UFO – Leeds O2 Academy – Gig Photos and Review – 17 March 2019

Who would have thought that after changing their name from Hocus Pocus to UFO in 1969 and releasing their space-rock debut, UFO 1 the year after, UFO would tread the boards for 50 years. The band have come a long way and achieved notoriety and success in equal measures since their debut release.

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I first came across UFO in 1976 at the tender age of 11, when I borrowed a friends copy of “No Heavy Petting” and never looked back. People wax lyrical about the Michael Schenker years and indeed much of the Schenker years are covered in tonight’s set. “Natural Thing” set me off on my UFO journey.

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I didn’t venture into UFO vinyl until 1979 when my 14 year old pocket money managed to scrape enough together to buy the Shoot Shoot E.P. on clear vinyl – still treasured to this day.

The double live album from which the E.P. is taken, “Strangers In The Night” remains one of the greatest live rock albums ever cast to vinyl. Not surprisingly, two of the tracks off the E.P. are featured in tonight’s set – “Only You Can Rock Me” and “Shoot Shoot”.

Tonight’s show kicks off with “Mother Mary” in blistering style, Mogg’s vocals belying his 70 years. Most singers are seeing their vocal powers dwindling by this ripe age. Not Mogg. Phil’s voice is the centre piece of all things UFO and it never let’s him down through the 90 minute set. As good as he’s ever been. Mother Mary is swiftly followed by “We Belong To The Night” from 1982’s “Mechanix” album.

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A full throttle, rocking “Lights Out” really get’s the party started. Make no mistake, this is a real celebration of 50 years of one of UK Rock’s great institutions.

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“Baby Blue” showcases both the delicate side of Mogg’s delivery and the effortless power his voice holds. If anyone wasn’t feeling emotional, they were now.

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This isn’t just the Phil Mogg show though. UFO are most definitely a band, with all parts contributing to this wonderful set and ensuring the legacy has lived on this long. It’s hard to believe that Vinnie Moore and Rob De Luca have now been with the band 15 years and 11 years respectively. It shows, and they’ve most definitely made those places their own. Vinnie is true to the originals but puts his own twist to them. Rob has grown massively into his role since I first saw him, maybe 10 years ago. Only You Can Rock Me showcases the band to it’s full, with founding member Andy Parker bludgeoning his kit and Paul Raymond adding the extra layers he always has.

It’s great to hear “Burn Your House Down” and “Messiah Of Love” from 2012 and 2015 respectively, reinforcing that UFO have been producing great albums to the end and these more recent gems fully deserve their place in the set. UFO are bowing out on top, this isn’t just a nostalgia ride. Phil Mogg has called it quits on UFO because he just can’t be bothered with the travelling and hotels any more. Such a shame as he clearly loves the stage as much as he ever did. As always, he could have been playing as a stand-up comedian tonight. Checking how everyone is at either side of the venue, he quips that he saw Tony Bennett do that once. Maybe he’s invested in a rocking chair for his retirement to do some Val Doonican style crooning.

Crowd favourites “Love To Love” and “Too Hot To Handle” pave the way to Rock Bottom, when Mogg once again turns comedian, joking that he could go on holiday and get himself a suntan by the time Vinnie Moore finishes the solo. A great solo it is too , once again taking Schenker’s blueprint but making it his own, with consummate ease. “Doctor Doctor” starts running down the set. There’s no bigger compliment than Iron Maiden using one of your songs for their stage entrance – the crowd’s response shows exactly why.

What better way to close the show than with “Shoot Shoot”, the first UFO record I bought. Fitting that the cowbell intro chimes last orders on the last song that UFO will ever play in Leeds.

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The band leave the stage to rapturous applause and adulation. There is genuine love for these guys and many in the crowd were emotional leaving the venue, not quite believing this will be the last time they see them live after following them for so many years. UFO may be calling time on their illustrious career but this is absolutely going out in style, with band and crowd loving every minute. If you haven’t got yourself a ticket, grab one quick because most venues are either sold out or on the verge of selling out – UK to April, Europe to August, U.S.A. to November. UFO – forever in our hearts and out of our speakers.

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Graham Geldard

Music first, Photography second, now the two go hand in hand. Travelled the length and breadth of musical genres – 70s glam rock to 77 punk to 80s / 90s mod, post punk, trashy rock ‘n’ roll & metal. Will listen to and shoot anything. Now hooked on the thriving Leeds gig scene – local bands and visiting bands, arenas to toilet venues.

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