By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Matt Nielson)
February 18th 2017, Malone’s, Santa Ana CA: German classic hard rockers Scorpions have a long 50-year history, stylistically divided into the krautrock-influenced albums of the ’70s and the “commercial” sound that dominated their music in the ’80s and onwards. But of course, it is further segregated based on the various lead guitar players they had through these eras. Ulrich Roth, better known as Uli Jon Roth, was in the band from ’73-’78 and contributed to four studio albums. His last shows with the band were in Tokyo, Japan in 1978, which were recorded for the ‘Tokyo Tapes’ live album, released the same year.
Nearly 40 years later, while the Scorpions continue to play arenas in their current incarnation, Uli Jon Roth is also equally active, albeit on a more intimate level. In 2015, he revisited the venue of the original ‘Tokyo Tapes’ concerts, played the same set of songs with his band, and recorded it for his own release, simply titled ‘Tokyo Tapes Revisited – Live in Japan’. The DVD+CD package was released in December 2016, and amidst high demands to present the same concert worldwide, Uli Jon Roth is now on an extensive North American headline tour to play a full set of songs from his Scorpions years. The itinerary also comprised a comprehensive run of dates in California, including a gig in the Orange County area, at Malone’s in Santa Ana on Saturday February 18th. Fans of Uli, old-school Scorpions and classic hard rock/metal packed the venue, and did not leave disappointed.
Right before the headline act, Los Angeles based melodic/power metal trio Ninth Circle hit the main stage at 9:45, playing an excellent 35-minute set that served as the ideal appetizer for the main course. This band has been in existence for quite a number of years and are experienced and adept at the art of creating and playing fist-pumping, horn-raising old-school metal. Decorated by great clean singing, nifty guitar work and a busy rhythm section, their tunes were well-received by the audience, and aside from a selection of their original compositions from all three studio albums, including instantly catchy songs like ‘Revolution, ‘The Power Of One’ and ‘All or Nothing’, they also put forth a righteous rendition of Riot’s ‘Warrior’ towards the end of the short set. The sheer quality of this band’s music and live show deems them worthy of every opportunity of this kind, and unlike some classic metal shows in the past where they were too low down on the bill, they deservedly took the main support slot this time.
Ninth Circle set list:
01. Forever More
03. Grinding Bastards
04. Living On the Sun
05. The Power of One
06. Warrior (Riot cover)
07. All or Nothing
At 11:15, Uli Jon Roth and his band arrived on stage in a venue that was as packed as it has ever been, as loud, massive cheers echoed around the room. The guitar maestro’s very first on-stage expression was that of confusion and frustration, as his stage fan was not in place and he gestured to his roadie/tech to amend that situation at the soonest possible. These are the seemingly little things that can majorly affect the mood of a performing artist, specially when it comes to stage setup. But fortunately, the stage fan was set in place almost immediately, Uli’s mood brightened drastically, and he and his band of amazing musicians began the set. Time constraints would not allow them to traverse the entire list of songs included on the recently released live album, not just here but anywhere on this tour for that matter, but they still played a major chunk of it, and this awe-struck crowd adored every single moment of it.
It was clear that Uli still loves revisiting material from his Scorpions days, because he is the kind of performer who wouldn’t even touch these songs if that wasn’t the case. It took him one or two songs in the beginning to get in full flow, but once he was, it was almost as if his instrument ruled him and his muscle memory took over. He is heralded as a true guitar maestro, and for guitar players and non-players alike, watching Uli Jon Roth in his element is nothing short of enlightening. He used his custom single-neck as well as double-neck guitars for the show, guitars that fit his personality so well and enhance the aesthetic visual aspect of the performance. His vocals were also equally enchanting, and he has clearly kept himself healthy and active through his years to be able to perform at his peak even now, at the age of 62.
But as overwhelmingly incredible as Uli Jon Roth was, the contribution of his band must not be undermined, and without them, the show wouldn’t have been even half as compelling. Niklas Turmann played bass and delivered lead vocals with amazingly effortless ease, perfectly channeling and replicating Klaus Meine without breaking sweat. David Klosinski on the second guitar, Corvin Bahn on keyboards and vocals, and Jamie Little on drums rounded out this brilliant lineup of great musicians that certainly proved they were worthy of sharing the stage with a legend like Uli Jon Roth.
So smooth and natural was the performance by Uli and his band, none of them were showing any signs of tiring and could have easily played all night if they were allowed to. They ended at 1 AM, the audience left still wanting more even after a 105-minute set. Uli Jon Roth’s ‘Tokyo Tapes Revisited’ tour is an absolute blessing for classic rock/metal fans and guitar players alike, and will be remembered as one of the greatest concerts of the modern era.
If you like what you’ve read, make a donation of any amount and help keep Metal Assault running full time!
More Uli Jon Roth photos:
‘Tokyo Tapes Revisited’: Remaining North American tour dates:
02/20/2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky-A-Go-Go
02/21/2017 – Petaluma, CA @ Mystic Theater
02/22/2017 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
02/23/2017 – Sacramento, CA @ Goldfield Trading Post
02/24/2017 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom
02/25/2017 – Vancouver, BC @ BC Venue
02/26/2017 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
03/02/2017 – Savage, MN @ Neisens
03/03/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
03/04/2017 – St Charles, IL @ Arcada Theater
03/05/2017 – Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
03/06/2017 – Detroit, MI @ Token Lounge
03/07/2017 – Toronto, ON @ The Rock Pile
03/08/2017 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombes
03/09/2017 – Quebec, QC @ L’Anti
03/10/2017 – Ottawa, ON @ The Brass Monkey
03/11/2017 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
03/12/2017 – Londonderry, NH @ Tupelo Music Hall
03/13/2017 – Sellersville, PA @ Sellersville Theater
03/14/2017 – Manhattan, NY @ BB King’s