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Rock and Roll Photo Essay: The Scorpions Live in Concert

The infamous Scorpions front line!

Molson Amphitheatre
Toronto, Ontario
June 27, 2010

I’m gonna date myself here. Back in 1981, I had just moved to a town called Prince George BC. Desolation Boulevard. Being the young extrovert I always was, I quickly hooked up with the neighbourhood partiers, young as we were, and dove headlong into the toxic realm of partying to the soundtrack of the new wave of metal that was pounding our eardrums.

One of my buddies found a tape. Remember those? The chunk of plastic with two rolling wheels of low quality, magnetic tape running in between? Just checking. So he finds this unmarked, home made tape with some of the best tunes we’d ever heard in our lives. We spun this thing relentlessly but no matter what, we couldn’t figure out who this mystery band was.

They seemed to have accents but we weren’t sure what kind. We had no idea what they were singing about or what the names of the songs were so we made up names for each tune and had our own lyrics for most of them. We didn’t know what the hell they were saying half the time and I swear they didn’t either cuz some of those lyrics were right up there with Stompin Tom for their preschooler’s rhyming abilities.

Their music was amazing. The guitar work totally blew us away. A few of the tunes had solos so advanced our puny little minds could hardly comprehend what was actually happening there. We were already hooked on Ozzy and his diminutive sidekick, the late Randy Rhoads, so we had the measuring stick as to what a kick ass guitarist would be sized up with. Well the mystery guitarist in this band even towered over some of Mr. Rhoads masterpieces.

Later in 1982, an album came out that rocked my world. “Blackout” by the Scorpions. With constant MTV airplay, “No One Like You” instantly kicked me in the nads and woke me up to some GERMAN heavy metal… and that voice… so familiar…. Well lo and behold we’re bitchin the tape one day buddy says “ahhhhh… Old Scorpions.. nice choice” Old Scorpions???? CLICK.

So it turns out what we were listening to was the “Best of Scorpions”, a culmination of the best tunes they had to offer from when they were formed way back in 1965 by Rudolf (Rudy) Schenker, until around 1978 when Michael Schenker (Rudy’s brother) left the band and was replaced by Matthias Jabs after the recording of 1979’s “Lovedrive” album.

The one and only Klaus Meine had joined the band around 1970 and the Scorpions started to gel with the addition of the mystery guitarist Uli Jon Roth who’s introverted ways led to an early departure and the loss of quite possibly the best metal guitarist to ever walk the face of the earth. One listen to “Sails of Charon” and you’ll hear exactly what I’m talking about.

Drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Bucholz rounded out the lineup at the time and they handed over their crown jewel, “Love At First Sting” in 1984 which propelled the band into superstardom. Many lineup changes later and the wheel stops spinning at the current lineup of Klaus Meine, Rudy Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Pawel Maciwoda (bass) and James Kottak (drums). With the 3 main frontmen in position, this band hasn’t changed a whole lot, sound wise, since as far back as 1980’s “Animal Magnetism”.

Never having seen them before, I was completely stoked to finally see the show that I’d heard so much about as apparently it rarely changes from tour to tour. After a quick gander at the setlist from a few different cities around the world on this tour, it became clear that these guys don’t like to shake up the set much either.

I got to the venue early and discreetly engaged in some tailgating as we waited for show time. Half liquored I made my way to the media tent situated what seemed to be a half a kilometre away from the stage. We got the call to head to the stage just as the skies opened up and dumped a fury of rain that lasted the entire show.

I was drenched. Me, my camera and my attitude. I couldn’t believe we were so poorly situated at the venue. Next time I’ll surely bring an umbrella and a couple garbage bags just in case. First act to hit the stage.. Cinderella. It was a pleasant surprise to see Tom Keifer up there kicking ass after all these years, looking good, sounding great and if I had to venture a guess, I’d say he was having a good time doing the same old shtick.

When the Scorps finally lit up the stage, the place went nuts. Even with half the venue completely soaked to the bone, everyone seemed to take it in stride and just enjoy the show touted as the LAST tour for the Scorpions. I was just damn glad to have been there seeing as I’d never seen them before and whether it was their last tour or not, I had to cross this band off my bucket list.

I was told Rudy was the guy to watch. Even closing in at 62 years of age this August, Rudolf Schenker hasn’t lost his piss n vinegar one bit. Constantly in motion, smiling like the madman he is and jumping around the stage from one end to the other, Rudy put on a show that makes most bands look like they’re sitting still the whole time. Even bassist Maciwoda, 20 years Rudy’s junior, didn’t move near as much as the old guy!

Rudy’s selection of Flying V’s from old originals to new space age custom models kept any guitar enthusiast drooling especially when teamed up with Mathias endless supply of Explorers, Stratocasters and customs.

Jabs movements were much more in tune with his age but his fingers nailed every note as they did back in the day. Meine’s voice defied sonic physics as he pulled off each tune without cheesing out on any notes as so many bands do. Few singers have the power and range that Klaus Meine possesses and to be using it to it’s fullest potential this many years later truly is amazing to witness.
Anyone who was a Scorps fan back in the day will be happy to know this band still has it. If they are going out to actually finish off their careers with this last tour, then they’re leaving on a high note. A perfectly pitched, Marshall amplified ass kicker of a high note. Catch em while you can, you will not be disappointed.

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