Review: Scorpions strike rock-star poses for final Tampa show
Scorpions. Ratt. A hot summer night in Florida. An outdoor show. Is there anything more pure in the heavy metal world than that? Saturday night was the final stop in Tampa for the vasty underrated Scorpions, who "say" they're calling it quits after this world tour. (Admittedly, they do concede the tour could last a couple years.)
If that's the case, stop whatever vacation plans you're making and budget in a trip to see Germany's finest on this North American tour. It's been a long time since I saw a band win over an audience so effortlessly. And don't take that to mean that Klaus Meine and company weren't trying hard. Klaus is in his 60s and spends more energy each night than my 43-year-old body has collectively groaned through in months. The Scorps win you over from Song No. 1 because you just KNOW they're gonna give you 100 percent before you walk back to your car.
Here are some of the highlights and photos of the show at Tampa's "The Gary" Amphitheatre.
RATT AND ROLL: I'll never get the appeal of this SoCal act. I didn't like Ratt in the '80s, and they haven't improved with age. Each tune sounds exactly the same: Three lines of barely meaningful lyrics followed by 4 minutes of a repeating three-word chorus. They're like the Ramones ... on Ritalin. Granted, they had the tiniest sliver of the stage to work with and had to play while the July sun was still robbing everyone of enthusiasm. About the only time I sang along was the finale, Round and Round. (Okay, and Lay it Down, but only because it's an earworm.)
KILLER STAGING: I love that the Scorpions stage looks like something a high school freshman sketched out while trying to stay awake in civics class. The ultimate compliment. A drum riser than shoots 40-some feet in the air. Stacks of amps. Video screens galore. A stage extension that stretches out a few dozen yards into the crowd. All for a band that knows how to hit those rock star poses. Breathtaking.
THE SETLIST: When I first saw the setlist on the Internet, I wasn't impressed. The hits seemed stuck at the end of the night. I was wrong. Knowing this was their last dance, the Scorps dutifully scattered songs from the last 30 years throughout the show. Make It Real (1980), Bad Boys Running Wild (1984) and The Zoo (1980) were early highlights. (The talk-box for The Zoo never gets old.) Anthems No One Like You and Rock You Like a Hurricane arrived on schedule at the end of the set.
WIND OF CHANGE: To be honest, I expected a little more enthusiasm from the crowd when the band started into Wind of Change midway through the night. It is the band's biggest selling hit. But as Klaus told me back in 2007 during an interview, it's something that connects with audiences in Europe more than in America. Still, with footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of their German homeland playing behind them, it was a nice reminder that the '80s did end on a few high notes.
THE NEW STUFF: Ironically, one of the best moments came with their newest power ballad, The Best Is Yet To Come, off the Sting in the Tail album. Someone I missed this tune when reviewing the disc. Like so many Scorp tunes, it's better in concert, providing multiple sing-along moments long after the band stopped playing. And nobody could fail to miss the message. Even though Klaus and his Scorpion bandmates are calling it quits, it just feels better to believe the best is yet to come.
[Times photos by Daniel Wallace]