The Scorpions have been around for half a century, but they haven’t really. Guitarist Rudolf Schenker has remained the only constant since day one, and even the lineup that lived through the band’s 1980s heyday couldn’t survive the early 1990s fully intact. But the new Scorpions tour, which touched ground for its US leg on Thursday at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, nonetheless celebrates the band’s 50th anniversary. And even if most of the current Scorpions can’t remember that far back in the band’s history, the show was a solid look back at the German heavy metal group’s past.
So much so, in fact, that it was hard to shake the feeling that the Scorpions might be on the verge of slowing down, if not packing it in entirely. The newest songs seemed mostly to be stock-taking (and very possibly account-closing) reflections on the band’s accomplishments. It was hard not to wonder about the message behind the opening “Going Out With a Bang,” and the winningly anthemic “We Built This House” (“. . . on a rock,” of course) traded in the uplift and celebration of persistence that tends to mark a final victory lap.
But if the veteran members weren’t quite as wild and animated as in younger days — no standing on guitarists Schenker and Matthias Jabs’s thighs in a metal-power pose for singer Klaus Meine — there was little tired about the performances. James Kottak’s drums avoided the dull (or at least dutiful) thudding that can creep into aging metal bands’ concerts; instead, his bright playing kept the engine humming without drawing undue attention to itself. And the nasality and odd hint of an accent that give Meine’s voice a curious twist seemed mostly undiminished by time.
The guitars, meanwhile, remained sharp and moody. “No One Like You” made excellent use of the space between the band’s trademark minor-key arpeggios and the power-chorded chorus, while the machine-gun attack of “Dynamite,” fueled by Schenker’s snarling riff and Jabs’s squealing lead, was relentless and visceral. Even so, their playing had undeniable melodic throughlines, even on the slashing, shuffling creep of “The Zoo” and punch-through-the-wall intensity of “Blackout.”
That refusal to simply give in to heavy distortion and rhythmic riffing gave the anthems, from the hedonistic “Big City Nights” to the history-witnessing “Wind of Change,” all the more oomph. And “Rock You Like a Hurricane” let the Scorpions end on a simple and gargantuan note, for however long they intend to sustain it.
With Queensrÿche. At Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Thursday
Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.