The best sex I never had was to the Scorpions—all in my mind—as I listened to their music on the radio when I was young. Their guitar-playing and singing sounded so much like what I had yet to experience: good sex. So I felt anticipatory in a way I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager, fantasy merging with music, when the band began their hit-making, radio-careening career, and I first heard the Scorpions.
A German rock band formed in 1965 by rhythm guitarist, Rudolf Schenker, singer Klaus Meine soon joined. Lead guitarist, Matthias Jabs, joined the band in 1978, and those three have formed the consistent nucleus of the rock ballad sound of the Scorpions. Drummer Mikkey Dee and bassist Pawel Maciwoda pound it out with them in their current line-up.
The band, with over 100 million records sold around the world, according to their website, and a chart-topping omnipresence on the charts during the 1980’s and 1990’s, returned to America in August 2018 for tour dates through September. They had to cancel several shows because of the singer’s laryngitis, but they’re back now, rocking us like hurricanes!
And Queensrÿche – another band whose power ballads sends shivers – opens! I was lucky enough to catch the show at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA, over Labor Day weekend, on September 2, 2018. (Thank you, LA Beat, and the Scorpions PR, Mike Colantuoni!)
I had no idea how I was going to make it to the concert. I’d been very sick the week before and in low spirits. Plus, what would I wear? The eternal question. But I had to go no matter what. And it was worth it.
Such songs! The Scorpions’ “Big City Nights,” “Tease Me Please Me,” “No One Like You!” Big tough guys in the audience joyful to Queensrÿche’s “Silent Lucidity,” La Torre’s voice deep with enthralling subtle maneuvers. Maybe power ballads sing to men too, as I for the first time realize, giving men a space to allow emotional expression—a place to put their own longings, doubts, and desires.
The bands, the venue, and the fans, along with the soft night air and the nighttime sky, seemed to heal me or exalt me. I had a moment after I climbed the stairs to a nose-bleed seat—my favorite seats at such huge outdoor venues (not including front row or backstage access, of course)—where I stood, scanning the sea of people. (So many! So many people, as far as my eyes could see!) I felt filled with magnificence, elevated up so high—with the band’s stage in the distance, but their music so close—the stage lights riotously illuminating. All the hits, and then some!
The Scorpions “Send Me an Angel!” Usually, I’m self-conscious, convinced of rejection and my own lack of importance. But as I stood there, the band’s music filling the air and surrounding me, the partying vibe of the fans and the red-shirted, ever-present security so light and easy, I took a deep breath and decided to stand tall, as though I had a right to be there. And I felt like I could fly. Yes, that’s right – Scorpions sent me an angel.
I had so much fun! The Scorpions sounded great! Queensrÿche rocks! They did everything only metal-rock bands can, playing the favorites as head-tossing guitar allies—the singer and guitarists running across the stage, waving in every direction—so each section and each fan, feels tended. Best friends and bandmates huddled, smiling to the audience and away from us, for the band photo we all hope to see ourselves in as the cheering backdrop.
For some songs, each band member isolated in a perfect circle of light as the miraculous drummer sits atop them, somehow aloft. The huge skyscraper screens that showed each musician up close and sweating, accomplishing what we’d all want to accomplish: being good at something, being paid well for it, and being celebrated for it too. On the screen, a dove flew in what could be seen as clichéd cinematography, until you feel the concentration of the fans and the celebration of the music. The way the air actually feels and the music powerfully sounds, you realize it really is all about hope. A wing and a prayer.
Oh the beer-drinking fans with their devil-horn hand gestures and loud voices, shouting song titles and words to the songs, even when the band isn’t playing! Sometimes not knowing the words even when Klaus gives us the chance to sing, and we hum along instead, laughing! The black concert t-shirts and blue jeans, ubiquitous. Young people, skins plump with innocence and bodies with newfound rock ‘n roll swagger. And us older fans, maybe not as beautiful as we once were, yet somehow more so, with hard years’ passage, leathery skin, and pouchy eyes. Donning our rock gear anyway, or a pretty dress, we all just want to have a good time. It makes me cry! Gravity’s grave.
