“Out with a Bang.” The Scorpions opened their set with an explosive number that could equally describe the prospects of the musicians performing it. The five-person ensemble has nearly as many years between them as the city of Montreal. Lead singer Klaus Meine (69), guitarist Rudolf Schenker (69), guitarist Matthias Jabs (61), bassist Pawel Maciwada (50) and drummer Mikkey Dee (53) are all pushing the norm of human limits. Yet, aside from the usual cliches about golden age tours, however, these guys could still put on a solid show. Remarkably, Klaus’ voice is still in near-peak condition, and the demanding alto-tenor range of the Scorpions’ canon was not betrayed by those well-experienced pipes.
The same, for better or worse, could not be said of Megadeth‘s frontman Dave Mustaine, whose voice has gone from the original range of slightly guttural musings and howling calls, to nearly full-blown Tom-Waits territory. I can see how some could appreciate the shift with age, and almost understand how the cynical battlecries of MD’s lyrics are even enhanced with these newly gristled vocal chords. Perhaps in a rare comparison, the state of Mustaine’s voice reminded me sadly of the most recent time I saw Bob Dylan. They both have a certain enduring following, but the crackling echo of what their mouth used to produce creates an eery effect. Everyone in the audience listens to them but is also not present, their minds wrapped around something else: imagining what their hero used to sound like. Alas. Yet anything this corner of the ‘big 4’ heavy metal bands lacked on the microphone they more than made up for shredding – Dave’s fingers were in full form, along with both his guitar and bass backers Kiko Loureiro and David Ellefson, respectively, with Dirk Verbeuren on drums. The finale medley of Holy Ways/Punishment Due was epic.
MegaDeth lit up the Place Bell and played a brief 9 song set, even ending slightly ahead of schedule. The rock-faithful milled about sampling the limited assortment of beers and concessions before returning to be treated to what can only be described as an ‘IMAX-like’ introductory video, dropping our Scorpion guitar heroes onto the stage cinematically like a SWAT-team repelling from a helicopter.
Say what you will about 80s rock and grandfather tours, these musicians put on a two-hour set in their 60s and kept the Laval crowd on their feet from start to finish. I was patiently waiting for fatigue to set in among the floor crowd, standing above their folding chairs like tired seagulls in a storm. But these fans never surrendered. In fact, as the night wore on their enthusiasm hit fever pitch, until they sent off their encore band by singing the lyrics to both finale songs “Still Loving You” and, of course, “Hurricane.”
Any rock fan that has been to a live show, especially somewhere in the dizzy early teen ages of fandom, knows how awesome it is to catch a drum stick from your band. Well Klaus brought out a set of drumsticks – maybe multiple sets – I counted at least a dozen sticks distributed by him alone – already by the third song of the set. If being a Grandpa makes you this generous, then bring on the grandpa rock tours. He made a lot of people happy that night.
Klaus had a local touch, and tried out a lot of enthusiastic French with the crowd. “Vous-allez bien Laval??” he would shout to loud, engaged stadium fans. Yet, with the giant background of a Canadian flag for “Make it Real,” I was left wondering how really local his knowledge was… Would not a Fleur de Lys made for an even more fiercely excited Laval crowd? Were there some legal restrictions on the constitutionality of Rock-show video backgrounds? Such is Canada.
Having been connected in many ways, the loss of Lemmy, lead singer of Motörhead, still figures in Scorpions’ performances. We were treated to memoire of photographs, and then a ballistic cover of “Overkill” before heading into a drum solo that saw Mikkey elevated 20 feet up on an illuminated drumming platform as the crowd cheered him. The man’s charming persona, facial expressions and showmanship easily made him the people’s champion for the night – a great addition to replace Kottak and those before him.
The gold medal for this tour should really go to whoever serves as Klaus’ vocal coach though, because they are doing an impeccable job. Months away from being 70, visibly aged, during the concert you could close your eyes and imagine it was 1982 again and “No One Like You” was still topping the charts. Impeccable vocal range, and even lithe enough to run around on stage while pointing the mic stand at the crowd to sing along with the classic ballad, “Winds of Change.”
And sing along, they did. These Laval/Montreal metal faithful were no slouches. On cue with lighters and cell-phone lights for the solemn songs, singing along with each lyric, the energy of the audience alone might have transported you back. The band was so touched they even took the chance to visibly conduct the crowd cheering the standard “Olé-olé-olé” before the encore. Really beautiful vibe between performer and audience.
Time is time, and like the inevitable hands of the clock, the set rolled around to the most well-known song of this amazing band’s long run, “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” Anyone who was alive in the 80s knows the lyrics to the chorus – I do and I was even born in the 80s. But the power of those first drum-smashes still work – even the wings of the stadium were on their feet to sing out “Here I am!” This gaggle of rockstars from Europe raised the roof in Laval. Will they be back? Only time will tell, but from my firsthand experience, I can tell you that timeless rock seems to have a tendency of generating ageless rockstars.
Review – David Loach
Photos – Arianne Bergeron