Scorpions + Whitesnake
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney NSW
February 26, 2020
This is an amazing evening. To think that we are witnessing two of the icons of hard rock/heavy metal on the one stage, whose collective careers encompass nearly one hundred years of music, mind-blowing. Scorpions have had a fairly stable line-up throughout their career, and it will be amazing to see them tonight. I am really excited about the addition of Micky Dee as well, he is an amazing drummer who has had a huge career. To Whitesnake, I actually saw them in 1994 at Newcastle Workers Club, in all their glam regalia, and they were amazing, David Coverdale smashed it; ‘Soldier of Fortune’ acepella was a goosebump moment. Mr Coverdale has had a stream of lineup changes over the band’s career, he has never had a substandard member, and tonight is no different. My only concern with tonight is there is no warm up act. The shows are always a great opportunity for our home-grown artists, but there is nothing much we can do about that.
Adding a little drama to the evening is the fact that we should have been here on Saturday the 22nd, a few days ago. Klaus Meine actually had to have emergency surgery on Friday to rid some painful kidney stones, and I guess, when you are seventy-two, these things happen. But fast forward five days, in true heavy metal style, he is back on the road. This is on the back of their cancelled first ever show in Sydney, just two years ago, when Scorpions were supporting Def Leppard and Klaus lost his voice. So tonight is a precious evening!!
I actually felt, when I heard that Quodos Bank Arena was to be the venue, that it was a little adventurous. This arena is the biggest in Sydney, and yes in the mid-1980s these bands would have packed it out, but this won’t be happening tonight; especially considering the show was rescheduled at such short notice. I must say, despite my concerns, there is a healthy crowd, and as to be expected it is quite a cross over. The old school have turned out in full force, but nicely done, they have brought along their kids! On top of this there seems to be a reasonable percentage of young punters here on their own! This is great to see!!! Unfortunately, it won’t be too long when such acts like tonight just cease to exist. Despite the music being timeless, and both bands material having stood the test of time, the band members themselves won’t, they can’t do this forever. The day when these shows stop will actually be really sad.
But enough of that negativity, Scorpions and Whitesnake ARE here tonight, and we are about to be transfixed within their collective hard rock trance. Whitesnake hit the stage a little after seven thirty and they sound and look amazing; despite a substandard mix. David Coverdale was born a hard rock frontman, and tonight he is doing what he does best, command a room. His voice is still strong, but he is supported extremely well in the backing vocal department. noted in their opening track Bad Boys from the album 1987. Actually, I must note the band’s last album, released in 2019, Flesh & Blood, asthe new material is strong and a solid hark back to their 80’s hey day!! I band hit on a few tracks from the album, ‘Trouble is Your Middle Name’, ‘Shut up and Kiss Me’ and ‘Hey You (You Make Me Rock)’ which sit in the set extremely well, and the crowd are definitely familiar with this new material, which is great to see.
The entire band are firing tonight, as I expected, and it is great to see Tommy Aldridge, a heavy metal drummer who has played on so many iconic albums that it would take me a couple of pages to list them. He is actually seventy this year, in August, so to see him, on a stage like this, playing so well, is just a huge treat. His drum solos was great (big call for me as I generally find them boring). I love it!! The guitar section that Coverdale has pulled together is Reb Beach, who has been in the band for some time and was an original member of Winger, and Joel Hoekstra, another seasoned musician who has been with the band for time; he also played with Cher for a while about ten years ago. Both guitarists pull off the classics with integrity and perfect synchronicity. They compliment each other extremely well, and the melody of the set just rides on their fingers. They actually did a solo section where they played back and forth, I think to give Mr Coverdale a rest, and it worked really well, ending in a harmonised rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’. The other member I must mention is Michelle Luppi on keyboards. This guy is an amazing vocalist, who has sung on a number of projects, the best in my opinion being Vision Divine; check them out of you haven’t already. His keyboards are flawless and his harmonising with Dave is brilliant, his vocal sound tonight is breathtaking and he carried the vocal melodies a far bit.
