With a blindfold on and no awareness of the date or place, it could’ve quite realistically been the now defunct International Amphitheatre circa 1982 when British mainstays UFO and Saxon joined forces yet again at the Star Plaza Theatre during the Merrillville venue’s farewell season. Sure, line-ups have shuffled and there were references to YouTube alongside at least a thousand smartphones snapping pictures, but both heavy-handed acts appeared authentic to what it would’ve been like in those golden years throughout separate 90-minute sets focused extensively on the classics.
On pretty much all of those tunes and many that came after, UFO hulked up and spread out well beyond standard album length, culminating in a shred-fest of “Rock Bottom” before barreling through an encore of “Doctor Doctor” and “Shoot Shoot.”
That’s not to say either group has done much slowing down on stage or in the studio ever since with UFO roaring through true-to-form cuts “Run Boy Run” and “Messiah Of Love” from its recent “A Conspiracy Of Stars” release, but the majority of selections resembled the vintage live recording “Strangers In The Night” (recorded in part at the aforementioned site). Whether it was “Lights Out,” “Only You Can Rock Me,” “Cherry” or “Too Hot To Handle,” front man Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond, guitarist Vinnie Moore and bassist Rob De Luca were truly a tornado-like force of nature.
On pretty much all of those tunes and many that came after, UFO hulked up and spread out well beyond standard album length, culminating in a shred-fest of “Rock Bottom” before gunning through an encore of “Doctor Doctor” and “Shoot Shoot.” It was an exhilarating way to end an evening that would’ve almost been enough to give longtime listeners and the younger generation of hard rockers their entire fix, but having Saxon (plus opener Jared James Nichols) ensured maximum bang for their buck.
The co-headlining British metal mainstays were also armed with a current collection (“Battering Ram”), but singer Biff Byford, guitarist Paul Quinn, drummer Nigel Glockler, bassist Nibbs Carter and guitarist Doug Scarratt simultaneously stocked their portion with all the majors. That meant everything from warm-ups such as that title track and “Sacrifice,” back to “Dallas 1PM,” “Denim And Leather,” “Princess Of The Night” and “Wheels Of Steel” with all the guts and gusto that afforded Saxon the chance to keep cranking it up alongside UFO so many decades since each landed so explosively on these shores.
Upcoming concert highlights at the Star Plaza Theatre include Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Oct. 14); The Ultimate Doo Wop Show (Oct. 20); The Fab Four (Oct. 27); Justin Moore (Nov. 11); “Momma’s Boy” (Nov. 18); Thanksgiving Soul Jam (Nov. 24); The Elvis Tribute Artist Spectacular (Dec. 2); Under The Streetlamp (Dec. 3); Shopkins Live! (Dec. 10); Indiana Ballet Theatre Nutcracker (Dec. 13-14); Dennis DeYoung (Dec. 16) and The Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show (Dec. 17). For additional details, visit StarPlazaTheatre.com.