Scorpions/ Megadeth, O2 Arena review - by turns lavish, silly and exhilarating : The Stone Free Fest

From The Arts Desk

Scorpions stepped on stage wearing leather jackets and shades, and launched straight into "Going Out With a Bang". For a band who, only a few short years ago, were tempted by retirement, the song was a statement of intent. "No sign of slowing down," went the words. And boy did they mean it. Saturday night's concert was a thrilling, high-octane show full of dry-ice and guitar pyrotechnics. There was even a flying drum-kit.

The evening, though, was not just about Scorpions. The band were appearing with Megadeth, as part of the Stone Free Festival. It was virtually a double-headline, and the two groups couldn't have presented more of a contrast.

Dave Mustaine, Megadeth's poodle-haired lead singer had sauntered on stage looking lean and mean. The band kicked off with "Hangar 18" which sounded like the apocalypse. A series of pile-driving numbers with titles like "Dystopia" followed. The best were the more melodic pieces, such as "Mechanix" and "Sweating Bullets". The latter, a curious blend of speed-metal and swing, was paticularly good fun.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the extreme sound left the crowd subdued. At one point, Mustaine even quipped, "the voices in my head are louder than you". The audience definitely belonged to Scorpions. And they couldn't have been on better form.

Throughout the night, guitarist Rudy Schenker (69) and singer Klaus Meine (70) carried themselves with the swagger of a pair of 17-year-olds. They also looked untentionally camp. Schenker arrived with bleached, cropped hair and a flamboyant, studded jacket. Meine was sporting one of his trade-mark leather berets. What followed was, by turns, lavish, silly and exhilarating.

The crowd's focus was invariably drawn to the irrepresible figure of rhythm player Schenker. He ran forwards, backwards, threw poses, and flung his Gibson Flying V around like a man with easy access to the fountain of youth. Klaus Meine may not have had his energy, but still communicated with the audience with warmth and charism. The set list was well-chosen for variety and pace. Phones-in-the-air moments like "Winds of Change" and "We Built This House" were blended with classic rockers like "The Zoo". The only lacklustre section was the Seventies medley, where the band sounded somewhat ploddy and Meine a little screechy.

Mostly, Meine's vocals were gloriously unaffected by the years. Even his whistling on "Winds of Change" was note perfect. For their part, the rest of the band displayed an admirable mix of German precision and rock'n'roll abandon. Matthias Jabs's guitar solos were fluid and sensuous. When drummer, Mikkey Dee, played his solo suspended from the roof on a floating platform, you could actually feel the bass drum in the seat of your pants.

The other set-pieces looked more spontaneous but, in truth, were equally choreographed. Many involved trips to the end of the runway, the most memorable being the acoustic medley where Schenker turned up with an acoustic Flying V and the band ran through "Follow Your Heart", "Eye of the Storm", and "Send Me an Angel". The night's most unexpected number was a cover of Motorhead's "Overkill", a homage to Lemmy whose image appeared on the screens.

The main section of the concert ended with a rip-roaring rendition of the soft-rock favourite "Big City Nights". It left no doubt as to what was coming up in the encore. As Schenker picked out the chords of "Still Loving You" phone LED's were again lit and arms started to sway. Then, as the chords of "Rock You Like a Hurricane" were struck, the crowd erupted and 10,000 arms started to punch the air. It was, all in, a glorious reminder of what tremendous fun arena rock used to be.

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