October 18, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner
The ageless Scorpions brought their rock ‘n’ roll circus to the Oakland Arena, proving not only their staying power in the rock world but also a renewed energy to keep writing their chapter of rock history.
It is crazy to think Scorpions have been a band for nearly sixty years now. Amazingly they have maintained three core members for over forty of those years. Even with all that history, singer Klaus Meine along with guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, and supported very ably by bassist Pawel Maciwoda and heavy hitting drummer Mikkey Dee (ex-Motorhead), showed their focus is squarely forward looking.
They made that statement loud and clear with the opening song of their set, ‘Gas In the Tank,’ which is the lead track from their 19th studio album Rock Believer (Feb 2022). This release is a return to the grinding, convertible down, drive real fast, hard rocking sonic sheen that is synonymous with the Scorpions’ sound but has not been consistently present on recent Scorpions offerings.
Wasting no time capitalizing on the elevated energy in the room, the Teutonic terrors transported Oakland Arena back to a time when the Walkman ruled the world, the internet did not yet exist, and it was all about the music. Cranking out head bangers from Animal Magnetism (1980) and Lovedrive (1979), the crowd of predominantly white-haired rockers were taken back to their teenage years.
When the clocklike churning groove of ‘The Zoo’ started, the crowd buzzed, when Matthias Jabs started using his talk box effect, it was pandemonium. By the time the dual guitar furor of ‘Coast to Coast’ ended, fans were up and out of their seats. It was like an air guitar aerobics class just finished.
Just when it seemed that the set was going to stay in the lane of Scorpions hits of days gone by, they flipped it back to the new recording. In fact, Rock Believer had the heaviest song representation of any album in the setlist for this performance, and it was not a bad thing.
A lot of times when newly released songs from great bands with long histories are played next to the classics, it is a signal to the audience to get a beer, however this was not the case for the new Scorpions material.
Fans stayed in place because the new songs fit the set alongside the older hits…they sounded right. ‘Seventh Sun’ had the dirty edge groove of the underrated Blackout gem ‘China White.’ ‘Peacemaker’ picked up the pace, a driving force from the new album denouncing war and prompting the raising of fists throughout the arena.
Though a bit older and less spry than in their early days, Scorpions still put on a great show. Klaus Meine sounded great, better than he has in ages, seemingly free of vocal ailments that have dogged him over the years.
The interactions of he and Rudolf Schenker were slightly reminiscent of the vintage Tokyo Tapes days in the 70s, albeit with more shuffling than running around the stage, and no jumps or acrobatics. The famous Scorpions poses were still there though, with Meine, Schenker, and Jabs continuously mugging for the cameras at the front and sides of the stage.
The firepower of the band, however, is the dual guitar perfection of Schenker and Jabs. In fact Jabs gave a master class of technical precision and force on the guitar, smiling and nodding as he tore through countless head spinning leads…looking like he was having the time of his life.
He and the rhythm section of Maciwoda and Mikkey Dee put on a display, blasting out the Satriani / Pink FLoyd drenched intricacies of ‘Delicate Dance,’ showing that there is a ton of substance in addition to the flash of Scorpions. To put an exclamation point on their musical exploits, the rhythm section lifted the building with a solo section of complicated bass lines juxtaposed against the stellar drum patterns of Dee.
It was fascinating to see what version of the Scorpions resonated most with the assembled crowd this evening. While the throwback dive bombers like ‘Blackout’ and ‘Big City Nights’ were crowd favorites, it was commercial ballads ‘Send Me An Angel’ and ‘Winds of Change’ that brought the biggest cheers of the night, drawing a universe of phone flashlights.
An encore of MTV super hits ‘No One Like You’ and ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ ended the 90-minute performance with the band coming to the front of the stage to thank the crowd and again pose for pictures. The drenched Scorpions then scurried off the stage. The burst of musical electricity shut down….all before 10PM on this school night.
Thunder Mother, a four-piece female power rock band from Sweden, opened the evening. Though they have been in existence since 2009, their current and most consistent lineup has been together since 2017. Working hard to take advantage of a tour opening for Scorpions, they are trying to make the leap from being a small/mid-sized touring band.
Out of the gates they charged the early Oakland crowd with the straight-forward bluesy hard rock of ‘Whatever.’ Showcasing singer Guernica Mancini’s voice (which aims for Heart’s Ann Wilson) and the guitar crunch of band founder Filippa Nassil, they were slightly derailed by some issues with the guitar at the takeoff, but they rebounded to play a solid if somewhat typical hard rock show.
Highlights of their set included a nice delivery of the 70s inspired ‘The Road is Ours’ (imagine a bit of ‘Ballroom Blitz’) and their anthemic single ‘Black and Gold.’ They seem like they are still getting used to connecting their energy to the crowd in such a big venue, but they do have chops.
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of both bands by Raymond Ahner: