SAP Center, San José, California
1st Rocktober 2015
I can't imagine a better way to ring in Rocktober than by seeing two exceptional classic Metal bands in fine, fine form.
Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have found the fountain of youth, and they nearly wore out their sixty foot walkway as they put on the hits for a nearly sold out crowd at the 18,000 seat SAP Center arena in San José, California. But first came the mighty Queensrÿche.
Queensrÿche are a band that have spent the last several years rebuilding after the controversy filled departure of frontman Geoff Tate, and all that I can say is that they are doing a magnificent job of moving the legacy forward with two excellent albums, and a regular spate of road work.
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The original core members, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and bassist Eddie Jackson have not lost a step, and enough credit cannot be heaped upon this bunch for not only revitalizing this great classic Metal outfit, but for also moving it into the future with newcomers Parker Lindgren on second guitar and the new star of the show, frontman vocalist Todd La Torre.
Michael Wilton proved again that he is among the unheralded guitar heroes in all of rock with his riffs, solos, and presence.
In the opening slot, Queensrÿche did an admirable job - they've made their return to huge arenas, and while they do appear to somewhat still be finding their footing on such a broad format, the music was precise and powerful.
La Torre still needs to present a larger presence onstage if the band are to step up out of the clubs and bars, and onto bigger stages, but I'm confident he'll sort that out, and the guy's talents and heart cannot be denied.
Rock isn't the spectacle it once was, and it showed as the band could have greatly benefitted from such onetime luxuries as better lighting, sound, and crew. Not that anything went anywhere near wrong, it didn't, but these missing things used to be taken for granted and they aided the music in making it all seem larger than life.
This is no fault of the band's however, and they rocked the house, which was appropriately appreciative. Their newer material fitted perfectly next to the band's classic catalogue, and one could not have asked for a more killer opening act.
As the stage techs disassembled Queensrÿche's backline, and set the stage for the headliners, the excitement was palpable, and you could sense the building excitement. As well as Queensrÿche had acquitted themselves, it was clear who the throng was waiting to see. They were not disappointed.
Even a band with the star quality of the Scorpions are living in a world that does not allow for the dazzling presentations of tours past, but none of that mattered to the gathered masses as they sang along, lit their lighters, and assisted the band on vocals for almost every song.
Rudolf Schenker may be the poster child for not growing old gracefully. The guy pounded out the rhythms of his magnificent catalogue (he's long been one of the truly underappreciated riff writers in all of rock), laid down his trademark sinewy, melodic lead guitar solos, and there has never been a better cheerleader for classic Metal across the globe.
He spent the entire evening transversing the stage as if it were his first night on the boards, and he did a great job disguising the fact that the other accoutrements of the stage may not have been what they once were.
Klaus Meine is in a great race for the title of the reigning king of classic Metal with Whitesnake's David Coverdale - both men have been counted out at various junctures due to throat problems, but just as Coverdale showed the critics the door all summer, Meine does the same on this evening as he demurs from going too far, allowing the audience to help on the choruses, but hitting every note with the charm, pitch, power, and emotion that he has always displayed.
Of course, the Scorpions had the audience right in the palms of their hands for the entire evening, and the audience responded with much love, respect, and admiration. When the band moved their base of operations out to the very edge of the long walkway at the front of the stage, it became the biggest campout sing-a-long in California.
Highlights included a medley of the band's seventies catalogue, which was nowhere near long enough for old fans such as myself, "The Zoo", "Blackout", "Wind Of Change", and of course, the encore of "Still Loving You", and "Rock You Like A Hurricane."
The only misstep to my mind was having what appeared to be Matthias Jabs' guitar tech onstage for the lead guitarist's instrumental number - a good portion of the crowd was looking askance, as if to ask what was up, and the second guitarist added very little in the way of content while looking a bit out of place.
The Scorpions have accomplished so very much in their long careers that it would be easy to forget the hardships and struggles along the way, and they remain a German band that became famous in Japan before conquering both the hearts and minds of the United States and Russia.
Perhaps the whole world could take a lesson from these titans of rock - and they manage to do it with guitars instead of bombs and guns.
Oh, how I wish the world would listen to their melodic message of peace and love. God bless the Scorpions, long may they run.