The Scorpions already had a “farewell” tour. So what were they doing back in Cleveland yesterday?
Well, the German metal legends realized they were coming up on their 50th anniversary.
It’s a nice, round number. And for a rock band, fifty is a milestone worth fussing over.
Singer Klaus Meine and guitarist Rudolf Schenker thought so, too. So rather than hang up their leathers, the lads put off retirement and hit the road again to celebrate a half century of musical mayhem.
And why not?
After all, this is the kinetic Kraut-rocker guitar band that took the world by force in the ‘70s, rocked us like a hurricane in the ‘80s, and chronicled the wind of change in the ‘90s. And still they’re injecting the venom: Their eighteenth studio album, Return to Forever, arrived in February—and they’re set to release 50th anniversary remasters of all their biggest LPs on November 6th.
Meanwhile, you can catch the group live in concert…or at your local theater: The Scorpions’ new documentary film Forever and a Day screens October 14th in cinemas nationwide: Clevelanders can catch it at The Capitol.
The Scorp’s ongoing global jaunt plopped them in front of a capacity crowd at Jacobs Pavilion on a pleasant Wednesday evening for a hits-laden, hundred-minute riverside revue that sated ‘70s fanatics (Lovedrive), appeased ‘80s aficionados (Blackout) knocked the socks of ‘90s newcomers (Crazy World), and mesmerized millennials (Unbreakable).
When all was said and done, the plucky five-piece had effectively put Nautica on notice: There’s still plenty of sting in this tail.
You might say it was a “Big City Night” on the west bank of the Cuyahoga.
Covertly taking the stage in a haze of theatrical fog, Meine and the boys bounded into Forever’s defiant lead-off track “Going Out With a Bang” to the concomitant flash of LCD flames on a suspended video backdrop. Meine (in sunglasses and Harley-Davidson beret) clutched his microphone front-and-center, not really moving until he’d locked into the beats laid down by the band’s lone American, James Kottak (who replaced drummer Hermann Rarebell in 1996).
But more on Kottak later.
Guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias flanked Meine to the right and left, wielding signature Flying-V and Explorer guitars (and German-made Dommengets) whose rapid riffs anchored “Make It Real.” A blur of motion, bottle-blonde Schenker whirled and dosey-doed with bassist Pawel Maciwoda whilst raking into 1979 entry “Coast to Coast.” Jabs used a talk box to inject “The Zoo” with a bit of wah-wah, then spearheaded a tandem guitar tirade on a ‘70s medley that mashed “Top of the Bill,” “Steamrock Fever,” and “Catch Your Train” into a single (albeit extended) salvo.
You’d never guess Meine is somewhere in his sixties. The band’s diminutive vocalist was in terrific spirits and splendid voice, and worked the audience like a pro. At several points throughout the night he thwacked a cowbell with a drumstick—only to toss said sticks to fans down front. Indeed, Meine gifted so many souvenir sticks that his cowbell seemed more artifice than genuine musical augmentation; but what a way to milk the fun. The singer also smacked a couple tambourines, hurling each to a technician at side-stage when he tired of them: Another cool visual in the Scorpions’ eye candy superstore.
The new “We Built This House” revved into an instrumental jam fronted by Jabs (giving Meine and Schenker a breather) and supplemented by a roadie rhythm guitarist. Then the Scorpions ensemble shifted gears for a sweet semi-acoustic showcase that neatly sandwiched Forever’s “Eye of the Storm” between Lovedrive’s “Always Somewhere” and Crazy World’s “Send Me an Angel.” The juxtaposition of fast, thunderous numbers with sparkly soft measures worked remarkably well.
We were impressed with the crowd participation on “Angel;” it was the first instance of Cleveland’s willingness to sing along with the Scorps, and the refrains only got more boisterous on the bigger hits—like 1990’s paean-to-perestroika, “Wind of Change,” whereon Meine whistled the intro and Schenker plucked an acoustic Flying V and a 12-string fixed on a stand (before switching to a black-and-white electric V).
