BYBLOS: It’s a striking claim, “Rock and roll never dies!” The statement tells you more about the world view of the fellow saying it than it does to convey any sort of pertinent, let alone verifiable, information.
It’s a bit like “Merry Christmas!”Nevertheless, as far as Wednesday’s capacity audience at the Byblos International Festival was concerned, it’s all true, thanks to the outstanding and electrifying show of the renowned German rock band Scorpions.
For the more than two hours of this the second installment in the Lebanese leg of Scorpions’ farewell concert tour, Byblos’ concertgoers were held, transfixed, in a world bound by incendiary guitar strings, crashing drum solos and amazing vocal pyrotechnics.
Lead vocalist Klaus Meine, guitarists Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, bassist Pawel Maciwoda and drummer James Kottak thrilled the crowd with such hits as “Rock You like a Hurricane,” “Wind of Change,” “Still Loving You,” “The Zoo” and many more.
Wednesday evening’s show was particularly entertaining for the band’s crowd interaction. Especially touching was Klaus Meine’s repeated efforts to say, in unstable Arabic, “Marhaba Byblos! Kifkon?” (“Hello Byblos! How are you?”)
Back in 1996, Scorpions were the first world-class hard rock band to come to Lebanon after the end of the Civil War. On that occasion the Germans performed at the Forum de Beyrouth before an audience of 15,000. While they were in the country, they filmed the music video of their tune “When You Came into my Life” in Beirut’s then un-redeveloped downtown.
Meine beamed at how happy he and the rest of the band were to be “back here after 15 years of absence.” He reminisced about how, the last time they were in Byblos, the band members met the late Pepe – the local personality who founded the Pepe Abed Fishing Club – to whom they dedicated their song “Send me an Angel.”
“Pepe was a special guy,” Meine recalled, provoking passionate applause from the audience in return for honoring one of Lebanon’s celebrity institutions.
During their Byblos performance, Kottak joined the other band members at the front part of the stage to drape the Lebanese flag, cape-like, around Meine’s shoulders.
After an astonishing, goose bump-inspiring drum solo, Kottak took up his camera from the floor and started to record the audience, so as not to forget, he said, that “Lebanon rocks!”
When the band sang “You and I,” on the screen behind them, a filmed sequence showed the Lebanese flag slowly rising. It was easy to interpret this gesture to be the Germans’ way of demonstrating their affection for Lebanon and their gratitude for the great welcome they received – and to wonder whether each stop on the band’s farewell tour has the same footage with a different national flag.
“We haven’t played that song for a while,” said Meine. “... But tonight is the night.”
All night long, the crowd acclaimed the band with the fervor of disciples acclaiming their messiahs. Memorabilia collectors immediately before the stage were lucky as the band threw their sweaty t-shirts, guitar pics, towels and drum sticks into the audience. These lucky fans got a chance to touch the Scorpions, without getting stung.
The Byblos International Festival continues Saturday with the soulful tunes of French superstar Florent Pagny. For more information try 09-542-020 or infobyblosfestival.org.