German heavyweight rock and rollers The Scorpions embarked recently on a world tour in support of their latest full-length, Return to Forever reviewed here by Stoic Dave: Scorpions Dig Into the Vaults for Return to Forever. This sparked a little bit of debate and controversy considering their previous world tour in 2012 was to be the Final Sting. The band’s press release stated something like “We’re just having too much fun”. Let me tell you, after seeing them tonight at Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, I can wholeheartedly say there’s never been a truer statement. They were certainly having fun up there and it was catching to the crowd for sure!
This Return to Forever tour is billed as the 50th Anniversary tour. How many bands are still going strong after a whopping 50 years? Hell, these guys are my mother’s age! I even know guys my age (low 40’s) who aren’t in as good of shape as Klaus Meine and that was proved tonight. Not to be outdone, guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs also did their fair share of stage coverage and running, yes I said running (Schenker back and forth along the lengthy catwalk as the video camera guy broadcasting to the large side stage screens struggled to keep up). I’ve seen younger bands with less stage presence than these senior citizens!
So, 50 years and here I was front row right on the barrier awaiting the rejuvenated Queensryche‘s opening set and it didn’t escape me that nearly 25 years ago I was in a very similar position. It was 1990 and my friends and I had just fully embraced our new concert addiction at 17 years of age. You see, we come from a rural town outside Toronto by about 45 minutes, so we were unable to attend concerts until we could not only get a driver’s license but also coerce a parent into letting us borrow a car! Unfortunately, public transit back then was not conducive for the return trips. Our season pass admission to Canada’s Wonderland was put to good use as the Kingswood Music Theatre there had an awesome lineup of bands in the summer of 1990 paired with our new found liberation and freedom thanks to the magic of the DMV. We were pretty excited when our tickets reported us to be three rows back centre stage for Aldo Nova, Great White, and Scorpions on the Crazy World Tour. Upon arrival, we were “upgraded” so to speak. The configuration of the stage had been changed, it now stretched out into the audience in a pointed shape. Due to this a number of seats had to be removed including the first two rows! As security told us that they had debated removing ours as well, we were asked if they were OK. “Hell Yeah!!, sir” our meek little 17-year old voices responded. My friend was right at the “point” of the stage with the other two of us to his right and when seated his knees actually went underneath it! OK indeed! While I don’t remember tons of stuff that far back, I remember that it was an awesome time in which one buddy snatched a guitar pic and the other received the award of a Great White drumstick, but most memorable was probably my near strangling by Klaus Meine (OK strangle may be a bit of an exaggeration). Meine whipped around on stage and during one such quick turn the cord of his mic flew out into the audience a little and low and behold right around my neck! He was moving quickly and as he got further away I was actually pulled up a little by the cord around my neck, unable to fling it off fast enough until he felt the resistance and turned. That was all I needed to free myself as he flashed a smile in response to my excited screams and raised fists!
Now 25 years later Queensryche filled the opening slot with a fast, too short set (I know they’re the support band and therefore relegated to only 45 minutes, but I could have handled a little more). If memory serves me correctly I also saw Queensryche about 25 years ago on the Empire tour, what an awesome blast from the past tonight is! The troubles surrounding the former Queensryche vocalist behind them, this rejuvenated band comprised of originals Scott Rockenfield (drums), Eddie Jackson (bass), Michael “Whip” Wilton (guitar) along with Parker Lundgren (guitar) and Todd LaTorre (vocals), flew through a selection of classic Queensryche beginning with Operation: Mindcrime‘s “Anarchy-X”. Their forthcoming album, Condition Human out October 2, 2015, the second with LaTorre in the frontman position was represented with “Arrow of Time”. The brand new track was effectively sandwiched in the middle of the awesome classic assault that included “Anarchy-X”, “The Needle Lies” and “Eyes of a Stranger” from 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, “Walk in the Shadows” the lone inclusion from 1986’s Rage For Order and “Jet City Woman”, “Silent Lucidity” and “Empire” from 1990’s Empire. The biggest “hit” of their set with the crowd came at the very end as they went all the way back to the beginning for “Queen of the Reich”. As the band members prepared to take their final bow for the evening, LaTorre reminded everyone at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, “We are the one, the only Queensryche!”
As it does on Return to Forever, “Going Out With a Bang” led the charge in a ridiculously fitting statement as the Germans stormed the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre stage. It was quickly evident that they meant business tonight, playing with a vigor unmatched by others. Klaus Meine‘s voice is still strong and he can hold the notes, maybe not quite like the old days but who cares he’s 67 for crying out loud! “Make it Real” and “The Zoo” both representing 1980’s Animal Magnetism release were served up back to back next. With the stage design incorporating a lengthy catwalk, guitarist Rudolf Schenker made ample use of it, running back and forth as the video camera guy broadcasting to the large side stage screens struggled to keep up at half his age. Lovedrive‘s “Coast to Coast” preceded a medley of early 70’s Scorpions material. Meine announced that way, way back in the early days in Germany as they travelled around in a beat up old van they had dreams of coming to North America and becoming “Top of the Bill” as a lead-in to the “Top of the Bill”/“Steamrock Fever”/“Speedy’s Comin”/“Catch Your Train” medley that takes a song each from Fly to the Rainbow (1974), In Trance (1975), Virgin Killer (1976) and Taken by Force (1977) albums. The Return to Forever tour drumstick budget was apparently quite high as at several points throughout the evening frontman Klaus Meine would toss the little wooden spears into the crowd. In fact, he did this so often that basically everyone in the front row on the left side and more had one by the end of the night! “We Built This House” and “Delicate Dance”, showcasing the talents of guitarist Matthias Jabs, took us to another medley section, this time an acoustic collection that saw drummer James Kottak emerge from behind his kit to take a seat with the rest of the band at the end of the catwalk. “Always Somewhere”, “Eye of the Storm” and “Send Me an Angel” had every voice in the reasonably full amphitheatre joining along. The smash hit “Wind of Change” was described as always being a song of hope by Meine and kept the voices loudly assisting The Scorpions. “Rock n Roll Band” and “Dynamite” paved the way for the instrumental “In the Line of Fire” followed by Kottak’s drum solo, dubbed “Kottak Attack”. The big finish began with “Blackout”, a personal Scorpions fave song and album, and began to turn my voice raw as I screamed along in all my tone deaf misinterpreted lyrical glory. “No One Like You” and “Big City Nights” drove home the nail in my coffin voice wise as the aging Germans left the stage for the brief respite prior to the encore. The closing double shot encore began with “Still Loving You” and of course, as you may have suspected, wrapped up with “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, which always has me hankering to bust out the ole Guitar Hero!
SCORPIONS PHOTOS: Brian Ronald