Rowdy “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” and loud, lascivious “Dynamite” set Schenker to skipping (literally) and high-fiving Maciwoda (now in his sixth year with the group), who then sauntered topside, where Kottack presided over an upper-tiered drum kit.
Doffing his shirt to reveal a “Rock and Roll Forever” tattoo, spiky-haired Kottak blended heart and humor in a daredevil drum solo that saw him pounding the skins some twenty feet above the main stage, courtesy a series of barely-there wires that lifted and suspended Kottak’s percussion platform. Thumping his kick bass, he “triggered” the appearance of various Scorps album covers one-at-a-time on the video screens: Lonesome Crow, Animal Magnetism, Savage Amusement…and so on.
“Cleveland, you kick ass!” declared the drummer (after quoting some John Bohnam / Led Zeppelin on his shells).
The crowd didn’t disagree.
Kottak’s high-flying kit wasn’t the only smoking device: Schenker brandished a vapor-producing guitar on “Blackout” (and let Maciwoda siphon the fumes between string bends) as blue police lights flickered onscreen (intermingled with shots of the distinctive Blackout album sleeve). Schenker and Jabs pulled another tag-team guitar coup on “No One Like You” (whose chorus was taken up pavilion patrons) and brought down the house with Love at First Sting anthem “Big City Nights.”
The gang encored with two more numbers from that seminal ’84 platter: Poignant power ballad “Still Loving You” dovetailed neatly into perfunctory (but ever-potent) MTV smash “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”
It was a fitting finale for the Scorpions’ colorful, cacophonous golden jubilee marathon.
Queensryche opened at sundown, delivering a forty-minute romp replete with progressive pop metal hits from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Along with Heart, Queensryche were one of Seattle’s biggest musical exports until Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana spawned the “alternative” scene. The quintet emerged intact on the strength of its Empire radio hits and continued releasing fresh material into the new century, even as the grunge groups fell by the wayside.
But singer Geoff Tate bailed three years ago, resulting in an acrimonious split that culminated with litigation over the band name. For a hot minute, both the La Torre-fronted group and Tate’s hastily-assembled mercenary troupe conducted business as Queensryche.
Tate’s first musical volley at his former mates was 2013’s Frequency Unknown (cheekily abbreviated F.U.). Longtime bassist Eddie Jackson and guitar hero Michael Wilton tapped La Torre (ex-Crimson Glory) for an eponymously-titled 2013 disc, prophesying the courtroom coup that effectively awarded them the umlaut-anointed moniker.
Their second disc together, Condition Human, drops next week.
La Torre and company previewed the album’s first single, “Arrow of Time,” to great applause. But the rest of their set—from “Anarchy X” to “Queen of the Reich”—was familiar territory for many attendees.
Clad in a black leather jacket, studded belt, and red pants (with a biohazard applique), La Torre astounded on Mindcrime muso “The Needle Lies” and Rage for Order onslaught “Walk in The Shadows.” With his long, flowing hair and chin whiskers, the slender he bore some resemblance Jim Carrey’s demented magician in Burt Wunderstone. Vocally, however, La Torre was a dead-ringer for Tate, so we’ll forgive casual listeners any glib, “What? You mean that’s not the guy?” remarks, as La Torre matched his predecessor’s operatic high notes on the exuberant “Jet City Woman” and tender “Silent Lucidity.”
“You look beautiful, Cleveland!” mused La Torre. “And you sound amazing!”
So did Queensryche. Rhythm guitarist Parker Lundgren rocked at stage right, tattooed biceps bulging from a sleeveless denim vest. Wilton wailed on an ESP guitar with a skull paint theme. And founding drummer Scott Rockenfield (in bandana and aviator shades) pummeled on “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Empire.”
Forever and a Day documentary film show times for October 14, 2015: http://www.the-scorpions.com/foreverandaday/