UFO performing earlier this month in Santa Rosa.
I had the pleasure Tuesday to finally see one of my all-time favorite bands, UFO, play live in Fresno.
For those who haven't yet heard their genius, UFO is a British hard rock band that's been performing nearly nonstop since 1969. I'll save you the math: that's 42 years.
UFO never topped the U.S. charts or won a Grammy, but there aren't many bands whose deep catalog is so full of hummable full-throttle rock. To this day, I regularly find myself hitting repeat on songs such as "Only You Can Rock Me" and "Lights Out" (check out video of 1977 performance above) that I've heard dozens of times over the years, only to suddenly discover a new wrinkle. Critics may sniff, but this is good, honest, boogie-based rock with hooks galore. I'm unaware of any other band in any genre that four decades into its life still consistently produces new songs as good as their old songs.
As you might expect for a band of such vintage, there are some rough edges. Why lead singer Phil Mogg insists on wearing the same belt and suspenders and pants yanked way up high show after show is beyond me. Perhaps he's trying to make a fashion statement? Um, no, he's 63 years old. He can do what the hell he wants.
Mogg, original drummer Andy Parker and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond, who joined UFO in 1976, are core members, complemented by much younger guitarist Vinnie Moore and touring bassist Rob DeLuca.
You'd think that mix of ages would be a mismatch, and Moore and DeLuca certainly dominated center stage during solo breaks. But I was stunned at how much energy the old guys displayed through a 90-minute set that mixed new material with classic after classic after classic.
Parker -- a spring chicken at 59 -- was rock solid and amazingly fit, keeping pace through long songs like a metronome. Raymond will turn 66 in November (?!?!?) but looked every bit the British rock star, juggling guitar and keyboards while sporting a kickass silver mop and cool leather shoes.
Mogg looks like the crazy uncle down the street, undernourished, slightly on edge and yelling at you to stay off his lawn. But he's an animal with the mike stand, and his voice still sounds magnificent, even on intros or breaks where he's all but singing acappella. Mogg briefly mentioned a bad cold he picked up in Portland earlier in the tour, and I saw him repeatedly wipe his nose on his shirt and blow into a white towel. That would be reason enough for many of today's stars to call in sick. Not Mogg, who buckled down to work, knowing his fans didn't come for whining.
Which brings me to my point: Do what you love, love what you do, and get on with it.
UFO obviously loves what it does, 42 years into an adventure that has made the core members multimillionaires. Mogg, Parker and Raymond don't need to slug it out night after night in front of 400 people. They could be sitting in their nice chateaus in the south of France, moaning about how the kids just don't understand.
But perform they do, and without mailing it in like so many music stars who rediscovered their "creative inspiration" only after casinos began tossing big bucks at every has-been performer with a heartbeat.
Love what you do, be passionate about what you do, and see where it takes you.