It has to end sometime. Doesn’t it?
That’s the $64,000 question that befalls all musicians the deeper they delve into their career. In the hard rock and heavy metal landscape, a handful of artists have been fortunate to last three and four decades. For arguably the best musical export to come out of Germany, that stands at five.
So when the Scorpions made their fourth Alamo City appearance on Friday night to their fourth different venue since announcing a three-year farewell tour in 2010, skeptics could be heard just about anywhere except within the friendly confines of Freeman Coliseum. For the estimated 5,000 inside, it was another chance to appreciate one of the city’s longtime favorite rock groups, thanks in large part to the late disc jockey Joe “The Godfather” Anthony, who gave many bands their first taste of American radio airplay in the early 1980s.
And as usual, they did not disappoint.
Rescheduled from last Oct. 11 after singer Klaus Meine came down with vocal problems, the Scorpions returned nearly a year later, with Meine apologizing in part: “Sorry it took so long to reschedule.”
No problem, Klaus. San Antonio had your back.
The original show was scheduled with Megadeth. This one yielded Queensryche as the lone opening act and while they more than held the fort down, it remained the Scorpions’ night (see 110-photo slideshow and video below).
The Scorpions’ sting appeared to tail off a bit, at least from the vantage point in the photo pit, on the first two tracks — “Going Out with a Bang” and 1980 classic “Make it Real” — as if the band was easing into the set and pacing itself. Meine in particular appeared more deliberate and careful in singing the lyrics. Perfectly understandable, of course, given the whole five-decade thing.
Then again, Rudolf Schenker proved how much of an ageless wonder he is. The energetic guitarist turned 70 seven days before the show — that’s right, 70 — yet was sprinting back and forth from the main stage to the runway portion that jutted out into the center of the crowd. While some older bands acquire a younger member to inject some energy and rejuvenation into its inspiration to carry on, the Scorpions’ sparkplug is a guitarist who frequently runs across all points of the stage, enthusiastically opens his mouth while riffing away and finds time to show he can rock you like a hurricane while wearing a cowboy hat — all as a septuagenarian.
So while Scorpions maintained the classic vibe with mainstays “Big City Nights,” “Wind of Change” and “The Zoo,” they also delightfully broke out 1979’s “Is There Anybody There” as their third offering. Schenker later unveiled an acoustic Flying-V as he joined Meine, Jabs bassist Pawel Maciwoda and all-world drummer Mikkey Dee on 1990’s “Send Me An Angel” (ATM footage here). But just when you thought “Holiday” would come next, it was shockingly left off the menu entirely.
Perhaps in an effort to make things different than their 2010 visit to the AT&T Center with Ratt, 2012 at the Alamodome with Tesla and performance during the 2015 River City Rockfest, the Scorps sacrificed one of their all-time classics for a Jabs guitar solo called “Delicate Dance” in which Dee eventually joined in on drums.
The group also honored the late Motorhead singer/bassist Lemmy Kilmister while honoring Dee’s 20 years in that group by covering “Overkill.” The Scorps’ hard-rock style doesn’t fully give Dee the chance to wield his chops as he did in Motorhead and, prior to that, King Diamond’s band. But with Motorhead no longer in existence, it’s good to see Dee — who also played on Don Dokken’s 1990 solo album Up From the Ashes — land with another prominent artist.
If you would have said prior to the show that Meine would sing a Motorhead track in lieu of “Holiday,” you’d have thought the Scorpions were taking their “Crazy World” tour theme to the extreme. Give ‘em a “B” for adding a unique touch, though Jabs’ solo was the equivalent of a song or song and a half that could’ve been added to the set.
One of the night’s highlights was the medley of ‘70s material. With so many of the Scorpions’ hits emanating from the ‘80s, the prior decade had been getting shut out of shows for many years, including the first two of these four “farewell” performances. But this time, the band busted out bits of “Top of the Bill,” “Steamrock Fever,” “Catch Your Train” and personal favorite “Speedy’s Coming” in a true celebration of all five decades.
Whether Queensryche lasts five decades remains to be seen. But they’re well on their way. Having debuted in 1983 with a self-titled EP, the group with vocalist Todd La Torre hasn’t forgotten about that record’s opening track “Queen of the Reich” (ATM footage here).
Unlike the band’s many prior visits, however, only bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton were on hand from the quintet that performed on 1990s’ Empire, which comprised nearly half of the group’s nine-song set. Drummer Scott Rockenfield has been absent for several months, replaced on tour by Casey Grillo. And Mike Stone, who performed on 2003’s Tribe and 2006’s Operation: Mindcrime II, finds himself filling in for Parker Lundgren. (Check out an exclusive chat with Wilton during Queensryche’s 2015 gig at the Rock Box here).
As is the case with bands that open for the Scorpions, Queensryche was not allowed to touch the runway portion of the stage with a 10-foot pole. My, how odd it is to see a band that’s been around for 35 years have restrictions placed upon it. But alas, the concert boiled down to the music. And no line or stretch of tape on stage could alter Queensryche’s solid renditions of “Best I Can,” “Damaged,” “Jet City Woman,” “Screaming in Digital” and closer “Eyes of a Stranger.” Yeah, it sucks that there continues to be two versions of the band playing this iconic material. But La Torre is more than a solid replacement for Geoff Tate. He has his own unique voice and sound and more than does the tunes justice.
Maybe it’s asking too much for Queensryche to pull a rabbit out of a hat a la Helloween and do a tour, live DVD and new studio album that unites its former and current singers and guitarists. But hey, one can dream, right?
With the Scorpions and Queensryche possessing a combined 81 years of recorded music, you’d be hard-pressed to find a combination of two bands turning back the clock and still going as strong as these two. So as long as they want to keep coming back, what’s the harm in continuing to do just that?
SCORPIONS SETLIST: Going Out With a Bang, Make it Real, Is There Anybody There, The Zoo, Coast to Coast, Top of the Bill/Steamrock Fever/Speedy’s Coming/Catch Your Train, We Built This House, Delicate Dance (Matthias Jabs solo), Send Me An Angel, Wind of Change, Tease Me Please Me, Overkill (Motorhead tribute), Mikkey Dee drum solo, Blackout, Big City Nights. ENCORE: No One Like You, Rock You Like a Hurricane
QUEENSRYCHE SETLIST: Best I Can, Damaged, Empire, Guardian, Silent Lucidity, Queen of the Reich, Jet City Woman, Screaming in Digital, Eyes of a Stranger