ULI JON ROTH
Under A Dark Sky
Sellersville Theater, PA - Weds. Oct. 8 2008, B.B. Kings Blues Club, NY - Sat. Oct. 11 2008
Review by Morten G.P., photo by Johnny Rodgers
Line up: Guitar: Uli Jon Roth, vocals: Mark Boals and Liz Vandall, drums: Michael Ehre, bass: Michael Motnik, guitar: Niklas Turmann, keyboard: Corvim Bahn. Special Guests at the B.B. Kings Blues Club Show: Alex Skolnick (Testament), Chris Cafferty (Tran-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage), Joe Stump (Reign Of Terror).
Our review spans two nights in company with the incredible legendary guitarist, Uli Jon Roth, and his amazing band. The master of the sky guitar is on tour promoting his new album, Under a Dark Sky. The first night was in the beautiful Sellersville Theater built in 1894. This very well kept theater had a warm atmosphere and a great, full sound. Decorated in a style where you knew you were part of something historic and very special the mood was set for a night with Uli & his band. The second show was at the legendary B.B. Kings Blues Club in the heart of Manhattan. It has always hosted some of the most amazing and talented musicians. Uli has found his own love for this place since he seems to return every year. A mixed crowd from youth to the older generation, were attending this historic event at B.B. Kings this Saturday night. Standing ovations came naturally after each piece of music.
Opening up with “Sky Overture” from his 2000 release, Transcendental Sky Guitar Uli started out by showing us the best of the Sky Guitar. Deep cello tones on the seventh string, soaring high violin notes and everything in between on his 36-fretboard sky guitar. It is still amazing how he manages to combine blues and classical licks in this amazing piece. He always leaves the crowd stunned after this song. The band then took us on a journey through the new album with beautiful music and heartfelt lyrics hitting emotional aspects of life. Intense to depressed, negative reflecting positive, sad towards happy emotions, these various emotions all convey the same message about global peace. Unique pieces of guitar-driven music melted into songs, played with such emotion. Roth truly is one of a kind. Some highlights of the new material were the groove-driven song, “Magic Word”, “Tanz in die Dammerung (Dance Into Twilight)” based on a story Uli’s dad used to tell. And my personal favorite, “Stay in the Light” which consists of amazing call and response with Roth on guitar and vocals.
The more you listen to the new CD, Under a Dark Sky, the more you pick up and all the instruments, vocals and small details are simply one big masterpiece. It was great to see Uli, with a band full of outstanding talent and great musicianship. Powerful lead vocal performanced between Mark Boals and Liz Vandall, often combined in harmonies and responses. They were backed by a rhythm section of Michael Ehre (drums) and Michael Motnik (bass) keeping everything unified. The maestro on the keyboard, Corvim Bahn, not only doing an amazing job playing keys, strings etc, but also keeping the sampled effects right and in time with the band. Niklas Turmann played the second guitar which fattened up the rhythm, and playing all the harmonies with Uli and what an excellent job he did. His red Gibson Les Paul was on fire each night, and his fingers were flying over the fretboard. Not to forget his strong backing vocals, which were another highlight of both nights.
Then it was time for some old-school Scorpions stuff. The Scorps seventies era is something that is so unique and special. All the die-hard Scorps fans (myself included) are so happy that Uli is finally finding the time in his set of music to play it. These guitar driven hard rockers stand as eternal classics in the history of hard melodic rock. With Mark Boals on vocals, Uli finally got a singer who can sing the Klaus Meine stuff very well. “Fly To The Rainbow” was first in line. As Uli introduced this song, stating, “Back in ’74, I would never have imagined that I would still be playing this song today more than 30 years later but I do enjoy playing it again after all these years.” The Beautiful acoustic classical intro began and everyone was singing along. “We’ll Burn The Sky” was another hard hitter. Liz Vandall was delivering an amazing job singing this song with lyrics by Monika Dannemann while Mark Boals hit all the high harmonies to perfection.
“The Sails Of Charon,” will always be one of the most influential and important songs to every guitar player out there. The incredible intro lead Uli came up with still stands as something untouchable in the guitar world. Probably the biggest highlight of each show, and the biggest crowd pleaser too. Standing ovations would always follow. Mark Boals got challenged in the difficult high energetic song, “Catch Your Train”. Yet, he did it to perfection. This song is so raw and full of power. The band was sounding amazing, and of course Uli played the solo note for note and everybody was humming along. “Life’s Like a River” is such a beautiful song. It almost calls for whispering vocals in the beginning. The dynamics kicks in and the band is going strong. It is one of my all-time favorite Scorpions songs, and I can’t even express how happy I was to finally hear this song live.
Like I previously stated, the early Scorps stuff is something that is getting more and more in demand. Not only when Uli is playing, but also when The Scorpions are playing. Hearing these songs being played again, was something very special to a lot of people. That was the feeling I got from everyone in the crowd. Of course he had to end the shows with songs from Uli’s biggest inspiration, Jimi Hendrix. Uli always takes so much pride in doing the Hendrix stuff to perfection. He also leaves room for improvising and playing the songs with a loose free feeling.
After seeing Uli Jon Roth and band for two nights - each set lasting close to 3 hours. I am very pleased and delighted with what I saw. He is such an inspiring performer to observe. He always delivers in the most inspirational manner. I’ve seen Uli Jon Roth on four different tours now. Including the ‘Transcendental Sky Guitar’ tour in Solvesborg, Sweden 2001 ‘Legends of Rock’ tour in London, England 2002 ‘Metamorphosis’ (Vivaldi’s four seasons) tour in New York 2004 and now the 2008 ‘Under a Dark Sky’ Tour. Each show stands as something special and unique in it’s own way. A big plus about this last tour was that Uli was headlining himself. Therefore, it gave him the creative freedom to build a set of music without having the time pressure from other performers. That is probably the reason why he found the time to play all the beloved Scorps classics this time around. Another major plus was his incredible and outstanding band. They were a joy and pleasure to watch. They all took the time out to meet and greet with all the fans after each show. Signing everything from pictures to old Scorps records.
A very special thanks goes to Jeff Agins for setting everything up.
1. Sky Overture
2. Land Of Dawn
3. The Magic Word
4. Letter Of The Law
5. Stay In The Light
6. Tanz In Die Dammerung (Dance Into Twilight)
7. Drum Solo, (Keyboard & Bass Solo, Sellersville show only)
8. Fly To The Rainbow
9. We’ll Burn The Sky
10. The Sails Of Charon
11. Hell Cat
12. Pictured Life
13. Catch Your Train
14. Life’s Like a River
15. I’ve Got To Be Free
16. (Dark Lady, Sellersville show only)
17. Spanish Castle Magic
18. All Along The Watchtower
19. In Trance
20. Voodoo Chile / Riding With The Wind
Website: Uli Jon Roth, Steamhammer Records