The legendary Michael Schenker Group made a return to Japan to as a part of “Michael Schenker’s 50th Anniversary Universal – JAPAN TOUR 2022” and played an incredible show at Nakano Sunplaza Hall, Tokyo, on Tuesday night. They were scheduled to play 2 days in Tokyo and 1 day in Osaka, which were all sold out. Although Michael Schenker was supposed to come to play in Japan as Michael Schenker Fest in March 2020, they had to cancel the tour due to pandemic. But finally, we could see his live for the first time in 4 years!
The historical venue, Nakano Sunplaza Hall was built in 1973. It has over 2,200 capacity and many rock bands including UFO, Michael Schenker Group played here. However, it will be demolished next year and newly reconstructed to a bigger complex facility. I saw many rock fans were taking pictures of the inside and outside of the building filled with tons of memories.
As the lights inside the packed hall went down at 7:00 pm, our guitar hero Michael Schenker showed up with Steve Mann on guitar and keyboards, Barend Courbois on bass and Bodo Schopf on drums. They kicked off the evening with the instrumental “Into the Arena,” the perfect tune to start the show. Michael Schenker has been revered as a “guitar god” especially here in Japan. We were hooked from the first notes. After the opening number, the new singer Ronnie Romero appeared on stage, and they launched into “Cry for the Nations.” His voice was so powerful, rich and emotional. Reality exceeded my expectation. I understood immediately why he was a high-in-demand singer. The next song was our live favorite “Doctor Doctor.” The last time I saw they played this song was in 2018 as Michael Schenker Fest, and they had 4 singers at that time. It was literally like a festival. Before the show, I was a bit worried about Ronnie Romero. Of course, I knew he was a great vocalist. However, I was concerned that the young singer might be feeling terribly pressured by this heavy responsibility. But I didn’t have to worry about it. He is a phenomenal singer and entertainer. I was impressed by his imposing stage presence too.
As this show was a celebration of Michael’s 50th anniversary of his debut with Michael Schenker Group’s latest album Universal, their set was mostly comprised of Michael’s entire history catalogue including his UFO era. After playing “Sail the Darkness” from Immortal (2021) and “Emergency,” the first track of their new album Universal (2022), they played a series of classic hits. When the UFO’s “Lights Out” started, the lighting got much brighter, and the crowd seemed extremely excited. They also played crowd favorites “Armed and Ready,” “Assault Attack” and UFO song “Rock Bottom.” During “Rock Bottom,” I saw the whole audience were singing along and pumping their fists up into the air. We also could hear the long version of Michael’s guitar solo in this one. Bathed in bright lights and shredding his signature flying-V guitar in a state of euphoria, he was truly like a guitar god. This was the highlight of the night for me. After a very short break, they continued with UFO songs and their fans were loving every second of it.
The rhythm section, Bodo Schopf and Barend Courbois, is quite heavy and tight. They are firmly supporting Michael playing guitar solos freely. And I must mention a multi-talented guitar and keyboard player, Steve Mann. He is a most gentle, cool, and humble man in the music industry as far as I know. His guitar solo of “Natural Thing” fascinated the audience.
They ended a fantastic 90-minute set with UFO song, “Only You Can Rock Me.” We wanted more. But I do believe they will come back to Japan soon. As I mentioned before, they are very admired and worshipped here. Through this tour, Michael proved us that he is still at the top of his game. Let’s hope they will come back and play live again next year. As he said, “See you next time. Until then, keep on rocking!”
Michael Schenker Group:
Photos were taken on 21st and 22nd November 2022.
Highway to Hell (from Tape, AC/DC song)
1. Into the Arena
2. Cry for the Nations
3. Doctor Doctor (UFO)
4. We Are the Voice (Michael Schenker Fest)
5. Looking for Love
6. Red Sky
7. Sail the Darkness
9. Lights Out (UFO)
10. Armed and Ready
11. Assault Attack
12. Rock Bottom (UFO)
13. Shoot Shoot (UFO)
14. Let It Roll (UFO)
15. Natural Thing (UFO)
16. Too Hot to Handle (UFO)
17. Only You Can Rock Me (UFO)
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Aki is a published and award-winning concert photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. Her musical preferences are deeply rooted in the 70s. However, she also loves to see and capture new bands. You can find her work in magazines, newspapers, online and galleries.