“I’m backstage”, says Geddy Lee, “and there’s no sign of UFO, and they’re on stage in five minutes. In the parking lot there’s a car with its trunk open and a guy handing out beers – this is the Bible Belt in 1977; no alcohol on a Sunday – and there, in full stage gear, are UFO drinking as much as they can before they have to go on. They were pretty good that night too.”
Just a year later, UFO would manage a sweep of headline shows that were captured for the epoch-making Strangers In The Night, an album that, even by their own admission, they would never top. But this eight-disc set, covering various cities and sets on that tour, somehow manages to improve on perfection.
Judging by Michael Hann’s excellent liner notes – the new, judiciously detailed packaging is to be applauded – UFO had a rather hazy autumn in 1978: “It was white wine for the soundcheck, then beer, then the hard stuff in the evening,” recalls Andy Parker.
Vocalist Phil Mogg might occasionally sound sanguine between songs in a chilly Youngstown Ohio, or at the absolute top of his game, as in Cleveland the very next night.
This run of shows as UFO rampaged across America is, with the added weight of history that we’ve now lost both Pete Way and Paul Raymond, a very welcome reminder that at one point in time UFO were at the very apex of creativity and as performers, multi-layered, compulsive and always just a heartbeat away from the wheels coming off.
We really won’t ever see their like again.