|Dead End Drive In – Now Showing: ‘Scorpions – Forever And A Day’ (Eagle Vision)|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Sunday, 13 November 2016 03:00|
In 2010, German metal titans Scorpions announced their intention to retire from the music business, following the world tour to promote their just released ‘Sting In The Tail’ album. Of course, as we all know, that was a somewhat premature pronouncement…
As the tour progressed, and was extended by a full six months to the end of 2012, things constantly changed, as this documentary reveals. Towards its conclusion, it became very obvious that this was not the final chapter in the band’s storied five-decade career. Indeed, just nine months after what was supposed to be their last ever live show, they returned to the stage, with a series of ‘MTV Unplugged’ shows in Athens, before reprising their infamous orchestral shows in Russia and Ukraine – two territories with a special resonance for the Scorps. Then, in 2015 – marking their 50th anniversary year – they released the ‘Return To Forever’ album, followed by, yes, more touring (including an appearance at last year’s inaugural Ramblin’ Man Fair)… and with the recruitment earlier this year of former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee, things would seem to indicate that there is more to come?
This documentary, helmed by German director Katja von Garnier, was filmed during that supposed farewell tour and follows the band from Germany to Thailand, Lebanon, Russia and the USA. Starting with the press conference at which Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine revealed their then planned retirement, it quickly ploughs straight into the origins of the band back in the early 1960s, with (frankly hysterical) photos of the young Rudolf and his brother Michael in lederhosen, as the older sibling recalls his first encounters with rock ‘n’ roll and Meine tells of his mother going into debt to buy him his first microphone. The story moves quickly – from the younger Schenker recalling how his older brother only asked Meine to sing in the band because he was shorter than him, through an early disaster of a gig in a local tennis club to the signing of their first record deal (“it was like having sex for the first time” recalls Meine of his feelings on holding the first pressing of their first album).
In between the usual batch of insightful interviews – all recorded in German (even the English-language sections are overdubbed and then subtitled) – the film relies heavily on what Meine dubs the “Scorpio cam”, which gives up close and personal access to both the band (including drummer James Kottak’s hotel bedroom as he waits to hear whether or not they’re playing that night – which we’ll come to in a minute) and their interaction with promoters, journalists and, most importantly, their fans.
There are some very emotional moments. The first comes in the band’s return to Moscow, which is intercut with footage from the infamous 1989 ‘Peace Festival’ which they headlined above much bigger stars such as Bon Jovi and Ozzy Osbourne: of course, Scorpions had already broken the ground for this historic event, with the previous year’s 21 city ‘Living’ tour. A particularly important moment in rock history is reflected in an all-too-rare interview with then Soviet premier (and almost star-struck) Mikael Gorbachev.
Another emotional return is to France where they “christened” the then newly-opened Bercy arena on leap year day in 1984. Halfway through the show, Meine suffered the start of vocal problems which were to plague him for the next few years… but guitarist Matthias Jabs recalls how the crowd picked up the baton and sang every word of every remaining song. Ironically, almost three decades later, virtually on the eve of selling the same venue out again, it’s most definitely a case of déjà vu as the singer again suffers throat problems, leading to the cancellation of a show in Tours – as late manager Peter Amend recalls, only the third time in 21 years have done so… After a section detailing Meine’s struggle to get vocally fit again (“he used all sorts of massaging techniques… electromagnets…” as Jabs recalls, alongside footage of the band walking through a room filled with the sort of equipment Meine might have used): of course, this chapter had a happy ending, as the Paris show went ahead and proved one of the greatest highs of the tour.
Another remarkable segment is that in which bassist Pawel Mąciwoda got the news, as the tour wound to its conclusion, that his mother had died. With only five dates left, he took the painful decision to continue. Then, almost immediately, Klaus Meine received the same personal hammer blow. The Scorps were in Ukraine at the time, and Meine calmly recounts how, having been handed a flag, he had to throw it over his head as he “lost it” during ‘Send Me An Angel’.
This DVD comes with the subtitle ‘The Story Of A Band The Story Of A Dream’. When it was being filmed, it was supposed to be the end of the story of this particular band, and the end of the dream as far as its protagonists were concerned. Subsequent events very obviously have overtaken, well, the events portrayed herein: but this does not detract from ‘Forever And A Day’ as a evocation of a story well told.
It comes with a beautifully filmed capture of what was supposed to be that last ever concert, at the Scorps’ “hometown” Munich Olympiahalle on 17 December 2012. It’s a set rammed to the gills with all the band’s greatest hits. Ironically, the band talk quite a bit during the documentary of how they initially were not accepted in their homeland, but this footage shows how Germany ultimately came not only to embrace their first great heavy metal ambassadors but also to do so with deserved pride.
The Scorpions play the following dates:
Sunday 20 November – Dijon, Zénith
Wednesday 23 November – Cologne, Lanxess Arena
Friday 25 November – Leipzig, Arena
Sunday 27 November – Frankfurt, Festhalle
Tuesday 29 November – Hamburg, Barclaycard Arena
Friday 2 December – Berlin, Mercedes-Benz Arena