But, but! The wing and a prayer, the music, and the good feelings! “I love this song!,” I overheard at least once from strangers, everywhere I went as I prowled the outdoor arena, newly empowered. The man who patted my shoulder and called me “sweetie” as we passed under the sweeping metal stairs (so fragile, so tall, so strong, those stairs), happy to be at the concert of bands we love, with the music all around us. The women who smiled at me, and the man who, in the era of #metoo, asked if he could give a compliment to me before he gave it. If you’re reading this, tall, tan blonde man at the side of the stage near the VIP access, you gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received, and I’ll never forget it. I inherited my smile from my mom!
And then, and then! When I stood on the stairs, nowhere near my assigned seat anymore and closer to the stage—standing for that precious minute where the music was so loud and the band so much closer—before being told by a politely insistent security guard to move along, I hear another kind of music to my ears amidst the powerhouse songs. “Hey, Jet City Woman,” a man’s voice says with a friendly gesture, referring to the name of my favorite Queensrÿche song. Normally, I would not turn around, sure that the comment—and compliment!—was intended for someone else. But I did, I turned around. And he was looking at me. Hi, Fuzz! I hope you’re reading this! I loved our hug!
Power ballad, oh power ballads! Begun in medieval France as danceable songs, ballads evolved their narrative storytelling power across Europe, so that by the 1970’s in America, the power ballad’s intentional structure slowly builds to a crescendo of instrumentation. The longing in the guitar, the yearning in the voice, the heartbeat drum, the harmony, the chorus, the words! No matter how practiced, it feels real. Klaus Meine’s tenor voice smooth and soaring in an irresistible pull.
And Mikkey Dee, oh Mikkey Dee! “You’re a tease, Mikkey!,” screamed the woman behind me during his drum solo. “A tease!” I looked at his smiling face, long blonde hair, larger than life on that huge screen onstage, oh his joy as he drummed, his smile, he really was a tease! Sexual throes as he tossed his mane, sexual throws as he tossed those sticks. Possibly the only rock star I’ve ever truly had a real crush on. Would that I were a groupie in this rock ‘n roll life, and just his type, too. Would it really be so wrong to have sex with people to get closer to the stage, or backstage? I think of notorious Sweet Connie, the groupie who hands out sexual favors to anyone involved in making the show happen because she believes everyone should have a good time. With her gold-glittered body, what would she do to get past these helpful security guards?
I was sometimes distracted by memories of the Scorpions’ music videos, album covers, and song lyrics: women in cages, women as gods—oops, typo, meant to type dogs—women with sticky breasts while the men are … intact. My vegan feminism despairs.
But the music! The sounds! Some of my favorite songs! I thought about that as I observed the older couple who danced so happily, and as sexy equals, to “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” an all-time favorite song whose lyrics are so troubling, the first song to play on MTV after I found out I was accepted to NYU, when I was searching for a bit of music-videomancy (fortune-telling by music video). How to enjoy metal’s sexiness and still be a feminist vegan! Such a power ballad.
A professional exhibition with origins in messy feeling, the sloppy desires disciplined into song and show, the Scorpions, after all these years and the singer’s recent bout with laryngitis, bring it. So does Queensrÿche. Some band members have left both bands, replaced by others, and for diehards like me, my heart breaks because I miss the originals. But I embrace the replacements because they rock. I am “Still Loving You!” (a song they didn’t play! Oh the Scorpions, did you not hear us screaming out our song request to play that song? We tried to sing it together, us fans as we left the venue, strangers now friends, but, alas, it just didn’t sound the same.)
Listening to the music of this badass double-bill, especially the ballads, feels like sex. And hope. All the songs were crowd-pleasers, each and every one, with “Wind of Change” bringing out pictures of lighter’s flames on cell phones. Looking out at a crowd that seemed to last into infinity, seeing those digital flames, hearing the foot-stomping clamor of need and want as the audience demanded another song, another chance, another encore, I think of how arena rock could be setting the stage for fascism – group-think and conformity. But so far, it sets the stage for the joyous clamor of rocking out, together. Hopefully, as equals.
Here are the setlists for that awesome concert:
More on tour dates for Scorpions:
More story on the Scorpions: