Gig review – SCORPIONS at Santander Arena, Reading, September 14 2017
By STEVE MASCORD
WHEN you first catch a band some 52 years after their formation, there’s a fear in the pit of your stomach.
“Will I regret being here tonight? Will a group of old men sully the music I’ve heard and enjoyed for decades?”
Such foreboding is enough to keep many people away. The counter-argument, of course, is that soon there will be no opportunity to see them at all, no choice to make. That flip side meant, for me, there was no real alternative than the long bus ride from Manhattan to see the iconic Germans at deepest, darkest Pennsylvania.
The Scorpions are opening a North American tour tonight and tomorrow they’ll be at Madison Square Garden (not doable for me); sometimes provincial venues like this can provide a soft landing for glitches away from the prying eyes of the media.
But I guess I am the media; and there were few glitches to be seen.
This is a friendly crowd. I saw someone offer to buy a beer for a stranger who was stuck in the bathroom queue at one stage. “You’re near me down on the floor – whadaya want?” Middle America loves the Scorpions and always has. Perhaps they couldn’t name more than a couple of members – singer Klaus Meine and guitarist Rudolph Schenker – but then again it’s always been about the music in the much the same way AC/DC’s line-up seems interchangeable to the public outside of vocalist and guitar hero.
Your reviewer wasn’t completely convinced half a song in. “Going Out With A Bang” off Return To Forever is a good pop rock song from an excellent album but Klaus seems a little frail, his voice somewhat meek.
But even if singers of his vintage can still cut it, they take longer to warm up than they once did. He comes good pretty quickly.
There are no great revelations tonight. Meine doesn’t say anything more revealing than he once dreamed of coming to America in a successful rock band and was mocked. He’s happy to be back. The stage banter is barely worth reporting upon.
But the catchy melodies and eloquent lead guitar just keep coming and coming – “Make It Real”, “The Zoo”, “Coast To Coast” a medley of oldies, the excellent “We Built This House”. Schenker could easily be in his thirties, not just skinny but toned as he does his backwards-running routine and strikes rawk poses.
Strangely, when guitarist Matthias Jabs gets his instrumental spot “Delicate Dance”, Schenker leaves the stage and a roadie identified as Johnny fills in. What’s that about?
“Wind Of Change” is dispatched mid-set and goes closest to eliciting full-on goosebumps despite the number of times I’ve heard it. “Rock’n’Roll Band” doesn’t just hold its own among the classics by eclipses most of them.
“Don’t Stop At The Top”, “Rhythm Of Love” and half a dozen others are notable by their absence – but really, who wants an unchallenging greatest hits set?
With Motorhead’s Mikkey Dee on the drum stool, “Overkill” is followed by a drum solo. The encore is “Coming Home”, “Still Loving You” and “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and following one of the slowest, most affectionate departures from a stage I have ever seen, they are gone.
There was no need to fear being let down. Looking at these tuetonic titans left me believing I am not as old as I think I am and that there will be many, many more nights like tonight to come.