At The Apollo, Manchester, U.K., July 29, 2007

Now this is what you call a real treat. Not only was Uli Jon Roth from the ’70s incarnation of the Scorpions scheduled to make a guest appearance tonight, but Michael Schenker Group is the opening act. Michael Schenker, of course, played on the debut Scorpions album, Lonesome Crow, as a 17-year old back in 1974, only to decamp to UFO for their golden era. He rejoined and left again during the recording of Lovedrive in 1979, to be replaced permanently by current lead guitarist, Mathias Jabs. All three lead guitarists from the Scorpions illustrious history together in one venue. What could possibly go wrong?

Enter Michael Schenker. Oh, dear. What on earth had happened here? ‘Are You Ready’, the set opener, was barely recognizable. Vocalist Jari Tiura was totally inaudible during the first song, yet it was Schenker’s performance that was most controversial. At times the riffing was distorted and out of time, and his solos were chaotic. Gold-plated classics such as “Lights Out,” “Armed And Ready,” and “Doctor Doctor” should have shaken the foundations, but as the set dragged on, Schenker’s solos became more erratic, at times resembling a rambling beginner. Gone were the lightning-fast, silky smooth melodies that fans have come to know and love. Instead fans got copious feedback and a jarring, clumsy, tuneless mess. His band, particularly the rhythm section of Bodo Schopf and Frank Rummler and Wayne Findlay, battled on admirably against the ever-increasing odds and singer Tiura tried his hardest to get the crowd going, but they were fighting a losing battle.

Schenker was one of the all time great guitar heroes, and this was so very sad to see, especially hearing an increasingly irrate crowd boo the band off stage. Here’s to hoping that Schenker can get himself sorted out before he damages his once great reputation beyond repair.

Everything that was so wrong for MSG was so right for the Scorpions. Here is a band that knows what their fans want and can deliver big time. After a hugely successful special guest slot with Judas Priest on their last UK tour, and on the back of two extremely strong albums, the Scorpions are on an upward trajectory after a couple of hit and miss releases during the 90’s, and the Manchester Apollo witnessed a band brimming with confidence, ready to ROCK.

With the Ragtime outro to their latest Humanity opus parping out as the lights went down, the Scorpions launched headlong into “Hour 1,” the lead track from the aforesaid album, before thundering through a rifftastic “Bad Boys Running Wild.”

Rudolph Schenker threw all the shapes in the book and was a veritable whirlwind of energy, never still for a moment, running from one side of the stage to the other, jumping off the drum riser, and doing Townsend-esq windmilling power chords. The photographers in the pit certainly had their work cut out snapping him.

“Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em” from the excellent Unbreakable album and the spellbinding “The Zoo” featuring Mathias Jabs on the hypnotic voice-box, followed in quick succession, and it was clear that the Scorpions meant business. Prior to the show, lead singer Klaus Meine had told Metal Express Radio that the band had to win back their fans and show them that they were still a Hard Rock act and he was certainly true to his word.

Scorpions A hard-hitting “Deep and Dark” preceded an awesome “Coast To Coast,” featuring Klaus Meine on additional rhythm guitar, while the impressive James Kottack on drums drove the band forward with an incredibly energetic display.

“Holiday” and “Humanity” gave Meine the chance to show his more sensitive side with two classic ballads, one vintage and one new bonded together by that unique Scorpions sense of melody and emotion. Mathias Jabs, who had been on electrifying form throughout the evening, delivered a delicious solo during “Humanity.”

Scorpions Tonight was certainly a celebration of the Scorpions future with several tracks from their latter two albums being aired, but it was also a celebration of their illustrious past. The mid-section of the show was all about the Uli Jon Roth era of the band, and for the next half of an hour or so fans were treated to the finest cuts from the classic Tokyo Tapes album, including “Pictured Life,” featuring both Roth and Jabs harmonizing to perfection; “Speedy’s Coming,” a sensational “We’ll Burn The Sky,” “Dark Lady” with Roth joint lead vocals, and a mesmerizing “Fly To The Rainbow,” surely Roth’s crowning glory during his Scorpions tenure, and his unique Sky guitar soared into the stratosphere and dive-bombed back down again in a swirl of feedback while his Classically-influenced solos raced melodically across the fretboard. Grown men were reduced to tears. Sensational stuff.

While some in the crowd suggested that the pace of the show had dipped a little during this section due to their lack of familiarity with the Roth-era material, to those that basked in the glories of this period, this part of the show was the highlight and a very special moment for longstanding fans of the band. Great credit is due also to Schenker and Jabs for stepping back and allowing Roth his moment in the spotlight.

“Tease Me Please Me” heralded the return of the current Scorpions line-up with Kottack and bassman Pawel Maciwoda forming a tight, precise rhythm section and Kottack (in particular) seemed to give the band that extra drive of energy that has been so central to their rejuvenation.

Scorpions After “321,” one of Humanity‘s many highlights, a real piledriver of a number proving that there’s still plenty of fire in their canon after all these years, came a mercifully brief bass/drum solo before “Blackout,” “Big City Nights,” and an explosive “Dynamite” brought the set to a close.

The Scorpions returned to the stage for their worldwide smash “Winds Of Change” and the spine-tingling “Still Loving You” before “In Trance” saw the return of Roth for his final contribution. The show came to a close after over two hours with one of the greatest riffs of all time, “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” and this did exactly what it says on the tin, a fist-pumping Rock anthem if there ever was one.

The Scorpions are a Hard Rock institution and tonight they showed why they remain one of the most exciting and entertaining bands around with an action-packed set that paid homage to their past yet showed that there is plenty of life in them yet. A new era has dawned for the Scorpions and in this form there’ll be no stopping them.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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