For over 40 years, the Scorpions have been rocking audiences around the world like a hurricane with their incredibly energetic brand of hard rock music. They are an elite live band that never seems to have an off night. After many years of touring, they can basically play their hits on autopilot, but you had to wonder what their songs would sound like stripped down and rearranged to be performed with a battery of guest musicians. By the time that the opening song, “Sting In The Tail” ended, it was obvious that Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens was going to be something special.
The open-air theater atop Mount Lycabettus (908 feet above sea level) is the highest point in Athens. Majestic and awe-inspiring, yet intimate in its own way, Lycabettus Theater provided the perfect setting for a concert that will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to be in attendance. Unlike most concert DVDs, Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens, has such incredible production value, that you actually feel like you have a front row seat while viewing it.
One of the challenges to playing an unplugged concert is that there are no loud amps to cover mistakes or the occasional off-key note. As most singers age, they lose some of their ability to hit the notes that they did in their prime. Klaus Meine, however, is not most singers. Both physically and vocally, Meine seems to have defied the aging process. It is not an exaggeration to say that his voice sounds as good today as it did when the Scorpions broke onto the scene in the early 70’s. And though the band gave Meine a short respite in the middle of the concert with songs like “Delicate Dance” (a Matthias Jabs instrumental) and “Love Is The Answer” (a Rudolf Schenker original that he wrote and sang), Meine basically sang for two straight hours and showed no sign of fatigue. From the opening note of “Sting Of The Tail” to the final note of “When The Smoke Is Going Down,” Meine was nothing short of brilliant.
When the band was originally approached with the idea to do an unplugged concert, they preferred not to do the hit songs that have defined their career. However, after some record label persuasion, they acquiesced and agreed to add the hits to the setlist, but it wouldn’t have mattered if they didn’t. While the hits were rearranged beautifully, the songs that never get played in concert were just as enjoyable, maybe even more so.
From the string section to the variety of instruments which included a citar, mandolins and an accordion (to name a few), in addition to guest singers, the enthusiastic Greek crowd was treated to the most diverse and original Scorpions concert ever. The extra footage on the DVD showed just how much work and rehearsal went into making this concert one for the ages.
Perfect is not a word that is often associated with a live concert performance, but it is an accurate description of Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens. Perfection in rock music may seem to indicate a certain sterile quality lacking in emotion, but in this case, the flawless execution of every song enhanced the experience in a very moving way.
Tears streamed down Greek actress, Dimitra Kokkori’s face during the powerful spoken word performance that she delivered in the middle of “Born To Touch Your Feelings.” When interviewed in the bonus footage, she explained that she cried because she was very honored and grateful to be a part of the concert.
The emotions continued to stir as the band performed “The Best Is Yet To Come” with the crowd singing in unison as arms waved, illuminating the night sky with lighters. This song and “Follow Your Heart” were both incredibly inspirational, eliciting feelings of hope and optimism.
One of the highlights of the concert was the duet with Meine and Cäthe on “In Trance.” The chemistry between the two made it feel like she has always been a part of the band. A more surprising guest singer was Morten Harket (of A-ha fame) joining Meine on stage to perform “Wind Of Change.” The unlikely duo worked very well together, as did Meine with Johannes Strate on the rearranged “Rock You Like A Hurricane.”
On a perfect evening under pristine Greek skies, the Scorpions could do no wrong. They delighted fans with interesting versions of their hits, played songs that are not on their usual setlist and introduced an instant classic entitled “Dancing With The Moonlight.”
Many concert DVDs end up being a part of a collection that gets filed away after a viewing or two, however, Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens is one that will be viewed many times over by fans. It is, without a doubt, one of the best concert recordings in hard rock music history.