No venom in this venue! Scorpions rock the Mann Center

Reviewed by Laura Kate

 

Tesla; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

When you mention the band Scorpions, certain images immediately come to mind.  Leather.  The color black.  Long poodle-permed hair.  Insanely tight pants.  And that was just the men that attended the band’s “Final Sting Tour” show. All of that and more were on hand during the Scorpions concert on July 11 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.  The Scorpions and opening act Tesla brought the ‘80’s hair metal fans out of the Philadelphia woodworks for a night of flashy, gritty, hard rocking fun.

There seems to be a certain degree of shame that goes with liking ‘80’s hair metal, usually inflicted by closet hair metal fans that haven’t come to terms with their tendencies to appreciate men with long poofy hair and pre-pubescent voices.  Despite this, proud hair band fans braved the weather and the warm venue beer to show their support.  This show had a setup fit for a stadium concert, with more speakers and lights than ever seen before at the venue that is most popularly known as the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Scorpions; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Scorpions; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Just because Tchaikovsky and Chopin were not on the set list doesn’t mean that the crowd didn’t get to hear the classics.  Tesla stirred the crowd up into a scream-singing rendition of “Signs” and the Scorpions ended their set with the best known songs of their 30-year catalog, including crowd favorites “Zoo,” “Still Loving You,” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

The Scorpions have been quoted several times on this tour as saying this is the last tour they will do in the U.S.  Happy—or what passes for happy in this subculture–Philadelphia fans crowded the front of the Mann Center orchestra seating section to catch a glimpse of their rock gods, and perhaps a bit of their hazy youths.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Wayne’s World, just picture the scene where they go to the Alice Cooper concert.  This show was like that, except slightly less crowded.  It felt a little silly, but was totally fun.  And just like any good mullet, the band was a great blend of business and party.  Next time I’ll be sure to pull up in my own Mirth Mobile to show my support.

Rocking like a hurricane; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Scorpions Setlist

  1. Sting in the Tail 
  2. Make It Real 
  3. Is There Anybody There? 
  4. The Zoo 
  5. Coast to Coast 
  6. Loving You Sunday Morning 
  7. Rhythm of Love 
  8. Wind of Change 
  9. Holiday 
  10. Raised on Rock 
  11. Tease Me Please Me 
  12. Hit Between the Eyes 
  13. Kottak Attack 
  14. Blackout 
  15. Six String Sting 
  16. Big City Nights 
  17. Still Loving You
  18. No One Like You
  19. Rock You Like a Hurricane
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Building a following Caesar himself would envy: Empires rocks Philadelphia once again

The Empires were back in Philly last night to play at the Kung Fu Necktie, and once again they did not disappoint!

I first saw Empires open for A Silent Film on April 6, 2012 at the Union Transfer (which is an awesome venue, by the way).  After a rather disappointing first act, Empires came on and worked the crowd into a frenzy from their first song, “Hello Lover,” all the way to the end.  I happened to look over to my friend halfway through “Hello Lover” and saw her looking back at me with what I imagine was a mirror image of the look on my own face: the look that says, “What am I hearing and how can I hear more?!”

We were hooked from then on and sought out ways to hear more of this band that hails from Chicago.  Fortunately, it isn’t that hard to indulge yourself with affordable listening opportunities where Empires is concerned.  This is a total DIY band–their incredible lead guitarist, Max Steger, has produced, engineered and mixed all Empires releases. Guitarist Tom Conrad designs the album artwork and many of the band’s concert flyers and prior to his departure, drummer Ryan Luciani often filmed their touring experiences.  In this spirit of “music for music’s sake,” the band made their first EP, Howl, available for free digital downloads.

Empires just released their second full-length album, Garage Hymns, and it is readily apparent from the first sounds of “Can’t Steal Your Heart Away” that the band has stayed true to itself while producing a more mature sound.  When I was asked what three bands I thought could describe the Empires’s sound, I was at a loss.  This is actually really important to me–the fact that I can’t pigeonhole or label this band as “the next so-and-so” tells me that they truly have a sound all their own that brought me back for a second performance in three months.  I think I would have to put it in broader terms; to me, the Empires cocktail has a definite indie rock motif, with a dose of hard rock, more than a splash of punk, and a refreshingly healthy serving of blues undertones.

Vocalist Sean Van Vleet’s vocals are intense, moody and immediately captivating.  I’m telling you, I’ve been to a ton of concerts and I’m not sure that I have ever had a front man draw me in so easily.  It would sound cheap to call it “casting a spell” over a crowd, but the man truly does work his ass off providing strong, sometimes rhaspy, intelligible lyric wails from beginning to end.  Guitarist Max Steger obviously has fun with his driving, catchy riffs and guitarist Tom Conrad (who appears to be the band’s spokesman in almost every interview I’ve come across) keeps the music layered and moving.  Even though they have changed drummers since I saw them in April, Empires has not missed a beat and the bassist provides a barefoot groove that helps create their signature sound.

So…to the concert.  They opened with the aforementioned “Hello Lover,” which happens to be the song that hooked me back in April and it was even better the second time live.  They performed songs from each of their albums and EP’s, including “Spit the Dark,” “Shame,” and fan request “Hitchhiker.”  The band rocked them all and the intimate setting was fantastic for enjoying them close up.  After the show, we got to speak with Van Vleet, who proved to be absolutely personable and genuinely happy to speak with people who truly appreciate their music.  And really, this is the essence of Empires.  They have a unique, driven sound with a magnetic hook that matches the personalities of these band members who have depended upon word-of-mouth and making their music easily accessible to anyone who wants to hear it.  They have even been known to play Words with Friends with happy fans!

I’m totally digging it.  Trust me, this band is going to blow up soon and you can’t help but be happy for them because they keep things so real.  If you see that they are coming to a venue near you–and they are very busy touring right now to support Garage Hymns–please don’t miss an opportunity to experience a great show.  Oh, and added bonus…The Lighthouse and the Whaler opened for them last night. Halfway through the first song, I turned and looked at my friend and saw that look…

“What is this I’m hearing and how can I hear more?”