Today ULI JON ROTH celebrates his 40th anniversary with the SCORPIONS, which calls for a serious celebration. I have always been extremely fascinated by the skills of this master guitarist, who could be compared with the likes of FRANK MARINO and ROBIN TROWER for example. Musicians, who also have been inspired by the late and great JIMI HENDRIX. “Tokyo Tapes” still belongs to one of the very best live albums of all-time in my opinion. After playing at the Luxor in Arnhem yesterday, it’s now time to invite this former SCORPIONS guitarist at the Baroeg. In Arnhem they pulled the plug at the end of the show, but this won’t happen in Rotterdam, where VICIOUS RUMORS hit the stage only yesterday. Quite some people showed up this afternoon, because it was already show time at four. The early start is the main reason for us to go to Rotterdam this Sunday and we’re glad we could make it, because it has been a long time since we last saw Uli play live in Holland. That was in 1998 at the G3 in Ahoy, Rotterdam. The first time I saw Uli was with the SCORPIONS at de Effenaar in Eindhoven, which was in 1978, I believe. Time flies, when you’re having fun…..
The band will be playing a whole bunch of old SCORPIONS songs this afternoon. They kick off with “All Nigth Long”, the same way as on “Tokyo Tapes”, which is really the perfect opener for such an occasion. It’s a shame, that the second guitar player, Ali Clinton, breaks a string in this first song and has to leave the stage after this very first song. Bad luck, so to speak. Uli wants to shut off the blower that stands in front of him, because his feet are freezing from the cold that comes from it. After a few attempts, they finally succeed and then he finds out that his guitar player is still backstage. When he returns the game is on and the band continues with “Pictured Life”, also taken from that magic double live album. Uli’s band consists of a good range of session musicians with biggest eye-catcher being Ule W. Ritgen on bass guitar, a name that some of you might remember from earlier collaborations with Uli. The show continues with “Catch Your Train”, “Crying Days” and “Longing For Fire”, which shows that the sound of the early SCORPIONS was so much different than the one when Matthias Jabbs was pulling the strings. It has a bit more emotion. After “Life’s Like A River”, Uli announces the very first song he ever wrote for the SCORPIONS, which is called “Drifting Sun”. Most of the solo parts are for Uli of course, but sometimes both guitarists go for twin solos, which makes the sound a bit fuller, especially when they tend to stretch out the solos a little bit longer than average. You’ll easily notice which people in the crowd are playing guitar for fun. Their jaw has dropped to the floor already and I guess they will never touch a string again. “Sun In My Hand” and “Evening Wind” are on next and when “The Sails Of Charon” starts off I guess, we’ve come to the first real highlight of tonight’s show. Of course the rest of the set is amazing as well, but this song is definitely a very special one tonight for everybody in the audience. In the instrumental part, in which Uli takes the lead again, the drummer plays with his bare hands and a very relaxed atmosphere enters the club. When the very first notes of “We’ll Burn The Sky” are being played, you’ll hear that this song is recognized by everybody in the audience and everyone is whispering the title of this classic. It’s “Tokyo Tapes” time for a moment, because after this classic it’s time to sing along to “In Trance”. Exactly, that’s the word I was searching for. This whole gig will get you into a serious trance, because for the full two hours you’ll forget about the world outside these four walls and the only thing you can do is to enjoy the magic sounds of this old school guitar hero. After “In Trance” we’re treated to a song, that has been my personal favorite for a very long time now. “Fly To The Rainbow” is on next and especially the very last part sounds just mind-blowing. Uli makes his guitar cry and growl and for a moment I think, that he will pull his tremolo so hard that it will come off. These are the brutal last sounds of this awesome tune, which I have been looking forward to hear for a whole week. In the jolly tune “I’ve Got To Be Free” it’s time for Uli to cool down a bit and leave the stage for his singer, keyboard player and guitar player to do some solo spots. When Uli puts down his guitar and disappears backstage, you can see the frets light up in blue on the neck of his guitar. When Uli returns it’s time to shout out as hard as you possibly can, to get your request played tonight. “Speedy’s Coming” wins over “Yellow Raven”. It would have been very nice to hear the latter, but “Speedy’s Coming” is definitely a classic and the crowd seems to be very content, that Uli is playing this song tonight. He is the conductor of the whole show and sometimes he takes the lead of what’s going to be next by one simple move of his arm or a nod with his head. It’s subtle, but not open to any other interpretation. Unwanted moves are stopped abruptly without the audience noticing this at all, except when you are looking very closely to details like that. “Dark Lady” is the last song of the regular set. Is there still something to wish for after that? I could think of “He’s A Woman, She’s A Man” or the fast “Robot Man”, or maybe even “Top Of The Bill”, but any song from the early days will do. After a very short while, the encores are coming up, which are being introduced by “Polar Nights”. After this the influence of JIMI HENDRIX will be displayed by a three song tribute to this guitar genius. “Spanish Castle Magic” is the first track and it shows that Uli has got a huge fascination for Jimi. He plays the songs with a certain concentration and emotion and the expressions are showing on his face. You can almost sense that it makes him happy to play these songs. “If 6 was 9” is on next, one of the lesser well-known songs, but certainly one of my personal favorites and obvious one of Uli’s as well. The last song of tonight is the more obvious “Little Wing”, another Hendrix tune. Then it’s time to go home and have a bite, but not before we get an autograph of the master himself on a promo pic. ULI JON ROTH still belongs to the great heroes in this scene and he proved that he is still capable of doing an exciting two hour plus show. The countdown can start for the fifty years of SCORPIONS tour.
*Written by: Toine van Poorten / June 2013
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]