Scorpions Said They Would Retire, Didn’t and Prove Why They Shouldn’t With ‘Big City Night’ at Madison Square Garden [Photos + Review]
In 2010, one of rock's all-time greats announced they would be willingly bowing out with a farewell tour after the release of Sting in the Tail. Here we are over seven years later as the Scorpions have refused to stand down, realizing their time-honored rock 'n' roll was just as essential today as it was in the '70s, '80s, '90s and so on. On the second night of their "Crazy World" tour with support from thrash icons Megadeth, the German act returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1984, ensuring it would be a raucous big city night.
Displaying the same wide-eyed passion represented on the cover of World Wide Live, even with Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker both aged 69, the Scorpions hit the stage in front of a packed house, opening with the Return to Forever cut, "Going Out With a Bang." With the newly implanted Mikkey Dee perched atop a drum riser resting on a raised platform, LED boards lit up behind the drummer and directly under him as it rotated between stacks of Marshall amplifiers and other digital effects.
From there, the Scorps dug their feet into their hit-rich history, pulling out "Make it Real" and the thumping "The Zoo" as members took turns running, yes, running at 69-years-old, up the catwalk, engaging with crowd and settling into power stances, swaying with the sultry groove of the latter Animal Magnetism offering. Working the crowd, Meine was seen crouched down near the stage edges, tossing drum sticks into the crowd for a lucky handful of fans to take home as a precious souvenir.
One of the absolute highlights of the set was the pre-Lovedrive medley of Uli Jon Roth material, stringing together portions of tracks from each of the four albums the psychedelic guitarist was a part of. The stage reflected the time period from which the songs were culled with multi-colored psych-tinged swirls shifting perfectly in time with the more tripped out moments of the songs.
With a discography littered with so many iconic tracks, satisfying every fan desire with a 90-minute set poses a challenge. The Uli Jon Roth medley was a perfect way to navigate this good-to-have problem and the Scorps returned to the idea two songs later, bundling the "Always Somewhere," "Eye of the Storm" and "Send Me an Angel" ballads together for one massive emotional moment, which was followed by the band's most famed lighter-raiser, "Wind of Change," which saw the crowd giving Klaus Meine a vocal break as the Garden resonated with the booming voices of a nearly sold out venue.
Bringing fans back to the present day, the Germans plucked another track from their 2015 album, the charging "Rock 'n' Roll Band." It was a fitting segue into the lone cover track of the night as Mikkey Dee stepped into more familiar territory. Meine addressed the crowd, lamenting the loss of Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister and explained how Dee had asked them which Motorhead song they wanted to cover. Leaving fans in the dark, Meine let the drums and bass inform the crowd on what song the group had agreed on: "Overkill," arguably Motorhead's most aggressive song.
Images of our beloved Lemmy adorned the LED boards and "Overkill" marked the loudest point of the night, shaking not just the Garden, but the heavens where dear Lem certainly heard the echoes of his legacy rumbling below. With the spotlight figuratively on Dee in that moment, he got a real spotlight moment with a frenetic drum solo, alternating more tribal moments within his otherwise blurred-arm playing.
Now, while these German legends lined their set with fan favorites, new songs and rarities, it was hard to help but notice that their biggest hits had yet to grace Madison Square Garden. This wasn't neglectful as the Scorps ended the night on an indomitable upswing, hitting fans with "Blackout" and "Big City Nights" before walking offstage.
With the crowd energy now at an apex, they reclaimed the stage with the searing melodies of "No One Like You," which had been swapped in favor of "Coming Home" which was performed on the opening night of the tour. The veteran rockers displayed no sign of fatigue; Schenker was still stalking the catwalk, jumping in the air to land in time with the big splash moments. Armed with one more ballad, "Still Loving You," the Scorpions toyed with fans, bringing them from a roar to a tender embrace and back to the top, closing it out with "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Schenker stood at the front of the catwalk, laid into the opening riff and the Garden positively erupted.
With their biggest hits making up the final portion of the set, it's easy to see why the Scorpions have command multiple encores overseas. The near-capacity audience wasn't eager to leave and neither was the band, who took turns at each side of the stage, waiving goodbye to New York City, taking a bow together front and center to end it all.
For a band who formed over 50 years ago, it wouldn't be a surprise to see members going through the motions. This has never been the case for the Scorpions, whose performance is just as driving and anthemic as any of their biggest hits. They visibly have a blast onstage and when you're having this much fun, how could you stop? Why would you want to? One day, the band will inevitably call it a day for good, but until then, we'll turn up each time, cherishing the opportunity as the number of artists from this era dwindle.
Before this tour was announced, Megadeth's Dave Mustaine had explained that he had relinquished the headliner slot for the opportunity to play with a band the thrash legends had never toured with. Megadeth opened the night and, as Mustaine later discovered after an inquiry, performed to a staggering number of fans who had never seen the band before. They got one fine introduction as they battered the Garden with iconic thrash hymns like "Hangar 18," "Mechanix," "Take No Prisoners," "Symphony of Destruction," "Peace Sells," "Holy Wars" and more.
The "Crazy World" tour wraps up on Oct. 15 and for tickets, click here.
Scorpions Setlist - Sept. 17, 2017 at Madison Square Garden
01. "Going Out With a Bang"
02. "Make It Real"
03. "The Zoo"
04. "Coast to Coast"
05. "Top of the Bill" / "Steamrock Fever" / "Speedy's Coming" / "Catch Your Train"
06. "We Built This House"
07. "Delicate Dance"
08. "Always Somewhere" / "Eye of the Storm" / "Send Me an Angel"
09. "Wind of Change"
10. "Rock 'n' Roll Band"
11. "Overkill" (Motörhead cover)
13. "Big City Nights"
14. "No One Like You"
15. "Still Loving You"
16. "Rock You Like a Hurricane"