It might be said Michael Schenker is enjoying the best of times with TEMPLE OF ROCK. For one, he's rekindled onstage magic with old friends Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz. When these guys dig through an old SCORPIONS ditty onstage, you know they must feel as timeless as "Coast to Coast" itself. Having the professionalism of the tireless Doogie White and Wayne Findlay (who himself can peel some convincing SCORPIONS licks) as part of TEMPLE OF ROCK, Schenker's omnipresent smiling onstage these days is pretty damned infectious. His new band's music is likewise addictive, whether you're talking speed freak jams like "Live And Let Live", "Rock City", "Land of Thunder", "Something Of The Night" and "Horizons" or snarling power rock like "Vigilante Man", "Let The Devil Scream" and "Black Moon Rising".
There's a reason TEMPLE OF ROCK chose the Joy Eslava in Madrid to film their latest concert package, "On a Mission: Live in Madrid". For one, the three-tier theater presents a majestic, even rustic showcase for any performance be it opera, much less hard rock. Two, it's a known fact that Latin audiences from Spain, Mexico and South America are amongst the most appreciative audiences worldwide. Play your hearts out for these folks, you'll receive affectionate "Ole…Ole Ole Ole" chants in response, and not just a couple times.
Thus the stage is set (pun intended) for Michael Schenker and his posse in support of TEMPLE OF ROCK's latest album, "Spirit On A Mission". "On a Mission: Live in Madrid" is a 22-song set grabbed from TEMPLE OF ROCK tunes, along with UFO, SCORPIONS and early MSG selections. From "Spirit On A Mission", the band belts out "Live And Let Live", "Communion", "Saviour Machine" and "Vigilante Man". From "Bridge The Gap", you get "Where the Wild Winds Blow", "Horizons" and "Lord of the Lost and Lonely".
The rest of TEMPLE OF ROCK's set spans Michael Schenker's career. The usual UFO classics check in: "Doctor Doctor", "Only You Can Rock Me", "Lights Out", "Rock Bottom", and "Too Hot To Handle", plus a rare appearance of "Natural Thing". The band readily slams out the SCORPIONS standards "Lovedrive", "Coast To Coast", "Blackout" and "Rock You Like A Hurricane". Three MSG cuts are served up as well: "Victim Of Illusion" from the 1980 "Michael Schenker Group" album, "Rock My Nights Away" from "Built To Destroy" and "Attack Of The Mad Axemen" from "MSG". In honor of Ronnie James Dio, the band plays "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead".
The liveliness of the former SCORPIONS contingency onstage makes "On a Mission: Live in Madrid" a delightfully engaging performance. Michael Schenker, at one time the most introverted guitar hero in heavy music, hovers within fingers' reach of the Madrid audience more often than not. He has tons of smiles for them, as does Wayne Findlay, a firm counterpart to Schenker as second guitarist and keyboardist. Francis Buchholz's genteel candor behind a bass is something that can't be taught to a musician. His grins are congenial, suave and even fatherly, earning him praise from Doogie White during a formal introduction. Of course, White jokingly admonishes the crowd who roar their approval at Herman Rarebell's coaxing. "Don't encourage him," White mocks.
White himself continues to marvel as the hardest working man in hard rock. How this guy works without a teleprompter considering all the bands he fronts simultaneously or has fronted in the past is astonishing. He's become an exemplary rock singer, sadly more for in-the-know metal and hard rock fans. Nonetheless, there's very little Doogie White can't handle, hiding some of his more soulful chops, which you can sample in the sound-check footage on the bonus features. He doesn't need to be Klaus Meine here, merely a smooth operator with the smarts to embellish and holler where appropriate. As with anything White appears on, "On a Mission: Live in Madrid" is as much his showcase as the rest of the band's. As seriously as he takes his craft, it's wonderful to see him humbly chuckle during "Rock You Like A Hurricane" when the Madrid crowd beats him to the mark on the chorus.
"On a Mission: Live in Madrid" presents a dignified and fun exhibition highlighted by a tremendous jam in the midst of "Rock Bottom", the video presentation offering viewers a chance to ogle just how fast Michael Schenker's fingers work those frets. The only thing more remarkable to the Madrid audience is when Schenker emerges with his Dean double-neck during "Saviour Machine" and "Too Hot To Handle". Here's hoping the pillars erecting this rock temple remain sturdy for years to come.