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Band to the Bone

Monster rockers the Scorpions ignited the Cow Palace during its collaboration with the San Jose Symphony

By Sarah Quelland

Classic rock station 107.7 FM "The Bone" brought German hard-rock band the Scorpions into San Francisco for a special collaboration with members of the San Jose Symphony to launch its inaugural Bone Bash last Saturday (Sept. 30) at the Cow Palace.

There was quite a turnout for this unique engagement. Pat Travers and Led Zeppelin tribute band Heartbreaker gave free performances inside one of the Palace's exhibition halls, and by the time the crowd cleared out of there, the line of ticket holders waiting to enter the arena snaked clear into the parking lot and snarled into a coiling mass.

My companion and I were running late due to the incredible line, and Night Ranger was nearly finished by the time we got inside. After sweet-talking the promoter to let us in the side gate, we had the surprise bonus of walking in with Troy Luccketta (best remembered as Tesla's drummer), who had driven in for the occasion. (In the '90s, Tesla toured with the Scorpions in Europe, and now, though Tesla has been broken up for years, the band has a special one-night reunion concert scheduled for Oct. 25 in their hometown Sacramento at the Arco Arena with 3 Doors Down and Oleander.)

Finding our seats midway through Night Ranger's "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," the hit single that broke the band in the early '80s, I thought we'd missed its whole set. But the Scorpions encouraged Night Ranger to carry on, and the pseudo-encore included the epic rock ballad "Sister Christian" and the scorching closing anthem ("You Can Still) Rock in America."

Looking around the Palace during the break between bands, I estimated there were probably as many people still lined up outside the venue as there were already inside--but the place would soon be absolutely packed with more than 9,000 avid fans. I couldn't believe the Scorpions--a band that was initially founded as a pop band in 1965 and regrouped as a hard rock band in 1971--was so popular after all these years.

This admittedly unusual event came about after the Scorpions' collaboration with the world-class Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra earlier this year for Moment of Glory (a concept that, according to the band, was in the works since 1994, several years before Metallica's S&M was born).

To promote the album, the band came to the U.S. to do four similar performances (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco), and its collaboration with the San Jose Symphony for the last stop was an ambitious undertaking on both parts. It was a big production, with all five members of the Scorpions (Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Ralph Rieckermann and James Kottak), three backup singers and a reported 66 members of the symphony conducted by renowned Austrian music arranger Christian Kolonovits who was imported for the brief tour.

Dubbed the Bone Bash, the concert was a huge party with balloons and beach balls dancing across people's heads and rolls of toilet paper flying through the crowd. "You're watching something special tonight," Meine informed the audience, as the concert turned into a full-blown celebration complete with guest appearances (Night Ranger's Jack Blades joined the Scorpions on "Big City Nights," and singer Lyn Liechty joined singer Meine for a duet on the new song "Here in My Heart").

Still, while the band was in fine form, with Meine kicking vigorously around the stage, the symphony wasn't as full, brash and imposing as I'd hoped, and there were only a few songs on which I felt the orchestra really stood out. Particularly memorable were the hymn "Wind of Change," which lends itself extremely well to orchestral music, and the "Battle of the Giants" portion, which pitted the rock legends against the symphony.

The Scorpions played more than 10 songs, including the new "We Don't Own the World" and "Send Me an Angel." Absent were once-popular singles "I Can't Explain" and "Rhythm of Love." During the first encore with the symphony, Meine yelled, "San Francisco, we're still loving you baby!" before launching into "Still Loving You," followed by the band's 1982 single "No One Like You."

As the symphony exited, and the crowd started to shuffle toward the door, the Scorpions came back for one last song. After opening the concert with "Hurricane 2000" (a reworked version of "Rock You Like a Hurricane"), the band performed its second encore without the symphony and closed out the night with a fiery, unrestrained version of the song.

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Web exclusive to the October 5-11, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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