Although he has made visits to San Antonio every 2-3 years in recent memory, Uli Jon Roth’s latest return was nearly a full year in the making. But the original Scorpions guitarist’s better-late-than-never performance Friday night at the Rock Box remained what it was supposed to be last June — a thrice-as-nice celebration of a heavily influential career.
Celebrating 30 years of his post-Scorpions band Electric Sun, 40 years of the Scorpions’ inaugural recorded live effort Tokyo Tapes and half a century since his first concert in 1968, Roth again amazed guitar aficionados, longtime fans and casual observers alike in a nearly three-hour performance.
Covering Roth never gets old, whether it was on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruises in 2011 and 2017 (latter here), at the Rock Box or now-defunct Korova (interview here) or in concert form, a VIP meet-and-greet setting or at one of his insightful instructional clinics. But Roth’s 2019 return to the Box, after Visa issues derailed his scheduled 2018 tour, showed a rarely played side of the legendary German.
Once again backed by stellar vocalist/guitarist Niklas Turmann, southpaw guitarist David Klosinski and keyboardist Corvin Bahn, Roth was also joined by bassist Nico Deppisch and England native Richard Kirk on drums (see 34-photo slideshow including setlist below). This time, Roth’s two-part set featured Electric Sun material, his post Scorpions ‘80s band that released three albums, and songs that could be classified as “etcetera.” But those tunes should not be considered afterthoughts.
One such track was Roth’s ode to his brother Zeno Roth, who died Feb. 5, 2018, after a lengthy illness. Roth credited his brother’s songwriting ability and gave the audience a taste of it, while Zeno’s face appeared on the video screen, with “Don’t Tell the Wind” (ATM Facebook LIve footage here). Roth also showcased other Electric Sun songs such as “Why,” “Icebreaker” and “I’ll Be There” (ATM footage below).
After a 15-minute break, Roth returned with the anticipation of his yet-to-be-played Scorpions material lingering. But first, Roth took to the stage by his lonesome for a unique request of his own. Prior to playing “Passage to India,” the guitarist asked for silence of the crowd. “I don’t mind if you talk during the heavy stuff,” Roth said, adding that the acoustic tune was on the quieter side and would not go over well if he had to play above noise. Following that soothing piece, Roth offered up a cover of The Shadows’ “Apache” while breaking out a humorous take about the guitar he would use to play it before declaring, “Time to do some Scorpions” as the band launched into “We’ll Burn the Sky” (watch both songs below).
Roth’s hits from the original Tokyo Tapes and his modern-era Tokyo Tapes Revisited kept coming with “Pictured Life” and “Catch Your Train” (ATM Facebook Live footage of both here) plus “In Trance.” Although the tour press release said Roth would offer hits such as “Fly to the Rainbow,” he left that epic song off the menu. His only deviation from the printed setlist, too, was to omit his own vocally led “Dark Lady,” though Roth did sing other tracks on the night.
Roth was the second guitar guru to play the Rock Box/Vibes Event Center in 12 days following the appearance of Swedish maestro Yngwie Malmsteen (coverage here). While some might say Roth’s and Malmsteen’s personalities are like night and day, it’s not very debatable to say they electrify in their own way. For the German Scorpion, the final Texas stop on his triple anniversary tour was one to remember as a trifecta of guitar milestones.
And it left no wonder Roth invented the Sky guitar. Because the sky has always been the limit for a musician blessed to grace the music landscape with five decades worth of guitar wizardry and knowledge.