I need to now focus on the songs, and really there are not a lot of surprises here, but really, this is not disappointing in the least! We got all of the Whitesnake classics ‘Slide it In’, ‘Love ain’t no Strange’r,’ Is this Love’, ‘Fool for your Lovin’, and the encore ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Still of the Night’. Disappointing for me, we heard no Deep Purple masterpieces, but Whitesnake were amazing, I am so glad that I got to see them in 2020. The interplay with the band and audience was also very strong throughout the set. David Coverdale is seventy next year and I don’t think there will be too many more Australian tours for him. Just amazing!
Now to headliner number two! Scorpions hit the stage around nine thirty and the venue, after the last set, is a buzz!! The band really are against the wall as they open their set because Whitesnake, a seasoned headliner within themselves, really got this place moving. The stage is set up, essentially, as a large screen which projects graphics throughout the show and it works extremely well. The opening of the set takes on a helicopter ride through a city at night and the technology, the visual imagery, is amazing, and the audience was sincerely transfixed. The band come out with two quick tracks and by the second, ‘Make it Real’, the sound is crystal. They look good, focussed, sapping off the energy already in the room, and making their own contribution. The band power their way through a number of songs in quick succession, including ‘The Zoo’and ‘Catch the Train’, and just keep the momentum of the evening at full speed ahead. Klaus Meine is still singing with such proficiency and class and at seventy two years of ago, and fifty three years into his career, this is brilliant! He was a little ginger on his feet tonight, and that is to be understood considering the last week, but he has definitely still got it. And honestly, let’s be clear, he has sung on some of the most important heavy metal albums of all time, and he is one of the most celebrated vocalists in hard rock and heavy metal history. It is a dream come true for me, to see him sing. Rudolf Schenker, who is also incidentally seventy-two, commanded the stage with pure presence and class, and his guitar playing was so solid. His offsider, Matthias Jabs, just a youngster at sixty-five, complimented his virtuoso guitarist and carried the bands lead work. These guys have actually been playing together in the band for over forty-two years. These three make up the heart of the band, having carried the flag for Scorpions for so long and across so many albums and tours.
The bands set, again, much like Whitesnake, was extremely predictable and extremely non-disappointing. Songs such as ‘Tease Me Please Me’, ‘Big City Nights’ and ‘Blackout’ (one of my all-time favourites) were so powerful, and quite emotional to hear love for the first time. However, the tracks that stood out were in the middle of the set. The band all came forward, on a cat walk, even Micky Dee, with a small kit and the band played ‘Send Me an Angel’ and ‘Winds of Change’. Both tracks, amazing studio songs, worked so well stripped back and the whole crowd was into it.
It is hard to believe that with the band’s Sting in the Tail album, released in 2010, they were actually retiring, but here they are a decade later still going strong, and still so relevant to the hard rock and live music scene. I need to mention Mickey Dee’s drum solo, now again, as I mentioned earlier, I am not a normal fan of the drum solo, but he won me over. He played with intermittent imagery on the screens, his drums rose five metres in to the air, and he played a coordinated section whereby on each bass drum hit a different album came up on the screen. What meta fan could possibly be bored by this?
The encore came very quickly as the set just flew by! The band played ‘Still Loving You‘, a great sing a long, and they finished with the epic arena classic, ‘Rock You like a Hurricane’, and this was another goosebump moment. The band were very humbled by the audience tonight. They were also very apologetic about the re-scheduling, and of course the fact that it has taken them so long to tour Australia. But no one was upset about this tonight, this was truly a one-off evening, an evening that really, in many respects, cannot be repeated, for a number of reasons discussed. It would have been electrifying to see these bands together in their 1980s commercial peak, but you know what, I feel more privileged to see this line-up in 2020 when, as a loyal fan today, the reflection is not on how many albums they are currently selling, or how many magazine covers they are adorning, but as a celebration of the fact that the quality of their music has stood the test of time, and are even more relevant, and more important to the music scene today, especially as it appears to be disintegrating in to computerised disposable consumerism. Long live Whitesnake and Scorpions, it is impossible for any person in this room tonight to walk away disappointed.
Gig Review by Mark Snedden