When I was 11 my parents acquired a satellite dish for our TV. The huge, black receiver looked like a small sibling in the Very Large Array family and turned slowly toward another part of the sky when switching between satellites. It was a miracle of modern science. But most importantly, it channeled MTV, introducing music videos to my life. Scorpions’ “Send Me An Angel” was in heavy rotation. The barren desert motif echoed some vague setting made for Mad Max or El Chuncho. The lyrics didn't make sense. The whole thing was cryptic. I liked that. For this sixth-grader, music was deep if you couldn't understand it. The slow tempo and acoustic guitar backdrop wasn't at all what I would call metal or rock, but it was somehow heavy. I did not then know the immense shadow the Scorpions cast over modern guitar-based music.
For more than 40 years, Scorpions' career has spanned a vast breadth over rockin' rock’s subgenres. The band pioneered or played deftly through proto-metal, ’70s anthem rock, regrettable ’80s hair metal and the urgent whisper that is the power ballad. Now, after taking other bands to school for decades, the Scorpions makes one last pass across the world before calling it quits. The “Final Sting Tour” will be filling face holes in Albuquerque on Thursday at the Hard Rock Pavilion.
While montage-worthy hits like “Rock You Like a Hurricane” are part of the ’80s cultural meme, the band didn’t always summon mere fist pumps and headbangs. Scorpions’ debut album is filled with tasty psychedelic blues in the vein of Hawkwind, and it features the guitar heroics of Michael Schenker of UFO fame. Far into the band’s career it was writing what became its best-known material, including the socially conscious “Wind of Change.” Its reference to the fall of Soviet empire and a people's self-determined destiny rings true in this era of the 99% movement and the Arab Spring. This was a global band with global awareness, in contrast to apolitical rock bands flexing a uniform anger and distrust.
To be at a Scorpions show is like traveling through time, to lands of abundant leather pants. Be ready for obligatory rock maneuvers. Aerial kicks, big guitar solos and a massive riser for the drummer will be delivered. You might want to bring a lighter, or a phone with a lighter app, for the slow numbers. Please be careful not to ignite your neighbor's hair. Expect explosions and the entire band wearing sunglasses, presumably to meet pyrotechnic OSHA requirements. You will be asked how you are feeling, which demands a shouting answer detailing your current state. Waving your arm(s) side to side will be encouraged.
After so many years, one may wonder why the band is stopping now, with jobless rates so high. It may be that the Scorpions has commendably exhausted all constructions using the word "sting," leaving no more names for albums or T-shirts. Regardless, it will go out with power kicks, spins and, if the world is perfect, flyovers by F-16s.