Words by Samantha Buckman
There are numerous indomitable musical giants staring down the beast of aging and giving a firm middle finger to any talk of retirement. Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Iron Maiden are just a handful of the sexagenarians taking to the stage with both youthful vigor and charisma rooted in decades of experience. This trend has proven to be wonderfully fruitful in recent tours, with many rock and metal legends stuffing stadiums full of old and new fans alike.
The Scorpions are another name that has emerged from the mist in this phenomenon and era of rock revival. Even as the band itself celebrates fiftieth anniversaries (and some of its members’ seventieth birthdays), roaring crowds and vibrant lights still define this seminal group’s modern reputation. Their current North American trek has done nothing but reignite passions and illuminate the skills that gave this band the spotlight in the first place, and allowed them to shape both rock and metal for decades to come. Their performance in Houston, Texas was no exception to the raving reviews that have followed the Scorpions’s latest foray into entertaining the masses while keeping the spirit of rock alive.
Opening for the tour was ThunderMother. Comprised of fiery young Swedish women set on building their own reputations as performing greats, it was a strong set to spark the start of an explosively enthralling night. Their set showed off their raw fire and passion, and gave rise to spirited enthusiasm from a crowd largely comprised of older rock fans. This feat was accomplished without any signs of intimidation or hesitation with such a notable act due to perform right on their heels. The energy brought by an eager lead guitar, matched with precise and thunderous percussion, made Thunder Mother a fitting match for the rest of the show to come.
THUNDERMOTHER Photo Gallery:
When it comes to the discussion of the headlining act, it’s all but impossible to pick a point to begin. This carefully orchestrated set had all the hallmarks of a stellar show: precise pyrotechnics, energetic performers, an engaging light show, and good old rock ‘n’ roll. With an eye to the set-list it’s clear that the Scorpions erred on the side of rock rather than their influence on metal’s early days. This meant that the act forewent heavier material in favor of predictable and rhythmic rockers, well balanced with a sampling of classics alongside newer material.
The two ballads of the night carried momentum throughout, with enough excitement to keep the crowd on its toes even as the tempo slowed at the show’s midpoint. “Send Me an Angel” began with Rudy on an acoustic Flying V while Mathias took on the opening melody. This dynamic was made only more interesting as the lyrics to the first verse of “Winds of Change” were reflected for our modern times:
“I listen to my heart
It says Ukraine
Waiting for the wind to change
A dark and lonely night
Our hopes and dreams won’t change
Waiting for the wind to change”
That the song was first written in the wake of the Cold War, and originally spoke of optimism for Russia’s future, it was striking to hear the change of lyrics and see the Ukraine flag on Mathias’ guitar.
As for the performers themselves, it was hard to imagine that some have passed their seventieth birthdays. Rudy and Mathias prowled the catwalks and took up the stage with larger-than-life recitations. Both men jumped with unexpected spryness and Pavel even dropped to his knees at the edge of the stage. The first three songs saw Klaus hitting a cow bell during breaks and solos, tossing the drumsticks into the crowd just after “The Zoo.” And as for solos, Mikkey was the highlight of the night with more than six minutes of drumming fury that made it clear to see why King Diamond misses him so sorely. There was no better place to sandwich the drum and bass solos than between “New Vision” and “Blackout.”<
To accent the raw talent that they brought to Houston, the Toyota Center turned night into day with an impressively choreographed light show. It was easily comparable with the legendary stadium shows put on by the likes of KISS and the Trans Siberian Orchestra. This made for not just a great complement to a rollicking set, but another way to supercharge the spirits of an already excited audience. In short, it was nothing less than epic.
What would a great night be without a great encore? Scorpions delivered here as well, leading with “No One Like You” before delivering the classic “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” This end to an impressive 17-song set was as satisfying as it was enthralling, each musician showing off a final burst of youthful energy. If you have the chance, catch these talented artists in the latest arc of their never-ending glory days.