RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Scorpions – MTV Unplugged: Live in Athens (CD/DVD)
Sony Music
http://www.the-scorpions.com/english/

 

Rating: A-

 

After their fans get ahold of the new DVD/CD MTV Unplugged: Live in Athens, the demand for the Scorpions to remain on their Farewell Tour may keep the band on the road for twenty more years! 

 

This band of Germans (well, three main ones anyway: vocalist Klaus Meine, guitarist Rudolf Schenker and guitarist Matthias Jabs, who are either a founding member, or band members since the 1970’s), undertook a major challenge when they climbed a mountaintop in Athens, Greece and recorded twenty-five songs for MTV.

 

The concert was filmed in September of 2013, and features many of the band’s biggest hits as well as some deep album cuts along with five new songs -all with new acoustic arrangements.  Not bad for a band that is retiring! 

 

This is the first time MTV Unplugged has been recorded in an outdoor setting.  MTV producers and the Scorps picked a great venue -the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens , Greece- which added an incredible visual and musical ambiance to the show.  As a testament to the Scorpions massive worldwide appeal, this DVD release is on the shelves in over fifty countries around the world. 

 

There are many key reasons as to why this release works so well.  For starters, the Scorpions have never been afraid to re-interpret their music.  They have done acoustic albums and albums with orchestras, so the desire, creativity and bravery were already present.  They also didn’t want to repeat what they had done before, so they worked hard to make sure these songs were arranged properly and presented something new and exciting to their hardcore fans. 

 

Guitarist Matthias Jabs, along with Swedish musicians and producers Mikael Nord Andersson (guitars, mandolin, lap steel, vocals) and Martin Hansen (guitars, harmonica, vocals), took great care in making the acoustic versions special for this once-in-a-lifetime performance. 

 

There are literally an army of guitars on-stage on any given song.  Joining the acoustic onslaught are backing vocalists, a string section, their drummer, James Kottak, their bassist, Pawel Maciwoda and a few guest lead vocalists who duet with Meine. 

 

What makes this all work is the fact that the Scorpions are not afraid to be themselves despite how their songs are performed.  Perhaps a distorted guitar line is replaced with a harmonica, or a blistering lead section is now a gentle acoustic passage; it matters not.  The Scorpions attitude and sound comes through loud and clear. 

 

Granted, some songs work better than others.  In fact, the band’s biggest hits are some of the least exciting when done acoustically.  “Rock You Like a Hurricane” starts out with a cool reworking that grinds and builds, but once the main part of the song hits, it is not nearly as interesting as what the band did with “Wind of Change.”  “No One Like You” is a great song no matter what, but this version is simply okay, as they were not able to really put the proper nuance to it as they did with the song “Hit Between the Eyes.” 

 

All of the songs are performed well, but when it works…yowza does it work.  The band is not afraid to dip back in time during this concert and bring out rare tunes, some of which had never been played live before.  “Speedy’s Coming” and “Pictured Life” are both from the band’s 1970’s era and are not as well known as their later releases... but here, they have such energy and life that they become some of the best moments of the concert.  The emotional and sensitive nature of the ballad “Born to Touch Your Feelings” brings the guest singer literally to tears. 

 

New songs, including the impressive “Dancing in the Moonlight” which works so well in an acoustic setting, have us anticipating and wanting to hear the tune re-worked with the electric solid-bodies plugged in.  Three of the five new songs feature the individual talents of the songs composer.  “Delicate Dance” is an instrumental tune where Jabs takes center stage and shows he can do way more with six strings that just add a talk box.  Rudolf sings a song titled “Love is the Answer,” while Meine picks up a guitar on his song “Follow Your Heart.”  The other new song is titled “Rock N Roll Band” and was written back in the Scorpions heyday of the early ‘80s.  This is another track that will sound loud and bombastic when done in the studio with electric guitars! 

 

Everyone on stage is a true star in their own right.  Jabs, Schenker and Meine are the main attraction, but the string players, the percussionist, and the other band members and vocalists all play with passion and intensity, very much aware they were part of a very special performance. 

 

The man who steals the show, however, is Klaus Meine.  His voice is unique and still sounds strong.  He has a presence of confidence on the stage that makes him simply riveting.  Schenker and Jabs do an amazing job, but on this stage, during these two nights, Meine was spellbinding. 

 

The other star of the show is the set list.  “In Trance” comes alive as a duet, and “Passion Rules the Game” takes on a new personality in this setting.  The mix between classic, deep album cuts and new songs makes this two hour performance literally fly by.  On top of all of this wonderfulness, the DVD features a bonus section on the making of this special event, with in-depth interviews from all involved. 

 

The only reason this review gets an A- and not an A+ is just my selfish desire to wish they had played more of their early stuff… one wonders what “Virgin Killer” or “Steamrock Fever” would have sounded like in this setting.  Other than that, this one is as great an example of what can be accomplished with a little open-mindedness and creativity. 

 

MTV Unplugged Live in Athens shows a band taking chances, but doing so with the self-confidence and passion needed to make it a roaring success.  My heart says there is no way the Scorpions should retire.  They are at the top of their game, and as this show proves, they still have the fire, the technical ability and the creativity to continue on as long as they have the desire to do so.  Let’s hope the success of this special show lights a fire in the belly, as Scorpions fans around the world want just one thing…more! 

 

"MTV Unplugged" track listing:

CD

01. Sting In The Tail
02. Can't Live Without You
03. The Best Is Yet To Come
04. Dancing With The Moonlight (new song)
05. Delicate Dance - new song
06. Love Is The Answer (new song)
07. Follow Your Heart (new song)
08. Send Me An Angel
09. Where The River Flows
10. Rock You Like A Hurricane
11. Blackout
12. Still Loving You
13. Big City Nights
14. Wind Of Change
15. No One Like You

DVD

01. Sting In The Tail
02. Can't Live Without You
03. Pictured Life
04. Speedy's Coming
05. Born To Touch Your Feelings
06. The Best Is Yet To Come
07. Dancing With The Moonlight (new song)
08. In Trance
09. When You Came Into My Life
10. Delicate Dance - new song
11. Love Is The Answer (new song)
12. Follow Your Heart (new song)
13. Send Me An Angel
14. Where The River Flows
15. Passion Rules The Game
16. Rock You Like A Hurricane
17. Hit Between The Eyes
18. Drum-Athenica
19. Rock N' Roll Band (new song)
20. Blackout
21. Still Loving You
22. Big City Nights
23. Wind Of Change
24. No One Like You
25. When The Smoke Is Going Down

 

By Jeb Wright

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