@ Newcastle Carling Academy, October 12 2008
HAD the music critics from NME or The Guardian turned up, they’d have hated it.
That’s how bloody magnificent The Scorpions were last night.
Sometimes a gig’s so good, you want to tell the whole crazy world about it.
The trouble is that the world’s not listening and those that are, pour scorn on bands like The Scorpions.
The German rock legends have never been hip, trendy or politically correct.
But try telling the sell-out crowd at the Academy that they didn’t witness one of the best gigs of 2008 and they’ll launch a rousing defence of a band who sound as good today as they did in their 1980s heyday when they regularly filled arenas across the planet.
Michael Schenker had warmed up the audience with an acoustic set which demonstrated that for him at least, virtuosity and sobriety are indelibly linked.
Sadly, vocalist Gary Barden has seen better days. Never the best singer in the world, his voice lacks power and range and like David Coverdale during Whitesnake’s recent tour, he often struggles to hit the high notes.
No such worries for Klaus Meine who was in imperious form.
The pint-sized frontman has always been one of rock’s more polished singers but today, possibly only Paul Rodgers, can reproduce the crystal clear tones of yesteryear so faithfully.
The Scorpions’ official website offers fans the chance to vote for which songs they want to hear so this was always going to be a retrospective set.
Nevertheless, they kicked off with the stirring Hour One from their most recent album Humanity Hour 1 and played a further two tracks from it over the course of the night.
Most of their material, however, came from 1978’s Lovedrive with Michael Schenker joining brother Rudolf on stage for the four songs he co-wrote.
And Love At First Sting, the album which broke the band in the US six years later, was heavily featured with a quite breathtaking Still Loving You a personal highlight.
Fans of the Scorps tend to have mixed views of Wind of Change, their best known song but there was loud cheering and collective whistling when it was played during the encores _ one of only two tracks from their entire 90s output.
For a band accustomed to much bigger venues, the cramped stage clearly restricted the energetic Rudolf Schenker in particular.
But the Carling Academy has its advantages, notably in its intimacy and acoustics and with the mix crisp and razor sharp from first to 110th minute, the sort of complaints which tend to accompany concerts at the nearby Arena, were notable for their absence.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the whole night was just how much the band enjoyed themselves.
Matthias Jabs, who looks almost 20 years younger than his 52, smiled his way through the set list while drummer James Kottack gave a passable imitation of Keith Moon with his antics.
Unlike so many of their peers, The Scorpions don’t go in for self-indulgence. Jabs and Schenker demonstrated their fretwork prowess within the framework of songs without resorting to solos. It allowed them to feature 19 songs in a set lasting 110 minutes with Meine hardly pausing for breath in between.
And for those who decided to take a toilet break during the drum solo, they missed something a little bit different with all five band members demonstrating their percussion skills.
Uli Jon Roth, who left the band in 1978, will guest for the Scorpions for the rest of the UK tour along with Michael Schenker.
His unavailability at Newcastle meant there was no We’ll Burn The Sky or In Trance from the pre-Harvest days.
And while it was no surprise, there were no songs from the underwhelming Pure Instinct and Eye To Eye, perhaps they could have included a track from the back-to-form Unbreakable.
But these are minor quibbles from a gig which will live long in the memory.
OK, so the Scorps might not be cool. But they are hot, red hot.