OAKLAND — The Scorpions’ show at Oakland Arena Tuesday night felt like a victory lap.
As with Iron Maiden, who brought their tour to Concord last month, it’s been 40 years since the bands first gave then-young fans a double whammy in 1982. That wasn’t long after the Scorpions used Alcatraz for their “No One Like You” video. There was also the triumphant 1985 headlining Day on the Green gig, Monsters of Rock at Candlestick Park, a great Cow Palace show and more. So there’s history between the German rockers and the Bay Area.
Though unlike 40 years ago in the same arena, these older and wiser Scorpions didn’t have an all-time Spinal Tap moment when, while trying to open the show by rushing out of some space pod emerging from under the stage, the sound completely went out as they broke free, performing “Blackout” with absolutely no discernible sound for 60 seconds. It was the ’80s and bands got points for trying. It was still fun.
As was Tuesday. Yeah, it was kind of old folks night. It would’ve been older if Whitesnake opened as originally scheduled (they had to cancel for medical reasons), handing an opportunity to Swedish rockers Thundermother. Still, the seat next to mine at one point held a nearby fan’s walker (not kidding). Fans were in their seats more than they stood. But they were all trying really hard to have a great night.
As was the band. Singer Klaus Meine is 74, and no longer runs around like his frizzy hair is on fire or swings a microphone by the chord like he’s about to rope a cow. Meine took some time to warm up Tuesday, not really moving for the first couple songs, like he was testing the water. But his voice was still there, even if everything else had to catch up.
That wasn’t the case for band cofounder, guitarist and main songwriter Rudolf Schenker (also 74), or lead guitarist/band heartthrob Matthias Jabs (only 66), who still has the best tan of any German person in history. Those two were still classic Scorpions, with most of the moves and sounds we remember (minus much of the old wildness. The Scorpions were easily one of the hardest-working and best live bands of the 1980s).
The band opened with “Gas in the Tank,” the first song on new record Rock Believer. Yes, like Iron Maiden, the Scorpions still play new music, like the old days when bands toured to sell new records.
It’s an admirable approach from professional musicians, but there’s only so much time an older band with classic (and loooong) catalogs can spend on stage. And fans want songs they know. Maybe no one should expect “Another Piece of Meat” to be screamed by a 74-year-old, but new songs shouldn’t take the place of so many favorites (no “Dynamite,” “Can’t Get Enough,” or “Holiday?” C’mon).
But they did then reach back to 1980s Animal Magnetism for “Make it Real” and “The Zoo,” during which Meine started to look comfortable. They then rolled into a traditional high point of a Scorpions show, the chunky, methodical instrumental “Coast to Coast.” Mein took most of the song off but did jog back out with a guitar for the classic lining up at the edge of the stage at song’s end.
New songs, the heavy cruncher “Seventh Sun” and mid-tempo rocker “The Peacemaker” followed, both semi-effective but ultimately giving the crowd a breather until “Bad Boys Running Wild,” from 1984’s Love at First Sting had people standing. Jabs’ took the spotlight during instrumental “Delicate Dance,” before they dropped down into 1990’s “Send Me an Angel” and the worldwide hit about the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Wind of Change,” which Meine dedicated to Ukraine (and Jabs played a Ukraine flag guitar). Meine really found his footing at this point and the band sounded great. They finished off that era with “Tease Me, Please Me,” a disposable song that wasn’t necessary. Nor was next (new) song “Rock Believer.”
Thankfully, they turned things over to drummer Mikkey Dee, best known for his work in Motörhead, who woke the entire arena up with a monster solo. He’s one of the few drummers who can really get away with such indulgence. Then everyone really got up for “Blackout” and “Big City Nights.” Scorpions finished things off nicely with encores (and biggest hits) “No One Like You” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Just like the old days … mostly.