Monday, October 14, 2019

Completing my UFO ride with Last Orders tour in Las Vegas

Andy photo in Las Vegas

By Andy

I thought I was going to die at a UFO show.

It was 1986 and my favorite rock band was rolling through its set at Fender's International Ballroom in Long Beach, CA, during its "Misdemeanor" tour.

I don't remember the exact song, but vocalist extraordinaire Phil Mogg and his gang were shredding, probably on one of their mammoth tunes I first latched onto in the 1970s. I recall the crowd being mellow up until this point, but all of a sudden things packed in tight up front where I was situated.

A row of lunchroom-type tables separated the band from the crowd, and I was soon pinned against one of the tables while the band rocked on. My body then twisted around and I was facing the crowd once behind me as the table flipped and landed on top of me. I was petrified, and for a few seconds I thought I was a goner. It happened so quickly, so the band didn't have time to witness the scenario or react. Suddenly, a plethora of hands grabbed at me and lifted me to safety and I was back on my feet again.

I was shaking. I was alive. And I got the fuck out of the front. I watched the rest of the show near the side of the stage and knew I had yet another gnarly concert story to tell one day.

That was UFO show No. 2 for me. No. 1 was seven years earlier at the epic Califfornia World Music Festival at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and that story will come later.

As the years wore on, I ticked off two more UFO shows with Cat in tow -- the 1995 reunion with Michael Schenker at the Edge in Palo Alto, CA, and a solid gig sometime in the 2000s at El Corazon in Seattle, WA, with our friends Zero Down.

When the 2019 Last Orders 50th anniversary USA shows were announced, I knew this would be my last chance to witness the band live and I needed one more notch on my UFO concert list to complete my five-decade run. We were going to hit up one of the shows, for sure. Since they weren't playing in our city of Seattle or nearby Portland, Cat and I nailed down tickets -- with five of our good friends -- for the Las Vegas House of Blues show on Oct. 11.

When Cat and I met up with Linda, Kevin, Erin, Sun Min and Francisco at the Excalibur hotel nearly five hours before opener Armored Saint took the stage, we knew we had something special in store for the evening.

While we reminisced about all of our wild adventures over the years, we journeyed toward the House of Blues and couldn't wait for UFO's first chords to ring out and Mogg to unleash his vocals that have been ingrained in our ears for what seems like forever. You know you're in a good place when Mogg lets go and sings his guts out.

Finally, the Last Orders bell rang on stage and we were off and running.

From opener "Mother Mary" to closer "Doctor Doctor," UFO were on point and gave us a night for the ages. I was especially stoked that they included more obscure songs like "Cherry," "Venus," "Makin' Moves" and "Fighting Man" in the set along with the unforgettable favorites. "Only You Can Rock Me" kicks me in the midsection every time and "Love to Love" stands as the band's ultimate amalgamation of the various musical styles they've shot fans' way over the last 50 years.

From the TSHIT archives.

During my live moments with UFO, I've seen Mogg hold down the vocal spot, of course, along with approximately four different guitarists and drummers, three bassists and two guys on guitar/keyboards. Insane!

When I first witnessed the band live in 1979 with my dad at the LA Coliseum, I was a wide-eyed early teen who had just won tickets to the show on the radio. It was my first rock concert, and I'll never forget walking into the place while Eddie Money sang "Two Tickets to Paradise." Then came Cheech and Chong wearing pink tutus, followed by UFO -- minus Schenker (damn!) -- who tore it up as a fan waved the best homemade sign of the day: "UFO kicks ass!" 

Van Halen and Aerosmith rocked out afterward, completing a solid day for a kid who played a Little League game that morning and then attended the big rock show into the night.

I would finally get to see Schenker manhandle his six-string in 1995 in Palo Alto, and it was everything I hoped for as I treaded along my rock 'n roll path. Metallica's James Hetfield stood nearby Cat and I at that gig and he looked just as stoked as we did. Linda and Kevin were there, too, and that made it even more special that we got to share our most recent UFO happening with them and our other pals.

Rock on!

Thanks to Francisco Ortiz for the videos.

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