This is a drinking song… and a sea shanty,” exclaims frontman Doogie White as 2013’s Lord Of The Lost And Lonely cuts a fine sway, while the brand new, yet to be released Vigilante Man stomps along and shows great promise for what’s to come on the new album due in early 2015. Somewhat inevitably though it’s the classics that win through the night, the response to Rock You Like A Hurricane threatening to tear the roof off the room as the place goes bonkers, while Rock Bottom ends proceedings in massive style to rapturous cheers for a man who is a genuine legend of our world.

There is no disputing the influence that melodic hard rockers Blue Oyster Cult [6] have had on the American rock scene in their time. Whichever way you cut it though, it’s a simple fact that for all but their biggest fans they are simply the band who did ‘that song’. With that in mind, it was always going to be a big ask to keep people’s interest throughout a set of an hour and twenty minutes tonight, and so it proves to be.

Led by Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom, the only two remaining original BOC members still in the band, you certainly can’t argue with the quality of musicianship on display, but as they pad things out with several long, winding instrumental breaks interspersed amongst tracks such as Burnin’ For You, Career Of Evil and Hot Rails To Hell, it’s hard not to feel a little bit uninspired by it all.

Things pick up somewhat though when Godzilla stomps it’s fuzzed-up groove, but it’s not until a massive cheer goes up as the inevitable chiming notes of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper ring out that any real buzz fills the room. As closing songs go it’s a hard one to beat, and despite the somewhat lacklustre 70-or-so minutes leading up to it, it manages to leave everyone on a high as Roeser and Bloom take their bows, looking on in genuine surprise at the response. If only they had more tunes like this.

After something so overall uninspiring, some serious injection of energy is needed to get the beer-soaked throng back on their feet and rocking out through the midnight hour. Thank Satan for Girlschool [7] then! With around thirty years in the business of storming venues with their brand of ballsy no-nonsense punk infused metal, they know exactly what to do – no mucking around, no drawn-out instrumental breaks or solo-offs – just straight down the line, perfect late night drinking and partying rock n’ roll with tracks such as Hit And Run, Future Flash and Kick It Down. It certainly does the trick too and heads are banged and beers are held aloft in appreciation. It’s just a shame that it all seems to be over as quickly as it began, the four-piece just having time to squeeze in storming renditions of Race With The Devil and Emergency before overruns on stagetimes mean that the set is cut short on what proves to be pretty much a perfect way to see out the festival.