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Sometime during the 1990's, German heavy metal icons the Scorpions, seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for the genre. Their album Face The Heat, released in 1993 was probably their last that was in the traditional heavy metal vein. Subsequent albums Pure Instinct (1996) and Eye II Eye (1999) reflected a change in style. Although "You And I" from Pure Instinct is featured in the Acoustica performance, these albums have come to be largely ignored by the band.
Still trying to find their way, in 2000 the band embarked on a project with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and conductor Christian Kolonovits, that eventually became Scorpions: Moment of Glory - Live with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (2000), an event released on both CD and DVD. Acoustica is a continuation of the band's excursion down an alternate musical path, as the Scorps are basically playing unplugged, taking part in a trend that had been quite popular during the 90's. Christian Kolonovits again joins the band for this project, playing keyboards. Other additional musicians include Johan Daansen on guitar, and Ariana Arcu on cello.
Acoustica was recorded in Lisbon, Portugal, and features Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs playing acoustic guitars. Bass player Ralph Rieckermann, and drummer James Kottak, play their normal instruments. While in an unusual situation, vocalist Klaus Meine is backed by three female singers. The 21 song setlist includes classic Scorpions songs, cover tunes, and some brand new material. The band put in a lot of effort into the performance, selecting the songs, writing new songs, developing the musical arrangements for acoustic instruments, and incorporating the other musicians into the project.
In general, the results are very good, as the "unplugged" approach typically brings a fresh new appreciation for material normally featuring distorted electric guitars played at extreme volume. The arrangement for "Catch Your Train" for example, gives the song a whole new vibe. Almost everything sounds terrific, and the band is having a great time in a new musical arena. Guitarists, Jabs and Schenker, probably have to make the biggest adjustment, and they handle the transition to acoustic quite smoothly. Softer numbers like "Send Me An Angel", "Under the Same Sun", "You And I", and "Still Loving You", probably sound the closest to the studio versions, while "Holiday" is given a Latin feel. Rockers like "Rhythm of Love", "The Zoo", "Loving You Sunday Morning", and a jazzy version of "Tease Me, Please Me", might sound the most interesting unplugged. For "The Zoo" and "Tease Me, Please Me", a number of female dancers also join the proceedings.
The new material generally works well in the acoustic format, and includes the songs "I Wanted To Cry", "Life Is Too Short", and "Back To You". "When Love Kills Love", appears to be the most popular of the new songs. The band is to be complemented for taking risks, but they do not fare quite as well on some of the cover tunes. The tempo of "Dust In the Wind" is a little too brisk, and while Klaus Meine is unquestionably a great singer, he doesn't have quite the right voice for the song. Likewise, he lacks the subtly to handle the Cars' "Drive".
The production of Acoustica is first class, and features very good image quality and a number of audio options. The square shaped stage is quite spacious, and provides some atypical views of the musicians. Camera coverage of the band is pretty good, and includes feeds from mobile cameras suspended over the audience. Editing is a little fast, but there are a lot of people on stage, and the cutting is mostly sensible and not too annoying. Probably by design, the front rows of the audience seem to consist mostly of young women. While the Acoustica DVD contains 21 songs, the audio CD release contains only 15 songs. For those in North America, be sure to get the Region 1 DVD.
Acoustica features the band during a time when they seem to be searching for a direction. If like your music hard and heavy, and don't care for the "unplugged" thing, you may not appreciate the subtlety of this performance, which provides an opportunity to really hear the nuances of Klaus Meine's voice. To the delight of most of their long time fans, the Scorpions returned to their heavy metal ways with the release of their next album Unbreakable (2004), and have continued in this direction on their subsequent releases. The band is apparently in the process of completing their "farewell tour", but hopefully their contributions to music, either as a band or as individual musicians, will continue for many years to come.