The German band that helped usher in the guitar laden, heavy rock that would become known as 80’s hair metal helped usher out summer for a crowd of 10,000 or so at FivePoint Amphitheater in Irvine, CA. The Scorpions, along with special guest Queensryche delivered a reprieve from a holiday weekend barbecue in the form of the Crazy World tour. As an added bonus, being a three-day weekend, those coming from all four points on the compass were also freed from the grind of the usual traffic. The amnesty granted by the traffic gods resulted in a larger crowd having gathered for the opening act.
Seattle-formed Queensryche, who burst upon the scene with the release of their self-titled EP in 1983, play nine songs, culled mostly from their 1986 through 1990 releases. They launch their performance with the first of four Empire tunes, Best I Can. If one has never seen them perform with Todd La Torre presiding as vocalist, one thing quickly becomes apparent: He can do the songs more than justice. La Torre crisscrosses the stage, interjecting the majority of the energy into the production. Guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson are the only two original members who are currently part of the touring band, and Wilton’s presence is integral to capture the signature guitar tone.
The lone newer tune in the evening’s array, from their most recent release, Condition Human is a song that harkens back to their metal roots. Guardian is a song reminiscent in style of the band’s earlier music. Prior to the new number, the quintet execute the title track to Empire, and follow Guardian with what may be their most cognitively associated piece, Silent Lucidity. During Silent Lucidity, the entire group, including touring members Mike Stone/rhythm guitar and Casey Grillo/drums cohere as a unit to deliver a precise rendition. They rev up the energy with an early era treat, Queen of the Reich. La Torre’s voice seems to evade him at the apex of the chorus, but he powered through. Jet City Woman and Eyes of a Stranger bookend the final three numbers. It seems with only two acts on the bill, they could have played a bit longer of a set, but all in all, they delighted the crowd and properly warmed them up.
With the exiting summer, so too departs the late sunset. The headliners appear on stage at 8:40 pm, and the sky is already completely dark. The opening number is Going Out With a Bang, and they do. Although the bangs tend to be more sonic than physical, it’s not 1984 any longer, so vocalist Klaus Meine isn’t going to be jumping off the drum riser these days. Meine’s voice is still as sharp as ever though, so it’s well worth the trade-off. Next are four Scorpions classics and set staples. Rhythm guitarist and founding member Rudolf Schenker plays the opening riff to Make It Real. The song comes to life when lead guitarist Mathias Jabs joins in with the lead. The reggae styled Is There Anybody There? is next. The Zoo follows and the mob of thousands enthusiastically sings the title words when prompted by Meine. The four stage level performers including bassist Pawel Maciwoda come to the jut out at the front of the stage to rock the end of the guitar instrumental Coast to Coast, during which Meine even joins in on guitar.
They carry on, paying homage to albums two through five with a medley of four pre-Lovedrive tunes, Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train. The presentation takes an atmospheric turn with Delicate Dance, Send Me an Angel and Winds of Change. This three tune subset shows the softer side of the hard rock pioneers. The heat gets turned back up for the ensuing numbers, which include a blistering paced Motorhead tune, in tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, called Overkill. After Blackout, drummer Mikkey Dee’s riser, which is already ten feet above the stage, is raised by cables while he plays a five-minute drum solo. Big City Nights is the closing number for the main set. When the band return to the stage for a two song encore, Schenker continues to entertain the audience as he did throughout the show. Schenker titillates the folks in attendance with lunges, some jumps, and an electrifying spirit that definitely does not befit his age, but maybe that of someone 20 years younger. No One Like You tees up the finale of the evening, Rock You Like a Hurricane. The FivePoint crowd disburses into the evening, and thankfully, the only inclement weather in the forecast was the hurricane like the one with which they were rocked.
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