Scorpions

support Pretty Maids
author AP date 29/11/17 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

Contrary to my colleague MIN, I felt Scorpions’ Copenhell 2016 performance to be among the most memorable concert experiences at the festival that year — not least because it was played in the midst of a spectacular thunderstorm. So when the hard rock and heavy metal icons were booked for an indoor show at the Royal Arena, it was never up to question whether I would be attending or not, even though the Hannover, Germany-born group’s music never actually spoke to me enough to capture me as one of their true fans. There are, however, some 10,000 of them present tonight, all eager to be rocked like a hurricane for perhaps the last time — after all, the band has clocked in an astonishing 52 years of career thus far, and is expected to lay down its arms in the very near future, having already announced their ‘farewell’ tour once, seven years ago.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Pretty Maids

Although the band cannot boast the worldwide stardom of the evening’s headliner, Pretty Maids are an old and revered act within the Danish borders. Formed back in 1981, the quintet is very much a product of that era, subscribing to the same glammy and synth-adorned style as Europe, who rose to international fame with their smash-hit, “The Final Countdown”, a year earlier. Rumour has it that the ‘Maids are quite the potent live band, with many a critic deeming their concert in support of KISS in Horsens last summer far superior to the headliners’ ditto. But if that was indeed the case, it must come as a shock to most people to find the band struggling, and ultimately failing at making a lasting impression tonight. The show is marred by technical difficulties from the outset as guitarist Kenneth Hansen (aka. Ken Hammer)’s axe malfunctions, leaving René Sehic (alias René Shades)’ bass and Allan Sørensen’s drums as the only discernible instruments in the mix. And although Hansen is quickly handed another guitar by his technician, it has very little effect on the total lack of oomph in the sound. Indeed, Pretty Maids come across as flat and unconvincing, with the heavier, somewhat thrash-inspired final song, “Future World” off their 1987 sophomore outing with the same title, providing the only highlight to speak of amongst the eight tracks aired.

To make matters worse, even though vocalist Paul Christensen (who goes by the pseudonym Ronnie Atkins) points out that as the opening act, his band has been allocated a limited time slot, they elect to sandwich both a cringeworthy cover of John Sykes’ “Please Don’t Leave” and a brief tribute to Pink Floyd’s classic “Another Brick in the Wall” between the originals. One can tell that the five musicians are enthusiastic about playing these tracks though, and in general this is the one redeeming quality about the ‘Maids performance here. With so much experience on their belts, Christensen and Sehic in particular are genuine entertainers, going through every imaginable move of an ‘80s rockstar during the set; mic stand swinging, dashes across the stage, flamboyant spins… you name it, they embrace it. Clearly, Pretty Maids are capable of mustering a show, as the rumour would have it. But impaired by a horrific sound mix, which manages to extract any and all notions of nerve and bombast from the concert, tonight’s showing ends up being quite the farce.

4

Scorpions

Scorpions, on the other hand, succeed in harnessing both showmanship and bombast to deliver a performance in which nothing is left to chance. Bolts of lightning may not be ripping through the sky on this crisp November evening, but there is plenty of thunder roaring through the amplifiers as soon as the opening track, “Going Out with a Bang”, is unleashed. With most of the elements on stage doubling as LED screens as is the band’s custom, the experience of watching Scorpions live is quite awe-inspiring — even if most of the footage borders on clichés — and in a sense, it looks like the five musicians are immersed in a really kitsch music video. But even without all the pomp, these gents would still create a spectacle through sheer showmanship. Despite the fact that no one in this band is younger than 50, there is no shortage of energy or bravado, with everyone sans vocalist Klaus Meine rocking harder than most would-be’s in the generation which have Scorpions inspired. Whether in the form of founding guitarist, the 69 year-old Rudolf Schenker, and bassist Paweł Mąciwoda-Jastrzębski dashing down the runway that cuts the venue in half, or in the shape of the Swedish legend Mikkey Dee baring teeth as he slams the drum skins with an almost destructive intensity, this is an outfit that epitomises what it means to be rock’n’roll and honestly, it is so f***ing invigorating to witness.

As mentioned in the preamble to this review, Scorpions and I have always had some difficulty gelling in terms of appreciating the brunt of their musical output. I will readily admit to swooning about the ever-important “Wind of Change” and howling along to the pub anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane” just as much as the next person, but when it comes to chops that are not as extremely popular as those classics, it makes sense to me why Scorpions never became veritable megastars. The majority of the group’s repertoire is characterised by solid tracks but it seldom gets to be excellent, and as a result, even the likes of “The Zoo” and “Big City Nights” do not inspire much excitement in me. Don’t get me wrong — both are played with tremendous gusto and subscribe to the ultra-professional standard of a typical concert with the Scorpions. But when juxtaposed with the ‘70s-era medley that comprises segments of “Top of the Bill”, “Steamrock Fever”, “Speedy’s Coming” and “Catch Your Train”, their dime-a-dozen nature is made very obvious. In comparison, said medley really explores the dominant mood and style of rock music during that period, with long instrumental passages, kaleidoscopic visuals and rainbow-coloured lighting all contributing to a more organic and emotive feeling that, as regular readers of this webzine will know, is something that I’m quite fond of.

Other notable moments include a cover of Motörhead’s “Overkill” (with Dee in the band, this had to happen) during which the screens chronicle the life of Lemmy Kilmister in photos; a subsequent drum solo which sees Dee’s platform soaring toward the ceiling; and a medley of the three acoustic pieces “Always Somewhere”, “Eye of the Storm” and “Send Me an Angel” that, shockingly, inspire a sweeping sing-along which even the two aforementioned crowd favourites have trouble matching. Nevertheless, what this this concert does above all is uncover signs that the end is nigh for Scorpions; at 69 years old himself, Meine no longer has the strength nor the lungs to convey the power that many of the songs demand and as a consequence, the show mostly feels cozy instead of hard-hitting. Schenker does his best to distract the audience from this fact by always taking the lead and expending an astonishing amount of energy — but the alert spectator will not be fooled by the smoke and mirrors. As such, once the obligatory sing-songs, “Still Loving You” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, have brought the set to its conclusion, one leaves the venue pleased to have seen such a visually enthralling concert, yet also more convinced than ever that the time has come for Scorpions to retire.

7

Setlist:

  • 01. Going Out with a Bang
  • 02. Make It Real
  • 03. The Zoo
  • 04. Coast to Coast
  • 05. Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train (‘70s medley)
  • 06. We Built This House
  • 07. Delicate Dance (Matthias Jabs solo)
  • 08. Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel (acoustic medley)
  • 09. Wind of Change
  • 10. Rock ’n’ Roll Band
  • 11. Overkill (Motörhead cover)
  • 12. Drum Solo
  • 13. Blackout
  • 14. Big City Nights

— Encore —

  • 15. Still Loving You
  • 16. Rock You Like a Hurricane

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