When Scorpions stung Shillong…


The Scorpions came, they saw and they conquered the hearts of the people of Shillong. It might sound superfluous, but that’s exactly what happened when they visited Shillong to open the India chapter of their Humanity tour. And to bring cheer to the Shillongites, vocalist Klaus Meine told media persons in the press prior to the show that the band would try to rock Shillong – the music capital of India.

A band which has always tried to portray the burning topics of the times in their songs, Humanity Hour: 1 is their latest offering in which they talk about the possible destruction of mankind. Instead of their classical ballads and popular soft rocks numbers, Scorpions planned to gave more emphasis on their hard rock numbers over their popular ballads to cater to the tastes of the local crowd. Though the move was meant to placate the sentiments of hard rock loving Shillongites, they were in a surprise for their evergreen classics like Send me an Angel, Always Somewhere, Send me an Angel received pleas for encore from the audience.

Humanity – the latest theme to feature in Scorpions musical agenda however failed to strike a chord amongst the music loving crowd. Maybe it was a result of Humanity Hour: 1 being a very new album; maybe it might be due to the change in the tastes of the crowd; maybe it might be due to the fact that its theme– saving mankind from the throes of self-destruction – is itself outdated. Nonetheless, the songs from the new album were warmly received by the audience in JNU ground on December 12 though the crowd, known for singing along with the earlier performers, failed to do so with the new songs.

To sum up the songs in the new album, for those who don’t know, Love is War seems to indicate that man’s love of technology will lead us to war with our machines. We Will Rise Again is, of course, about mankind rising from the ashes of destruction. This is like Desmond Child’s version of The Matrix, as translated by the Scorpions. Then there is 3-2-1, Are you ready to Rock. Although it remains a mystery as to how it fits into the ‘humanity’ concept, the song is one big, loud rocker and it seemed that this out of context song was the only song from the Humanity series which sent the audience into frenzy that evening.

If we look at it, it is always a gruelling challenge for even the most elitist of bands to strike the ideal balance between music and a lyrical tirade which is neither preachy nor soppy. It becomes even more difficult when the members involved are some sixty years old. Scorpions took over the stage with the same intensity one could see in their earlier shows and despite their members not being exactly young, the present day bands have a lot to learn from them. A few musicians and people who have watched their live performances earlier were of the view that the old-timers have lost a bit of their touch. Despite this drawback, Scorpions are still strong musically if their last live performance in Shillong is anything to go by. It is no longer a mystery as to how the Scorpions have managed to remain strong in the fourth decade of their career. This is the very quality which determines the emergence and nourishment of world-class bands which Scorpions, undoubtedly have.

Anju, a Scorpions fan who was there that evening said, “It was a great show. They are not exactly my favourite band but the songs helped me recollect my childhood days. They may be old but seeing them live, who can even make out that they are four decades old?” Anju is right for one could still hear the trademark Scorpion sound that evening: uncompromising guitar–oriented hard rock; the distinctive Scorpions style which came from the combination of two electric guitars, a fusion of fabulously forceful power riffs with dazzlingly exuberant guitar solos. Though front-man Klaus Meine’s recognisable voice with his highly expressive and polished delivery seemed to falter pitch-wise at times, it was drummer James Kottak who invariably stole the limelight with his beats and on-stage antics.

The performance of the legendary German band also had another sort of subtle impact in the minds of the people of the region. One could see young people holding placards reading “Northeast needs a Wind of Change”. It may be mentioned here that Scorpions had composed the eternal classic Winds of Change as a form of protest to the ongoing cold-war between the United States and the Soviet Union during its last phase.

The eagerly anticipated concert was opened by performances by Shillong’s own local band, Akhiya who performed some of their own popular numbers and one of the earliest and most prolific bands the region has ever produced, Great Society. Lou Majaw and his gang of old boys gave the gathering a glimpse of what to expect later in the evening as the 60-year Khasi guitarist-singer with his shoulder length salt and pepper hair, and in his trademark short shorts, the rocker-poet-troubadour, as the BBC rightly called him, occupied the stage with the confidence only few kicking-veterans of rock can handle so naturally. The performance of Akhiya was also praiseworthy and it proved once again that the Northeast has a very promising musical future ahead after the departure of these mavericks.

All in all, a great concert which was reflected in the behaviour of the crowd. Young and old alike joined hands together to relieve the glory of the eighties with the hope that the winds of change might just blow in the region soon. A large chunk of the crowd comprised of outsiders and around 35 per cent of the crowd was said to be from Guwahati alone. The show was a first of many sorts. Dubbed as a ‘monster rock show’, the JNU ground saw around 200 psychedelic moving lights, 50 tonnes of backline music instruments and giant LCD screens of 80,000 luminosity clarity. Despite this paraphernalia, the overall sound quality was not up to the mark and not what one expects from an international rock concert. It was even worse when the local bands were playing though it improved a bit during the later part of the show.

Thanks to sponsors like Airtel, Shillongites and north-easterners got the chance to get stung by the Scorpions. And what a sweet sting it was!

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Posted on January 15, 2010, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day, Musicians/ Bands and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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