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By Travis Failey, Planet Earth Contributor
Friday, September 21, 2018 @ 6:54 AM

At Amalie Arena

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All Photos By Travis Failey/Rocket Sports & Entertainment

The epic summer storms of 2018 continued in Tampa, but this time it wasn’t because of the weather as the SCORPIONS brought their long awaited hurricane to Amalie Arena on Friday night. After cancelling last year’s performance due to Klause Meine’s vocal issues, the SCORPIONS rescheduled the five remaining dates to this fall. There was one change though as QUEENSRYCHE took over the opening slot, replacing the thrash metal titan MEGADETH. The arena was packed and with the addition of QUEENSRYCHE, ticket sales were better because QUEENSRYCHE has more radio singles and plays more to a wider base of fans, especially women.

QUEENSRYCHE hit the stage with their Tri-Ryche symbol illuminated in the background and started their set with “Best I Can” from their biggest release, Empire. Vocalist Todd LaTorre was in top shape once again, but he had to be a bit nervous because this was hands down his biggest local show to date. Hailing from Saint Petersburg, LaTorre and QUEENSRYCHE have played smaller venues in the area, but it was their first time on the huge Amalie Arena stage, and Todd didn’t disappoint the fans. LaTorre smiled throughout the set and waved to his family and friends in the audience as his transformation to the face of QUEENSRYCHE is now complete.

LaTorre showcased his range and vocal ability on “The Needle Lies” and “Queen of the Ryche” and won over the haters from the Geoff Tate camp when the band played “Jet City Woman" and their biggest hit ever, “Silent Lucidity”. Tears streamed down the faces of some fans in the stands as the lighters and phones were lit up throughout the arena affectionately known as the “Oil Can”.

There were a couple changes in QUEENSRYCHE’s lineup as Casey Grillo, also from the Tampa area, was behind the drum kit, filling in for Scott Rockenfield as he has taken an extended break for paternity leave. Grillo did a marvelous job playing behind his drum kit known as the “Lotus”. The “Lotus” is a custom Metalworks drum kit created by Shawn Lowery, a/k/a "Mr. SawBladeHead". Shawn is also a local drummer in the Tampa Bay area, and has created custom kits, microphone stands and other beautiful works of art using various forms of metal. The other change was guitarist Mike Stone filling in for Parker Lundgren, who was taking a short break back before rejoining the band for their upcoming tour. Stone was the guitarist for QUEENSRYCHE prior to Lundgren and fit back into the band marvelously, sharing lead and backup guitar duties with founding member Michael Wilton.

QUEENSRYCHE treated their hardcore fans with two songs in “Screaming in Digital” from their second full album Rage For Order and “Guardian” from their last studio release, Condition Human. If you are an old–school fan of QUEENSRYCHE and do not have Condition Human, get to Amazon or wherever you buy your music, and purchase it because it is a music masterpiece. In my opinion, it is QUEENSRYCHE’s best release since Promised Land.

QUEENSRYCHE finished their 9 song set with “Eyes of a Stranger” from their opus, Operation: Mindcrime, and left the fans wanting more. Thankfully for them, QUEENSRYCHE will be releasing a new studio album before the end of the year.

As the crew did the changeover between bands, a huge curtain with a blue Scorpions Crazy World Tour emblem hung from the rafters covering the stage. The anticipation for the SCORPIONS to take the stage was palpable as the Tampa Bay fans have been waiting for a few years now to see the men from Hanover, Germany. Well the wait was highly worth it because the SCORPIONS put on the best show that I've seen from them throughout their long and storied career.

When the curtain dropped, the SCORPIONS started their 17 song set with "Going Out With a Bang" from 2015's Return to Forever album and then went into the time capsule for one of my first SCORPIONS listening experiences, "Make It Real". The song was originally released on Animal Magnetism in 1980 and was released as a single along with "The Zoo". These two hit songs helped the SCORPIONS achieve platinum status for the first time in their careers.

After "Is Anybody There" the SCORPIONS continued with the aforementioned "The Zoo" with the Tampa crowd showing their vocal abilities by helping lead singer Klaus Meine with the chorus. There were many chances throughout the evening for the fans to chip in as Meine went to the front and sides of the catwalk throughout the evening and stuck his microphone into the crowd. The fans were happy to oblige, and both the crowd and the band seemed to feed off of each other's energy throughout the extended set.

The epic instrumental, "Coast to Coast" was next as Meine took a short and well deserved break. Guitarists Rudolph Schenker & Mattias Jabs showcased their dual ax-attack and made their way to the front of the catwalk to the delight of the screaming fans. This duo is highly underrated, and in my opinion, they should be included in the dual guitar team conversation with bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST. Schenker is not only a great player, but what a showman. He got right in the fans' faces with his guitar and stormed back and forth across the stage throughout the night. Schenker also broke out a bengal tiger flying v guitar that smoked like Willie Nelson.

After the SCORPIONS played a medley of songs that included "Speedy's Coming" and "Catch Your Train", the rest of their set was filled with hit songs from various stages of their 53 year career.

One of the more recent hits, "We Built This House" from 2015 had a lyric video playing in the background on the 4 huge video screens in the arena. It was a great idea because some of the fans who didn't know the song were still able to sing along.

Another highlight of the night was the acoustic rendition of "Send Me An Angel". Four of the five band members came to the front of the catwalk and put on an intimate performance like they were in your living room. It was a memorable experience for all, but it had to be awesome for those fans lucky enough to be in the front rows.

The SCORPIONS followed it up with an amazing rendition of "Winds Of Change" that highlighted Klause Meine's whistling skills during the opening notes. The SCORPIONS could have tracked the whistling in, but thankfully chose not to. Meine introduced it as a "song of hope". Schenker's solo was at the forefront as the crowd was mixed with shots of flowing skies on the video screens.

After "Tease Me Please Me", Meine introduced the crowd to former MOTORHEAD drummer Micky Dee, who was behind the skins for the SCORPIONS. For some the introduction was not needed as Dee is an incredible force and a sight to see behind the drum kit. They played "Overkill" from MOTORHEAD as a tribute to the late Lemmy and then Mickey Dee played a solo with the drum riser lifting up high above the crowd. I usually don't care for solos, especially drum solos, but Dee crushed it. He hits the drums with bad intentions all the while putting on a great show for the fans.

A SCORPIONS' set just wouldn't be complete without the fan favorite, "Blackout"as blue light bulbs and flashing strobe lights lit up Amalie Arena. This took me back to 1988 when I saw the SCORPIONS on the Monsters of Rock tour with VAN HALEN and METALLICA. It was special then and 30 years later, "Blackout" and the SCORPIONS continue to be a live performance juggernaut.

After "Big City Nights" the SCORPIONS took a short break then concluded the night with "No One Like You" and, of course, "Rock You Like a Hurricane". Todd LaTorre came back on stage during the latter and helped out with the vocals during the song's chorus. But LaTorre wasn't the only one, because everyone in the crowd joined in, and most stayed in their seats to the very end.

As the house lights came on in Amalie Arena, the fans exited with huge smiles on their faces. The SCORPIONS proved once again that they are one of the best live rock acts of all time, and Klaus Meine can still hit the notes and sing the songs that they are known for. When last year's show was cancelled, a lot of people were understandably disappointed and wondered if the SCORPIONS would make up the dates. Well, after witnessing the epic performance by the SCORPIONS at Amalie Arena on Friday night, I have to say that it was worth the worry and the wait.


Check out some more photos from the show!
All Photos By Travis Failey/Rocket Sports & Entertainment

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