Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen

Scorpions / Cinderella
Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord, CA
August 1, 2010

There was a time in my Salad Days when the Scorpions were one of my favorite bands. Alot of Metal Geeks still bitch and moan about the Scorpions Uli Roth-era versus Post-Uli Roth... and to be honest that argument tends to bore and annoy the the Hell out of me. As for Umlaut, I've basically always thought of the Scorpions as 2 different bands: Uli Roth-era and Post-Uli Roth because it's kind of pointless to compare the 2 versions of the band; they are so different musically, lyrically, and aesthetically. Anyway, in hindsight, the Germans were a gateway Metal band for me until the harder, more evil bands showed up... but they were great back in The Day, especially live. I saw the Germans 4x back in The Day:

'Blackout' Tour - Oakland Stadium - July 1982
(Photo by Umlaut)

'Blackout' Tour - Oakland Coliseum Arena - September 1982
(From the Timo Archives)

'Love At First Sting' Tour - Cow Palace, S.F. - April 1984
(From the Umlaut Archives)

The last time I saw the Scorpions was back in the 20th Century at this show:

Oakland Stadium - August 1985
(From the Umlaut Archives)

At Oakland Stadium, the times they were a-changing and the 4th band on the bill that day smoked the others... and the rest is history. The Scorps lost me that day when Klaus said the EXACT SAME stage banter between the EXACT SAME songs as on the recently released World Wide Live live album. WTF, right?! Of course, now Klaus' cheesy banter from that album sparks nostalgia in me immediately ("Caleefoorneah!! Zhere's no von like zou!!").

Fast forward to the 21st Century and pretty much THE LAST band I thought I'd feel nostalgia for this year was the Scorpions. Earlier this year, the Scorps announced they are calling it quits after 45 years (!) and the band is currently on their Farewell World Tour victory lap around the globe. However, I honestly had not paid any attention to this until literally a week before this show. Then, for whatever reasons, my Inner Teenage Metalhead suddenly got nostalgic about seeing the Scorps one last time. THANKS to The Talent for sorting my +1!

I was hoping the show was going to live up to my Teenage Metalhead geek nostalgia... and I was not disappointed because as soon as we parked I started running into old friends in the parking lot, at Will Call, and in the concourse during a pre-show beer. I even ran into a cousin who I hadn't seen in YEARS. Crazy! As we waited it felt like the Wehrmacht were poised in the Ardennes Forest for one final assault on the Americans.

As we hung out in the concourse Cinderella played their Milf-riffic opening slot but I didn't want to see all of their set... but I did want to see them play 'Shake Me' since I have to admit the song is a guilty pleasure for me here in the 21st Century. To Cinderella’s credit they were onstage with all of the original members from their heyday and they sounded more like classic Aerosmith than Aerosmith probably does these days. Their encore of the monster ballad ‘Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone)' > ‘Shake Me’ was Milf-riffic but Cinderella were not unlike the Italian Army backing the Wehrmacht in North Africa: Adequate up to a point, but ultimately not as effective.

Yes, the Scorps were a harbinger of the bullshit L.A. Hair Metal that destroyed Metal in the late-80's... but eventhough they sang about some of the same subjects as the Hair Metal bands (chicks, partying, etc..) I didn't mind them because they were German and they sounded way cooler (and heavier) than those bullshit L.A. bands. Plus, Rudolf and Matthias were two of my favorite guitarists and Klaus was a great vocalist. Fast forward to the 21st Century and the core of the band is still that trio, but now with an anonymous bass / drum rhythm section... which was a bummer since Hermann Rarebell (drums) and Frances Bucholz (bass) were so solid back in The Day. Oh well..

After opening with a new song, the Germans then blitzkrieged the packed venue with a Panzer Division of 5 old favorites from their glory days: 'Make It Real' (!) > 'Bad Boys Running Wild' > 'The Zoo' > 'Coast To Coast' (!) > Loving You Sunday Morning (being played on a Sunday no less..). This portion of the set, combined with my 2nd beer of the show, really sent my nostalgia over the edge and I was a Teenage Metalhead all over again. Dude, the Scorps even did their classic "Human Pyramid" at the conclusion of 'Bad Boys Running Wild'! It was hard to remember that both Rudolf and Klaus are now in their 60's (!) while Matthias is still a spry lad in his 50's. The core trio were like the elite Fallschirmjäger, dropping behind American lines and wrecking havoc with their Teutonic mastery of Rock showmanship.

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

If the recent passing of Ronnie James Dio taught us anything it's that Metalheads need to see their old heroes at every possible opportunity; seeing the Scorps again for the first time in 25 years (!) was a revelation for me. It was like Rudolf, Klaus, and Matthias hadn't really aged... Sure they were a bit slower onstage... and there was no more constant sprinting around the stage... and no more leaping off the drum riser... but they still had *IT*! They still worked the big stage in a way that very few Metal bands these days know how to do (sans pyro and stage props) and, like Iron Maiden, they looked like they were having the time of their lives up there.. smiling... interacting with the crowd... making the venue feel like it was a club as they played so many of their radio hits in The Bay Area for the last time. For the first 8 songs or so I felt like I was seeing the Scorps for the first time again. That same old energy was still on display... It was like watching the ragged battleship Admiral Graf Spee steaming out of port again to wreak havoc on the Allied shipping lanes!

Photo courtesy of Sensory Abuse

Then the evening hit a speed bump, like when the Admiral Graf Spee's engine room was damaged during the Battle of the River Plate. The set veered into the "Bathroom Break" portion starting with the boring ballad 'Wind Of Change' (although it's also the band's biggest worldwide hit...) and a new song that had the same riffs as 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' AND 'Make It Real'. Man, I HATE when bands do that... In fact, those songs, combined with a drum solo, were in danger of ruining the show for me. The *new* Scorps drummer James Kottak performed one of THE most narcissistic drum solos I've ever witnessed. It featured him playing along to a backing track that included teaser riffs from Uli Roth-era Scorps songs (?!) AND a lame video montage that included Kottak with a "groupie" and a segment with him reenacting the cover art from the Fly To The Rainbow album via a costume and computer graphics (?!). WTF...

Thankfully, after the drum solo bullshit the band stormed back like a Panzer Division visiting Poland with 'Blackout' > 'Big City Nights' followed by a 2-song encore of 'No One Like You' > 'Rock You Like A Hurricane'. This Stuka-like bombing of hits brought me right back to center with the band and the show... and Klaus made my night by saying "CALEEFOORNEAH!! ZHERE'S NO VON LIKE ZOU!!" to introduce the song. World Wide Live 2010, man!

This show was unbelievably FUN, especially since I see so many dark and humorless Metal bands these days; it was so cool to be caught in the Scorps' Lock 'N Loll Hurricane one last time here in the 21st Century. Sometimes I have to be reminded to have FUN at shows now because I'm such an old fart jaded mofo... but that's the power of the Scorpions. Deep down I've stayed a Scorpions fan even when I didn't think I was anymore. The Scorps are like the Focke-Wulf Fw 190... vintage elegance... outdated... but also timelessly cool. Life is too short. Why... so... serious?

Photo courtesy of Photo Ray

Then after 19 songs they were gone... like a U-Boat in the night... and so ended my 5th and last Scorpions concert ever. WOW.

Number of times Klaus said "Caleeefoorneah!" = 9. Cannibal Corpse shirts = 2. If you bought one of every Scorpions merch item you would have paid around $350. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. For the record, I still love ALL of the Rock Star bullshit in this video:


Auf Wiedersehen, Scorpions. Auf Wiedersehen...