UFO Credit: Martin Huch

Sometimes an anniversary celebration can also be the perfect time to end a chapter. Such is the case with strident UK rock band UFO, who turned 50 this year and are on the road with what they’ve claimed will be the last tour with their one constant member, gritty-voiced vocalist and front man Phil Mogg. Mogg has announced he’ll retire following this jaunt, and in an official statement he says he hopes folks don’t call this a farewell tour—though UFO have named it Last Orders. “Maybe the best word to use is ‘bittersweet,’” he suggests. The no-frills, uber-rocking band have always had a massive following in Chicago (they recorded the bulk of their 1979 live double LP Strangers in the Night at the International Amphitheatre, name-checking the Windy City on “Lights Out”), and the love seems to go both ways—UFO booked only ten U.S. dates on this tour, focusing on cities to which they feel a strong connection. The band started off as a psychedelic-leaning proposition in 1968, with Mick Bolton on guitar and woozy effects that could’ve caught Syd Barrett’s ear, and they pioneered a form of space boogie where tracks often needed more than 20 minutes to properly unfold. After Bolton left in 1972, Larry Wallis (later of the Pink Fairies) and Bernie Marsden (later of Whitesnake) had brief tenures, but then Michael Schenker left the Scorpions to join UFO in 1973, cementing a new tougher sound for the band. This lineup influenced metalheads and hard rockers everywhere, with fist-pumping, working-class anthems such as “Doctor Doctor,” “Too Hot to Handle,” and “Shoot Shoot” across a slew of hit albums, including 1975’s Force It and 1976’s No Heavy Petting. UFO were arguably never the same after Schenker quit in 1978 to start his own Michael Schenker Group. And once bassist Pete Way left in 1982 (he started Fastway with “Fast” Eddie Clarke of Motörhead and the even more cleverly named band Waysted), UFO totally lost the plot and went soft new wave. Countless musicians have been in and out of the band in the decades since, including current guitarist Vinnie Moore, bassist Paul Grey (of the Damned and Eddie & the Hot Rods), and drummer Simon Wright (of AC/DC and Dio). Luckily original drummer Andy Parker is back aboard, but sadly longtime guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Paul Raymond died in April, so for this tour he’ll be replaced by 80s member Neil Carter. Judging by recent set lists, UFO are focusing on their golden mid-70s period, so don’t miss your chance to see Mogg do his thing one last time. He’s subtly hinted that the current band might carry on without him, but that would be a much different affair—potentially like the unfortunate versions of Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott and Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty.   v