Nélida Nassar 07.28.2013
The excitement was palpable as powerhouse Scorpions band appeared on stage and when drummer James Kottak pounded the opening to Sting In The Tail. Scorpions’ Matthias Jabs, guitar; James Kottak, drum; Paul Makivoda, bass; Klaus Meine, vocals; and Rudolf Schenker, guitar played a set of tense, yet beautiful, hard metal rock and roll interspersed with melodic ballads for two consecutive nights at the Byblos International Festival. This is their third concert in this historical city. Reflecting on Scorpions’ “Get Your Sting and Blackout World” tour, that will be completed in 2013, this much is evident: the band may be, as it is often called, one of the world’s greatest “Ambassadors of Rock.” And it certainly did all it could to try to prove itself worth of the title.
Scorpions continued their explosive concert with an electric, gripping rendition of the lead single of their 2011 release, Comeblack. And while the tempo waxed and waned through the songs over the course of about 110 minutes, the legend German five-piece band did not fail in elevating the audience into electric bliss.
The set oscillated between tracks from their pinnacle, more rock-driven, album, Lovedrive and the latest ones. From Loving You Sunday Morning, to Always Somewhere, Make It Real, Is There Anybody There and the instrumental Coast to Coast, where the dual guitar work of Jabs and Schenker was on proud display, it was evident that these two musicians have been playing together for many years as they effortlessly fed off one another; in a word, they were outstanding. That is not to mention the bass Makivoda that kept the tempo steady throughout.
The crowd especially responded when Meine took the lead and greeted it in Arabic “Marshaba Byblos.” His voice sounded terrific as it blended well with the music, displaying his beautiful tenor timber and his furious screams that made the songs more than come to life. During Send Me An Angel followed by the more subdued Holiday he engaged with the crowd by asking them “you wanna sing with me?” and “are you with me Byblos?” Meine spent the evening walking the entire stage and flinging tambourines and wooden sticks off to his fans, he also fed off the tremendous energy they gave him since the evening’s opening note. Meine’s distinguished vocals continued to be a tremendously important asset; they were on target, giving the band stupendous results.
Other highlights included the celebrated Kottak drum solo show. Seated on a podium which sides recalled a bar in acid colors, and floating above the stage along with the drums, he obliged with his show that proved his prowess at technically demanding, high-energy stick work. This assault on the drum and brilliant solo was accompanied with a video flashing on the screen featuring him in humorous positions of various Scorpion album cover photo shoots. He then removed his shirt to show off – with the full support of three screens behind him to display it to the crowds – his giant tattoo that read Rock and Roll Forever.
At the show’s climax came The Zoo that had just the proper amount of pounding drums, crunchy chords and joint vocals to make it beyond memorable. Meike threw again numerous souvenirs to the audience, but the finest moment came as the set closed. With Wind of Change leitmotiv – which has become the peoples’ and countries’ independence anthem, Meine invited the audience to sing along while encouraging them to pursue the desire of change in light of the socio-political permutations taking place in the Middle East as result of the Arab Spring Revolution.
Scorpions encored four times with the energetic Here I am, No One like You, The Best is yet to Come, followed by the seminal Rock like a Hurricane, which proved a fine way to end a fine concert. A particularly moving and emotive moment was when the crowd rocked both the German and the Lebanese flags then handed Meine the Lebanese one that he wrapped around his chest while intoning “We love you Lebanon, we love you Byblos to which the cheering fans replied “we love you too.”
It was a grand-scale light show with the use of the latest developments related to stage space organization surrounded with three video screens and visual effects, sound power, guitar antics, drum solo and of course, pyrotechnics as well as the greatest lyrics. The concert’s hits selection firmly cemented the ‘Scorpions formula’ of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads. They demonstrated how potent a distilled sonic brew can be produced by five members, especially when each is a master of tone; one of the standout points from the concert.
It is hard to believe this may be the last we will ever see of Scorpions in Byblos, Lebanon. If the last two nights were any indication, the band is simply having too much fun to quit yet. Scorpions left the stage, but they remain deep in our hearts.
The International Byblos Festival closed a terrific season on a beautiful high note with Scorpions’ concert that was followed by majestic fireworks as well as a video projection and animation on the sea castle walls retracing Byblos’ millennial and historical milestones. Already, we are awaiting impatiently for next year’s edition.