By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — German hard-rock guitar giant Uli Jon Roth brings his current band to the Bay Area for two shows, playing music from his solo band Electric Sun and classic metal tunes from his days with the Scorpions in Santa Cruz and Oakland this week.
Along with Deep Purple axman Ritchie Blackmore, Roth is credited for bringing elements of classical bombast into hard rock thanks to his blazing guitar work as principle songwriter for the Scorpions on such classic albums as In Trance, Virgin Killer and the 1978 in concert opus Tokyo Tapes, which documented the guitarist’s final live performances as a member of the group. Mixing a healthy dose of Hendrix worship along with a melodic sophistication well beyond most rock guitarists — how many ’70s rockers could deftly sneak a Duke Ellington quote in the midst of a metal anthem like “Sails of Charon” the way Roth did? — the six-string maestro firmly established himself as one of an elite group of guitar virtuosos during his time in the band.
While Roth’s departure meant that he didn’t reap the benefits of the Scorpions’ 1980s explosion in popularity thanks to heavy rotation on MTV and the world’s embrace of their power ballad “Winds of Change,” the guitarist instead followed his own muse. Roth was founded his band Electric Sun and recorded a trio of albums between 1979 and 1985 that further explored his Hendrix-meets-European-classical.
Roth would move on to other interests after disbanding Electric Sun, focusing for a number of years on classical music by composing a number of symphonic works and performing live with orchestras. Roth also got into teaching music with his series of Sky Academy seminars and concerts as well as designing his custom seven-string, six-octave instrument the Sky Guitar.
The guitarist may have a bigger following in Europe, but his own U.S. headlining tours and jaunts pairing him with other virtuoso rock players like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Jennifer Batten consistently draw packed houses of disciples eager to hear Roth’s inimitable guitar stylings. His more recent recordings and tours have focused almost exclusively on the body of songs he created with the Scorpions.
In 2015, Roth issued a double CD of studio recordings entitled Scorpions Revisited that offered up new versions of his classic tunes written during his tenure with the band. Late in 2016, Roth released the deluxe CD/DVD package Tokyo Tapes Revisited that similarly looked back on the standard-setting concert document while adding a couple of Hendrix covers that have become staples of Roth’s live sets.
Roth returns to the Bay Area for two concerts on his current tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the music he made with his post-Scorpions band Electric Sun. The shows mark the first time the guitarist has played full sets of Electric Sun songs in the U.S. in over three decades and will be followed by a second set of Scorpions favorites. The six-string virtuoso and his band play at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz on Wednesday night before coming to Oakland to play the New Parish Thursday. At the East Bay show, Roth and company will be joined by local metal favorites Dress the Dead, a potent group featuring ex-Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero and powerhouse singer Kayla Dixon (who also fronts Northwestern doom merchants Witch Mountain). Roth will also travel north to play Holy Diver in Sacramento on Friday.
Uli Jon Roth
Wednesday, March 27, 8 p.m. $25-$30
Thursday, March 28, 8:30 p.m. $26-$30
The New Parish