Back in the late ’70s, when I was an avid Rock music fan and gig-goer, Britain was rather proud of it’s contribution to the genre. We were competing largely against American bands like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and mega artists like Springsteen. The real metal-heads though knew there was also another rather excellent source of Metal music – Germany. We really didn’t have a female equivalent to Doro Pesch, Michael Schenker was seemingly both a guitar master and madman but we loved them both – and there was a band, also with a Schenker brother in it – whose name appeared on practically every one of those denim waistcoats festooned with sewn-on patches that I saw. A band called The Scorpions.
Fast forward over forty years and here we are at the closing show of the 2019 Kunstrasen season in Bonn. There are cloth patches for sale at the merchandise table still, to show some things haven’t changed. I still giggle nervously at the thought of these unkempt and motor-oil drenched bikers sitting at home with a needle and thread working on that patched to the hilt jacket. But if the patches haven’t changed, can the Band really be live up to a legendary name from the ’70s at 70? Interested to know the answer? I was too, so let’s pick up a pair of free magenta ear-plugs from the Telekom booth and find out (where were they when I saw Sammy Hagar in 1978?!)
Support band The New Roses have come down the motorway from Wiesbaden. They have been doing good business in the German Heavy Metal chart. Their career got a kick-start through the hard-thumping drum and vocal track “Without A Trace” featuring in the US Biker TV Series “Sons Of Anarchy” and the band are certainly musically tight. Somehow though they didn’t quite catch fire tonight, sounding at times like Bon Jovi (Dancing on a Razorblade), and occasionally not surprisingly given the song’s title, like Springsteen, on ‘Glory Road’. Timmy Rough has the looks to get the female attention for sure, but for the most part, HM is a man’s world where the majority of fans are concerned. The music wasn’t bad but didn’t quite seem to have anything new to say. I was impressed by the band’s bass player – but mainly by his stage name of ‘Norman Bites’. At least I hope it’s just a stage name. The picture on their website has been over photoshopped – Hard Metal men too heavy on the make-up and maybe that’s the problem – the band is trying too hard to be a certain something that’s already been here for 40 years. But then Heavy Metal always was a genre not to be taken too seriously. Maybe they will be better suited to the intimate and sweaty atmosphere of a smaller venue. Find out yourself when they play in Cologne at Luxor on 18 October.
Do The Scorpions take themselves seriously these days? I guess after zig-million record sales and two of Hard Rocks most enduring anthems it wouldn’t matter if they did or didn’t. When you’ve done it all and bought the t-shirt though you can relax and enjoy the music – which is exactly what 70 year old Rudolph Schenker and 71 year old Klaus Meine are clearly doing. They eschew pyrotechnics in favour of more nuts and bolts visual stunts – Mikkey Dee’s Drum-riser that literally does what it says on the tin. Dee was, of course, a part of one of Rocks loudest and most loved bands, Motörhead, and I venture to suggest that tonight he could be heard by people taking a walk past Cologne Cathedral such was his powerhouse playing style.
From the off, it was plain to see that even after playing all these years and releasing a staggering 18 studio albums, the music is still a passion. Both Rudolf Schenker and vocalist Klaus Meine are sporting heavy-duty sunglasses, but zooming in with my Nikon during the 3 songs no flash start the eyes behind those glasses had a glint in them.
Hard to believe but they still make songs from 1984’s mega-hit album ‘Love At First Sting’ such as ‘Still Loving You’ and the encore stomp-rocker ‘Love You Like A Hurricane’ sound fresh. It goes without saying that a high-point was ‘Wind Of Change’. The song is synonymous with the political climate of 1990 and fall of the wall. If you say ‘The Scorpions’ to most anyone in Germany, young or old, you will be met with the answer “Ah yes. ‘Winds of Change'”. No complaints about the execution of the song on this night that’s for sure, Meine almost doesn’t need to sing a word – everybody knows how it goes, line by line, and a 5000 voiced choir really does get the goosebumps running down your back even if you’ve heard it many times before as surely the band here has. Meine conducting the audience from the front of the stage ramp as giant peace symbols are projected onto blood red backgrounds. Live Rock Music really doesn’t get any better than this.
As long ago as 1975 The Scorpions were voted Germany’s best live band. More than forty years later they are obviously determined to retain that crown., and how can you not love a band who, in these days of synthesized guitar loops, step up and play in front of a wall of Marshall stacks? All the best Hard Rock shows were that way once. Play it loud (well, loudish, it’s Bonn after all), jump around the stage, have fun… and play a clutch of blindingly brilliant rock songs. Add a ‘stick in your head for days’ power ballad and that’s it. Simple really? It’s what bands ever since the 70’s have been trying to do. But they’re all trying to reinvent the wheel that The Scorpions drew up the blueprint for.
It seems like only last week that I was peering over heads in front of the VIP enclosure to ‘shoot’ Tears for Fears’ and here we are at the end of Kunstrasen 2019. It’s been a strange Season in many ways. The shock of Sting cancelling the Season’s biggest draw (promoter Ernst-Ludwig Hartz had been after the Geordie Genius for three years and finally – almost – brought him to Bonn). The best show for me was the wonderful performance of John Fogerty, with a voice that the likes of Jethro Tull and Fish on Saturday’s Rock Night would have envied, and what a super ‘Woodstock’ inspired show he put on! How could I not like Wolfgang Niedecken and BAP – The voice of Cologne – and Bonn too, but don’t tell anyone in the Domstadt I said so! Hard acts to follow indeed. But hey, the Scorpions don’t ‘follow’ anybody. After all these years I’m still loving you’ guys!