It takes some doing to be around long enough to celebrate 50 years in the music business but Uli Jon Roth’s gig at ULU on Friday night was a step in his 50th Anniversary tour.

The set, as one would expect, was extensive and covered music from all his many incarnations. The Scorpions were well represented as were numbers from his time with Dawn Road (the band that morphed into the Scorpions after Michael Schenker left) and Electric Sun as well as his extensive solo career. He also covered a couple of numbers by his brother Zeno who was lost this year.

What I didn’t expect was the sheer quality of his playing. Over the years I have developed the impression of a fretmaster, ripping out interminable solos and flooding the room with screaming neoclassical metal.
What we saw on Friday was more considered than I expected.
Sure, there were plenty of solos and for long periods the band were playing around him as he took off on almost jazz-like improvisations but the guitar was a tool to carry his music and not just an end in itself.

At his peak he makes music of almost painful beauty and certainly on numbers such as ‘Enola Gay (Hiroshima)’ his playing was staggeringly sensitive.

Opening with ‘Indian Dawn’ he hit a powerful stride from the off and the semi-psych feel to the song seemed strangely appropriate in the Student Union venue.

I particularly liked his take on ‘A Day Late And A Dollar Short’ where he drew the riff with aplomb and poured on the power with ease.
‘We’ll Burn The Sky’ had real passion and ‘Yellow Raven’ had a keening sense of emptiness around his playing. This was a man treating his music with care and passion but also daring to play with it.
He finished, of course, with an incendiary version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’

At 63 Uli Jon Roth is still one of the top guitarists around and this show proved just why his fans hold him in such esteem.