Mention the Scorpions to casual music fans, and their mental inventory likely will have the German hard-rockers filed away as just another ’80s band.
The thing is, the Scorpions were churning out anthemic riffs before that decade, and — as their headlining appearance at Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City this coming Tuesday illustrates — they have remained a popular force in the rock world longer after it.
In fact, a few years ago, the Scorpions marked their 50-year anniversary as a band — a feat that not many of their ’80s contemporaries will ever match.
“I mean, to put a five-zero on your poster for a tour, it’s kind of a scary thing to do. You go, ‘What?!’ ” singer Klaus Meine said in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “But then, at the same time, 50 years being around for this band, it’s really something — at the end of the day, it makes you proud. Because so very few bands can achieve this. I think it’s a very unusual story, especially when you think this is a German band.”
The vocalist likes to reflect on the Scorpions’ first tours of the United States, circa ’79, opening for the likes of AC/DC and Ted Nugent, Aerosmith and Van Halen, and how “we learned so much from the American way of life and the American rock ’n’ roll business, how it is to not only play a song, but to entertain your audience.”
That component of emphasizing showmanship remains to this day, with Meine promising “cool production with huge LED walls and all that” at the Usana show.
“But what it comes down to at the end of the day, it’s the music,” he added.
Of course, with an oft-underrated catalog of more arena-rattling pop-metal hits than many might initially remember — “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” “No One Like You,” “Still Loving You,” “Wind of Change,” “Send Me an Angel,” “The Zoo,” “Big City Nights,” “Rhythm of Love,” “Loving You Sunday Morning,” “I Can’t Explain” — it’s not hard to sell audiences both old and new on that.
“It’s a privilege after all these years to play in front of three generations and to reach the young rock fans with your music. When you play in front of these young kids, it doesn’t matter if you’re an ’80s band or a whatever band, you know? For them, the only thing that’s important is, ‘This band rocks. This is a band that delivers a real great show,’ ” Meine said. “They come with their friends and see a great rock show. And when they go home and go, ‘Wow, this was a fantastic evening,’ nobody thinks about those categories like being an ’80s band and all this — it doesn’t matter. It goes in circles. ‘It’s a great show, it’s a great evening, and I have a lot of fun to see this band even though they’re 50 years around.’ It doesn’t matter, if they’re great. And this is what we try to prove every night.”
They’re still very much trying to prove just that, mostly onstage these days, but sometimes still in the studio.
The band’s latest album, “Return to Forever,” was released in 2015. Meine said the Scorpions recently recorded some new songs, and while he doesn’t see another LP in their immediate future due to their schedule, he wouldn’t rule out releasing the songs as individual tracks.
“It feels great to be back in this creative mood to write a new song, and let’s see what happens. I mean, we’re far away from recording a new album at this point, because into next year we do so much touring. But it’s fun, even if it’s just for a couple songs, you know?” he said. “There’s a lot of things in the loop, but no plans to block ourselves out from touring by going to the studio for two or three months or something. … If you ask me if it’s important, I think it’s still important — never lose this creative side of the whole thing. To go out on tour and present new songs, it’s always very important for a live band like the Scorpions.”
He said the Scorpions’ show spans the decades, including everything from an early-’70s medley consisting of “Top of the Bill,” “Steamrock Fever,” “Speedy’s Coming” and “Catch Your Train,” to all those ’80s and early-’90s hits, to a few cuts from “Return to Forever,” such as “Eye of the Storm,” “Rock ’N’ Roll Band” and “Going Out with a Bang.”
Beyond continuing to tour for a while, there’s nothing concrete in place.
Even after more than half a century as a band, Meine figures the Scorpions still have some good years left. That said, he’s not quite willing to say the show will go on until it can’t anymore.
“I don’t know! I hope not! But we’re not making any plans anymore whatsoever. Right now, we’re pretty much booked out, and we have offers from all around the world, which is quite amazing after all these years. But, like I said, this is a band that still delivers a great show out there, and as long as we can do it and as long as we enjoy ourselves, we might be out there. But I have no idea. I definitely don’t want to do it until … I don’t know. No, no, no! I just don’t want to think about it!” he said. “All I can say is, if you can see what I see when I go out onstage, if you would see that, who is not having fun doing what we do? We really still enjoy doing what we’re doing. We enjoy a great live show, and going out there and giving fans all we’ve got. And as long as we can deliver the goods, it seems to be all right. But no predictions into the future! I really don’t know! In a way, it’s like getting older these days, it’s like with every tour, you’re moving into unknown territory, so to speak.”
Utah remains known territory for the band, at least. Though Meine admits “we haven’t been in Salt Lake for quite a while,” he noted that it “has been always a great place for us, because it’s a great rock crowd.
“It’s all good. All I can say is thank you to Salt Lake City fans, to the fans in Utah, for supporting us for so many years,” he added. “We come back, looking very much forward, then we rock you like a hurricane again!”
When • Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Road, West Valley City
Tickets • $35-$90; Smith’s Tix