Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

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Album Review – Scorpions / Return to Forever (2015)

This rock may be rolling home after so many years of good service, but it still has A LOT to teach the world on how to make true Hard Rock.

Rating2

scorpions_return to forever50 years ago, in Germany, Rudolf Schenker, only 16 years old, decided to follow any school boy’s dream and formed a Rock N’ Roll band, the Scorpions. Schenker, alongside his band mates, put together awesome melodies and great lyrics, added a bunch of exciting backing vocals, touching powerful ballads, crazy guitar solos that made everyone want to be a rock star, and the formula for perfect Hard Rock was created. It turns out that half a century later, this magic formula still works and Scorpions are still one of the most important names of all times in Rock N’ Roll history.

Since Scorpions were formed, countless musicians have joined and left the band, but for the past 11 years the group has a strong line-up with Rudolf on lead guitar; Klaus Meine – who joined the band in 1969 and recorded every Scorpions’ album – on lead vocals; Matthias Jabs on rhythm guitar; James Kottak on drums; and Paweł Mąciwoda on bass guitar. In 2010, the band released Sting in the Tail, which was announced supposedly as the last album of their career. And we are glad they have changed their minds. In 2011 they were back to the studio to work on new material, and although 2014 was not an easy year for the band, with the arrest and period of rehab of Kottak, they rejoined forces to finish the album and the result is Return to Forever, a masterclass on how Hard Rock is supposed to be, released this year to mark the band’s 50th anniversary.

The album is available as a standard album, limited deluxe CD which contains four bonus songs, iTunes version with the same songs as the limited deluxe edition plus the song “Delirious”, double heavyweight vinyl and a limited edition collector’s box set. According to the band, the songs were written between the early 1980’s and 2014 and we can notice the changes and evolution of the musicality through the tracks. The album starts in a very thrilling way: the first song, Going On With A Bang, has a lot of influences of Blues but with a lot of Rock N’ Roll, and is one of the newest songs written for this album; then comes We Built This House, the first single for this album (check the video below). This song is very meaningful and tells the story of Scorpions, the ups and downs and everything they have learned along the way. This song is really touching and beautiful and has those classical backing vocals known on Scorpions work that make all of us, in the audience of their concerts, to sing it out loud together. Rock My Car is a very exciting song: written many years ago, it talks about driving fast on the famous German Autobahn highways. And this song carries all that high-speed feeling, with a breathtaking solo.

House Of Cards, the first ballad of the album, is very deep, exploring different levels of love, until it turns into hate and fades away. All For One is all about friendship and complicity the musicians find in each other to keep the band going on. The beginning of the next song, Rock ‘N’ Roll Band, sounds just like “I Can”, an old song by their German fellows of Helloween, but then the song gets its own shape and turns into a real Rock N’ Roll anthem. Klaus Meine wrote this song in the 1980’s and found the inspiration after visiting some clubs on Sunset Boulevard, in Los Angeles, so you can imagine the environment of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll he found back then.

Catch Your Luck And Play was originally written for the 1988 album Savage Amusement. Rudolf Schenker wrote a new chorus to this nice song, the kind all fans enjoy singing together with the band while clapping their hands tirelessly. Then we have Rollin’ Home, one of the best songs of the album, with great performances by all musicians – it is amazing to notice, for example, that after so many years Klaus’ voice has not changed a tone. But what is intriguing in this song is the message contained in it. It sounds like a good-bye, especially on the chorus (“Here we go! / This rock in rollin’ home”) that, again, has an amazing work on backing vocals. Hard Rockin’ The Place is another good example of Hard Rock, with an amazing riff.

scorpionsLight up your lighters, or your cell phones, because Eye Of The Storm is the perfect song for that and to calm down a little bit before more of their fast Rock N’ Roll. It was supposed to be released in Humanity: Hour I (2007), but did not fit to the album. It has a beautiful solo, maybe the strongest of this album. The Scracth sounds like those old Rock N’ Roll songs from the 1950’s – the highlights here are definitely the drums and the bass that bring a very unique groove to the song. Gypsy Life is a ballad like no other band can do, only Scorpions. It closes the standard version of the album in a very nice way and, again, reflects Scorpions’ life style, living year after year on the road.

For those who got the deluxe or iTunes versions, there are still some bonus tracks. The first is The World We Used To Know, which somehow does not fit well to the rest of the album, although it has good lyrics and backing vocals, but, not such a strong work on guitars. Dancing With The Moonlight, on the other hand, puts everybody to dance. When The Truth Is A Lie has great acoustic guitars alongside the electric guitars, and this combination gives a calm element but still keeps the song quite heavy. Who We Are basically puts together acoustic guitars, Klaus’ amazing voice and stunning backing vocals, and the result is another very deep ballad with the band’s trademark. Delirious closes the iTunes version in a great manner: another song wtih those riffs only a band like Scorpions can do.

It is quite easy to imagine most of those songs being played live and driving the crowd crazy. Is this the very last Scorpions album? We cannot tell. If so, we know we have in our hands a very intimate album, that take us closer to the lives of those iconic musicians. If not, and we hope it is not, we know we still have a lot to learn with those veterans of Rock N’ Roll. One thing we know for sure: they did their job very well throughout the years, leaving their names carved forever in the world of music.

Best moments of the album: Going Out With A Bang, We Built This House, Rock N’ Roll Band, Rollin’ Home and Gypsy Life.

Worst moments of the album: The World We Used to Know.

Released in 2015 Sony Music

Track listing
1. Going Out With A Bang 3:47
2. We Built This House 3:53
3. Rock My Car 3:20
4. House Of Cards 5:05
5. All For One 2:58
6. Rock ‘N’ Roll Band 3:54
7. Catch Your Luck And Play 3:33
8. Rollin’ Home 4:03
9. Hard Rockin’ The Place 4:06
10. Eye Of The Storm 4:27
11. The Scratch 3:41
12. Gypsy Life 4:51

Limited Edition/iTunes bonus tracks
13. The World We Used To Know 3:51
14. Dancing With The Moonlight 3:42
15. When The Truth Is A Lie 4:27
16. Who We Are 2:33

iTunes exclusive bonus track
17. Delirious 2:58

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars,lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
James Kottak – drums, backing vocals