With all the tight black leather pants, long hair and a rock ‘n’ roll attitude on stage Friday at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, one didn’t need a Hot Tub Time Machine to relive the ’80s. Unlike the movie where Cusak and company had to suffer through Brett Michaels and Poison, the packed house of hair metal fans witnessed rock royalty with a fit opening band. With all the blogs and stories online about Live Nation concerts ticket sales declining and major concert attendance in a down year overall, it was good to see people coming out to support the rock icons Scorpions and Ratt. Both are currently on tour in support of 2010 releases.
Co-headliner Ratt opened the show with a less-than-stellar set, even for Ratt. Not known to most for more than just “Round and Round” or “Wanted Man,” the San Diego glam-rockers did please the fans in attendance none the less. If this concert wasn’t in San Antonio, also known as the black t-shirt and hair metal capital of Texas, it would have been surprising. As in every city, the local crowd screamed in delight at lead singer Stephen Pearcy’s constant verbal thanks to the city of “San Antone.” Besides their two most popular mainstream hits mentioned above, Ratt performed what seemed to be a “Best Of” set that also included “Nobody Rides for Free” and “Loving You Is A Dirty Job.” In support of their new album, Infestation, Ratt performed the album’s first single which was “Best Of Me” Despite the catalog of hair metal rock singles, nothing excited like “Round and Round.”
In what was a fit opening set for Scorpions, Ratt lacked the energy of the early arena hair metal band of old. Sure, no one expects them to rock like they’re 25 in 2010. However, being that it was their high-energy, decadent party-rock sound that got them famous, one would expect a little more craziness on stage. Despite that, the “San Antone” crowd in attendance sincerely appreciated their set.
After a few minutes of bad Nickelback tunes and early Metallica (thank goodness) between set changeover, the concert’s headliner and rock legends, Scorpions, took the stage. Accompanied by a thunderous applause and an epic visual background on the monitors behind the stage, the German rockers immediately stepped on stage as if they never lost a step. Coming out of the gate earl with their classic, “The Zoo”, and set to a visual backdrop behind the stage that flashed everything from a desert highway setting to shadowing effects of a topless woman in a thong.
It wasn’t until they played their single, “The Best Is Yet To Come”off their new album Sting In The Tail, did the concert really feel like a live experience versus just hearing band performing to emulate the songs’ sound on the records. Scorpion lead singer, Klause Meine, just took over and reminded everyone what a rock power ballad is not only supposed to sound like, but how it should be performed live in an arena setting. In true power ballad style, Meine made sure to involve the crowd in singing along to the chorus and ended the song three times before actually ending the song. Way to sell a single and new album right? Subliminal repetition is key.
Shortly thereafter, in true rock royalty fashion, drummer James Kottak came down from the highly elevated drum riser to sit with the rest of the band at the front of the stage to assist Meine in performing the classic “Send Me An Angel” and “Holiday”set to an acoustic guitar and cajon drum. Meine absolutely nailed both vocally and reminded us all about Scorpion’s ability to write timeless pop songs as well as rock anthems. Once again Meine held out the mic stand encouraging the crowd to sing along. He really didn’t have to as they were doing so all along, but it is a great arena rock star move none the less.
The highlight of the whole night and what will make this concert stand out for years to come was not the performance of “Big City Nights” or the epic encore that included “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” It was when James Kottak began what looked to be the token drum solo. As Kottak was pounding away at the drums, the giant screens behind the stage started showing different scenes in which Kottak was featured. During the first segment, Kottak was in an animal cage and then sky diving the next minute. Somewhere after the skydiving Kottak ended up on a beach and then a torturous hostile setting getting his nipples shocked. All these different scenarios led to a still of Kottak in each of the different Scorpion’s album cover art. The scenes included cover art from Pure Instinct, Crazy World, Fly To The Rainbow, Love At First Sting, Loverdrive and Blackout. It was one the most visually and conceptually creative drum solo in the history of rock and roll, period.
The lone disappointment of the night and of the Scorpions set was the fact they did not perform their biggest hit, “Wind Of Change.” For many this was the first and probably the only opportunity to see Scorpions in concert and to leave that off the set list let a lot of fans down. It is easy to understand why a band would get sick of certain songs that were monster singles, but it is no excuse to cheat fans old and new out of the experience of hearing it live after purchasing a ticket with their hard earned money. Many were screaming for it, but it didn’t happen. The look of bewilderment in the crowd after Scorpions finished their encore was something not often seen by fans so loyal and die hard to a band. Despite leaving “Wind Of Change” off the set list, no one left disappointed. Friday night there was an energy at The AT&T Center not felt since the Spurs won the NBA championship a few years ago. Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure felt that way after (or during?) the show.
Scorpions and Ratt performed at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on July 23, 2010.