Getting the fast train out of here with the boys who know how
A frequent visitor to these shores in the last 12 months, the inescapable fact is that each time you see Jared James Nichols he and his band get better and better. Billing themselves as Blues Power is apt as that is about as close as you can get to explaining their sound. There is a thunderous shake to his riffs, but a deft touch too about his playing. “Gone” is perhaps the bridge between these two worlds, while “Can You Feel It” has the air of the honky tonk but the attitude of a biker rally. This no-frills approach makes for some thrilling music, and JJN seems to be born to be onstage. “Rock N Roll Hoochie Coo” is fun, “Now And Then” showcases his wizardry and there is a touch of Zakk Wylde about it. Ending, as he often does, with a cover of “Mississippi Queen” is perfect. All the support slots mean that he’s honed his craft and Jared James Nichols is ready to step from the shadows into the limelight he deserves.
UFO’s irascible frontman is forced to apologise – probably not for the first time in his life – towards the end of their set. “I am sorry,” he says with a grin that suggests he is anything but. “I got distracted by some cleavage and had to peek.”
Even getting on for 50 years in one of the greatest hard rock bands of them all hasn’t completely taken the life out of the old dog yet, then.
Refreshingly, touring – it seems – just for fun and with nothing to promote, means UFO can settle into a set that begins with “We Got The Night” and takes in a lot of the classic stuff, but also finds the time for “Run Boy Run” and “Messiah Of Love” from 2015’s brilliant “Conspiracy Of Stars” album.
And more than anything you know what you’re going to get from this version of the band. Together for nearly ten years, Vinnie Moore on lead is in phenomenal form, his solo on “Love To Love” in particular is spectacular, and with Rob De Luca on bass there is a real chug in the engine room.
There’s as many great songs as you’d like too. “Lights Out”, “Cherry”, “Only You Can Rock Me” and “Too Hot To Handle” are the type of tracks that keep people coming back to watch you for half a century and the newer stuff like the brooding “Burn Your House Down” proves that this is about more than nostalgia.
Then there’s Phil Mogg, dressed in a suit, complete pocket watch and looking like the most dapper man on the planet, he is part singer part East End gangster. Genuinely funny at times he also suggests to the lighting man that “you might want to try some of the switches, they go up and down and you can change colours and everything.” Cross him at your peril, but it makes for an absolutely compelling performance.
Turning “Rock Bottom” into another masterclass from Moore, there’s two more needed for the encore. Paul Raymond plays the intro to “Doctor Doctor” and any Iron Maiden fans go weak at the knees, before Andy Parker – like Mogg a founding member of the band – wallops the cowbell to herald the start of “Shoot Shoot” and bring to a close another magnificent performance from a band who are showing no signs of taking it easy.
Indeed, why should they when they are still as good as this? UFO: still flying after all these years – and having a good old peek at the same time.