Review: The Scorpions Continue to Make ‘Rock Believers’ Out of Audiences
On Tuesday, October 4th, renowned rock superstars, the Scorpions, who are in the midst of their Rock Believer World Tour, made a memorable stop at the historic Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif. For 90 electrifying minutes, main vocalist Klaus Meine, lead guitarist Matthias Jabs, rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, bassist Paweł Mąciwoda, and drummer Mikkey Dee dazzled an audience of roughly 12,000 with 17 songs from six of their albums, the most recent one being, naturally, the tour’s namesake — the 2022-released Rock Believer.
Going on 57 years and counting, the Scorpions have long established themselves as one of the premier rock bands in history from both a commercial and critical standpoint. They have sold over 100 million albums and have consistently stood out like the rock luminaries they are with top-notch studio work and proficient musicianship on stage. Even more impressive is that the band has been mostly immune to attrition, retaining three of its core members (Schenker, Meine, Jabs) while only seeing two replacements (Mąciwoda, Dee) in the last two decades. It’s a loyal partnership that has worked to redefine the heavy metal genre with euphonious melodies, ballads, harmonies, and guitar licks that speak to the members’ elite grasp of music.
This versatility, combined with an emphatic stage presence, has also been underscored in various settings, some of them unconventional (e.g., with prestigious orchestras around the world). Whereas other groups have desperately held on for far too long, the Scorpions have hushed any criticism by defying slowdown due to aging — in large part because they’re not just loud and boisterous but rather true virtuosos of their craft. Like the Rolling Stones, Kiss, Elton John, and Paul McCartney, among others, the European rockers still have worthwhile contributions to make.
Before the Scorpions definitively proved they could still perform at the highest level, the all-female Thundermother of Sweden opened the Forum with a stirring heavy-metal set, proving that rock ‘n’ roll belongs to more than just the guys. Led by vocalist Guernica Mancini, who has a dynamic belt, the empowered entertainers played 11 of their songs, bookended by “Whatever” and “Driving in Style” — which in the end was so fiercely compelling that fans in attendance likely forgot Whitesnake was initially scheduled to co-headline the tour. With already three albums to their name, the newest release being Black and Gold, Thundermother represents a welcomed evolution within the rock landscape and are primed to earn more recognition in the coming years.
When the Scorpions appeared on stage behind a black curtain, and in front of a three-screen setup, it was only apropos that “Gas in the Tank” — from the Rock Believer album — spearheaded the charge. Although the group’s primary songwriters, Meine and Schenker, are both 74, they appear and sound youthful, belying stereotypes about septuagenarians. Undeniably, their resounding repudiation of Father Time’s expectations of them is an inspiration to individuals of any age. Three other songs from Rock Believer made the cut, including “Seventh Sun,” which is notable for its captivating groove; “Peacemaker,” a song written during the heart of the pandemic as an ode to world unity; and the title song, which has more of a modern hook.
The first throwback hit came with “The Zoo,” from the 1980 album Animal Magnetism. With the stage bathed in a lush red and orange, Meine, who was clad in his trademark black leather cap and sunglasses, showed he had not lost a step and neither did Jabs who, casually dressed with a baseball cap, simultaneously played his guitar and vocalized using a talk box. This preceded the well-regarded instrumental, “Coast to Coast,” which saw Schenker — in a black, studded cowboy hat — swaying with his guitar next to his fellow musicians who ensured that not one false note rang out.
The fourth 80’s single of the evening, “Bad Boys Running Wild,” written 38 years ago, proved that its effect on today’s audiences has not been dampened whatsoever. Meine got his second wind with this hit, demonstrating an effortless transition to his higher register, and involving the audience by offering his mic (affixed to a stand) during opportune times. Following this was “Delicate Dance,” a musical exhibition for the ages, particularly for Jabs who demonstrated his mastery of the fretboard, bending strings and hammering-on assorted notes with remarkable speed and accuracy.
Of course, no Scorpions concert is complete without a few sweet-sounding ballads. The band played arguably their most popular two in succession — “Send Me an Angel” and “Wind of Change.” The former piece was complemented by acoustic instruments and iPhone lights illuminating the Forum; the latter was an homage to Ukraine insofar that some of the song’s lyrics were altered. The audience was not only unperturbed, they were seemingly in agreement with the classic now being used to recognize Ukraine’s courage just as it was used as an anthem for the Cold War’s exalted end in 1989.
“Tease Me Please Me,” another underrated tune with a percussively epic finish, was a harbinger of an incredibly tireless drum solo by Dee whose résumé includes years with Motörhead. While Mąciwoda also turned heads with his smooth bass soloing, it was Dee, who, for eight grand minutes, swung away with pinpoint precision at his snare drums and cymbals, building on complex rhythms and punctuating flurries with exclamatory downbeats.
The final four songs — inclusive of the encore — reminded why the Scorpions rose to prominence. As blue and red lights, in tandem with a siren, filled the Forum, fans were transfixed by the tempo of “Blackout.” Suffice it to say, it continues to pack an invigorating punch just as much for the crowd as it does for Schenker who exuberantly snarled into his mic. The Vegas-themed “Big City Nights,” a Guitar Hero favorite, had the audience out of their chairs as Meine continued to delight with his terrific vocal resonance.
Meine, who unquestionably got better as the night wore on, shifted into an extra gear for “No One Like You,” evincing why he is one of Germany’s best exports and an all-time great tenor. Despite the song being in a lower key, and Meine modifying “you” to an open vowel, the #1 Billboard Mainstream Rock smash hit didn’t lose any of its verve. The frontman’s longevity is an even more spectacular achievement considering he was told in 1981 by doctors he’d never sing again due to vocal cord injuries.
Lastly, “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” which is up there among Scorpions songs with the most historical radio play, capped off the concert. Fog billowed over the stage, as the band played their instruments to a fever pitch — and echoed out the concluding notes — before the five members bowed and thanked Los Angeles for its decades of support.
Certainly, the Scorpions quieted any doubters with a performance that was carried out with maximum effort. While it would be easy for the band to rest on the cushioned laurels of their catalog’s nostalgia, such was not the case here where not one instance of playback or auto-tuning could be identified. As much as the concert regaled the audience, for the Scorpions themselves, who will inevitably be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day, this evening — as part of an expansive world tour — doubled as a mission statement about their durability.
For more information about the Scorpions’ Rock Believer World Tour, and to purchase tickets, please visit: the-scorpions.com