01 December 2018
Uli Jon Roth 50th Anniversary tour
A tube delay plus a defective lift to ULU London meant I missed the opening act Kaleb McKane. My lateness was such that I arrived into the hall as Uli Jon Roth’s band took to the stage followed by respectful clapping and cheering from the surprisingly sparse crowd as the man himself walked on behind. For a man of 65 he wore his black jacket over a long flowing red shirt well with his traditional matching bandana and flowers off the head off his famous self-designed Sky guitar.
Roth was touring his 50 years of playing live , the set which was a collective of all material from his youth , through the Scorpions ’73-78 era , Electric Sun and beyond. On interviewing Uli Jon Roth it was clear that he holds his current band in high esteem , and they are all accomplished musicians, but guitarist/singer Nicholas Torman did appear to struggled with the very high notes early on .
It was clear that the crowd were split into two camps, the old rockers who came to see Scorpion classic’s and the guitarists who have come to watch a master class. The two do mix but like any concentric circles , the common ground can be limited. The set was split into parts , the first were for the purists , tracks of Roth’s Electric Sun albums , Ice breaker and I’m a river came out early , Roth then played tracks from Zeno Roth , his brother who sadly died earlier in the year. The back drop displaying a picture of Zeno as the band went through Don’t tell the wind off Zeno’s debut LP in 1986 which at the end accelerated into a blur of Roth’s fingers as he covered all 23 frets of his Skyguitar. The purists were in geeky plank spanking bliss. Day late and a dollar short came off Ian Gillian’s Gillian Inn 2006 solo LP (the original featured Ronnie James Dio) followed. The wonderful Hiroshima , where vocals were shared with bassist Simon Foster and Roth was briefly disturbed by a pair of young students who decided that their conversation at the back of the hall was more important that the story being told , they were soon told the error of their ways and Roth (hopefully) unaware carried on playing. The Sky guitar was replaced by his 50 year old original electric that he played at his first gig as a 13 year old . Apache by the Shadows was a surprise yet delightful all the same , without , I hasten to add the infamous foot work. Sails of Charon off The Scorpions 1977 Taken by force closed the first part of the show with cheers for the geeks and the Scorpions diehard’s alike. Roth was in his element.
Out came the 8 string flamenco guitar for the next part where the man appears to enjoy his playing the most , and it was nothing short of beautiful to watch and listen. The final part of the show was the less technical, but brought the most cheers, Roth played through the old Scorpions classic’s , we’ll burn the sky being my favourite , finishing the set with covers from his hero Jimi Hendrix.
Roth is a quite simply one of the greatest living guitarists , he isn’t metal, he isn’t rock , he is guitar , it was a shame that the London populous didn’t come out in more numbers , but for those that did , apart from the two disrespectful students witnessed something special. If you are going to see Roth on this tour you are in for a treat , if you are considering going, please do so, you will not be disappointed.
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