Uli Jon Roth offers fret freaks the Ultimate Guitar Experience

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By Steve Newton

Uli Jon Roth is a visionary guitarist. That became abundantly clear when he conceived of a guitar with 30 frets, the Sky Guitar, because, hey–24 frets just weren’t doin’ it for him.

Roth takes it to the next level when it comes to touring as well. As if his legendary six-string (and sometimes seven-string) abilities weren’t enough on their own, he’s currently travelling with two more bona fide guitar heroes—Jennifer Batten and Andy Timmons—under the banner Uli Jon Roth’s Ultimate Guitar Experience.

“It’s an idea that I had years ago,” explains the 61-year-old picker from a tour stop in Ventura, California. “I wanted to do a tour where people are interacting, you know, rather than just doing their own thing. And when it came to finding the right people for the tour, Jennifer and Andy were at the forefront of my mind because I knew that—both in terms of musicality and in terms of personality—they would be the perfect fit.”

The way the three-hour-plus Ultimate Guitar Experience plays out, Timmons opens up with a set, followed by Batten and then Roth, before all three converge for a show-closing jam. Vancouver fret freaks can see it all go down at Venue this Saturday (March 19).

“Andy can let it rip,” relates Roth, “and he’s got a very musical ear. He’s really good with improvising, and so is Jennifer, though she plays totally different. She’s got a vast array of sounds at her disposal; she’s got all these amazing gadgets that she knows how to dial in. I have no idea what she’s doing, but whatever she does, it works. And playingwise, she totally holds her own.”

As far as Roth’s own set goes, it’s composed of songs from the four studio LPs he made with Scorpions in the mid-’70s, as well as material from his post-Scorps band Electric Sun and his latest solo work.

“When we play the old Scorpions classics like ‘Sails of Charon’ or ‘We’ll Burn the Sky’, ‘In Trance’, ‘Fly to the Rainbow’—those are certainly showstoppers. A lot of people get very happy when we do these. But the newer material is also getting a great reception. Sometimes it’s different from night to night; the flow of the set is different.”

Scorpions made some of their best music when Roth was in the lineup, but he wasn’t a member when they hit it big in the ’80s with singles like “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “No One Like You”.

“That entire era bypassed me,” he says. “My mind was in a different world. I was never driven by that big success, and to me it meant nothing. I left the Scorpions for artistic reasons, and I’ve always been driven by that.

“And Electric Sun was quite successful in its own right, actually, so I didn’t look at what they were doing; I put all of that behind me. The entire ’80s thing just wasn’t my world. I wanted to explore music, study music, find new music, and I think that’s what I did. But it was far away from the mainstream, that’s for sure.”

 

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