For the last weekend in April, famed Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth, made his way to New York for a two-night takeover at the Iridium during his Interstellar Sky Guitar tour. A hundred and eighty packed the house that Les Paul built for an evening of rock and neoclassical music history for nacht nummer eins. I arrived at 42nd Street with time to spare for a pre-gig meal at Five Guys. The doors opened at seven-thirty. One by one, a roomful of regular attendees and v.i.p guests walked downstairs and into the infamous and intimate basement jazz club, having a one-hour break to have dinner and some drinks before enjoying a three-hour rhapsody of grandiose orchestral and guitar-based enchantment from Uli divided into two sets.

After an introduction from one of Uli’s representatives to preface the concert and an in-venue movie with text-based exposition that would rival Spaceballs to set up the night ahead, the stage was ready for Uli and a trio of his parnassian sky guitars. Uli graced the audience with a ten-song solo set for Scorpions devotees of the Uli era and newcomers for him to effortlessly re-imagine some Baroque period compositions and assist the audience in exploring six original Uli canticles in song based on that time in music in a less divulging matter of presentation. Uli set the tone of the first set by honoring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Amadeus, an original piece laid up with Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca. What naturally echoed in my head all throughout that song was the intro and the guitar solo from guitar mastermind Nuno Bettencourt in Play with Me by Extreme. Thanks, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!

Considering how transcendent Uli is in his rhetoric, he offered a little commentary about each song, which gave each song a little class on more original cuts like Queen of the Night and Child of Thunder Mountain. He even briefed the audience on his upcoming book, In Search of the Alpha Law. Uli linked together two of four Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos, I the Spring and IV the Winter, ending his solo performance with a final charismatic original in Metamorphosis: Cry of the Night and a little bit of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for a shredding finale. It was great to see Uli professing through music that heavy metal was rooted in classical music alongside the blues. If you ever took a music appreciation class as a part of your curriculum like I did in college, you know that Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Wagner were the metal icons of their time.

With a brief intermission for the attendees to have another drink or two or go to Das Bad, it was time for New York to revisit some of the best Scorpions songs from Uli’s period with the band. As marvelous as it was seeing Uli do it up neoclassical style with his guitar front and center throughout the first set, he brought out his equally skilled band members to sound as prominent on stage as he does. Sharing vocal duties with Uli’s bassist, Niklas Turmann, with ripping guitar support from David Klosinski, Jamie Little (drums), and keyboardist Corvin Bahn, took the Iridium back to the seventies for eight Scorpions scorchers and three other musical delights. The other star of the gig was the triad of Uli’s sky guitars. Thirty-six frets of bombastic horsepower to grind down any concert venue into dust. Fuckin’ hell, it was unreal how loud they were. If you are a fan of John 5 like I am. It would be great to see what types of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein experiments the mad axeman can create if John can acquire a Pegsus model.

Set two started with Electric Sun, the namesake track off of Uli’s first solo output after he departed from the Scorpions with him exerting his unique vocal approach. Niklas held his own when having to salute the instantly recognizable singing style of Klaus Meine as the quintet blazed through Sun in My Hand, the Monika Dannemann penned We’ll Burn the Sky, lyrically dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, and Pictured Life. During the set, Uli honored his late brother, Zeno Roth, with a pleasant cover of Zeno’s Don’t Tell the Wind. Of course, no set of Scorpions covers would be complete without the centerpiece of Uli revisiting the epic, ethereal version of Fly to the Rainbow from Scorpions – Tokyo Tapes containing another brilliant solo from Uli. After being treated to an overall astronomic night of faithful music history and unbelievable Scorpions songs, Uli and company encored with one more deep-track Scorpions classic in Catch Your Train and tied the show together with an extended jam of The Sails of Charon.

Whether he is as complex, galvanized, or sometimes electrifying as the prodigy of Hendrix can be, Uli Jon Roth is unique in his style and sound. Musicians like Alex Skolnick, Kirk Hammett, and Yngwie Malmsteen most likely would not exist if the German enchanter of the strings didn’t pave the way for them. Uli is an underrated guitarist, but committed rock and metal fans like you and I know what’s up! Four years after the world went into a soft global exile, his return to New York City to headline the Iridium was a treat for those with a more refined taste in music. It was classical meets rock for three elegant hours and change. It feels good knowing that Uli is keeping two genres of inspiring music alive, exemplified by bands such as Apocalyptica, Blind Guardian, Sumerlands, and Visigoth. Both of the sets were equally compelling. Overall, it was a groovy time, and I hope Uli does a second U.S. leg of this tour for you all to experience.

An NYC tourist tip that I’m going to conclude this concert report with as we’re on the cusp of the summer vacation season is if you plan on vacating in the Big Apple – before you become a victim of getting overcharged by individuals dressed up as off-brand versions of favored fictional characters in Times Square, avoid that, and attend a production of Back to the Future: The Musical at the Winter Garden for a better experience. Oh, and do everyone else a favor and stay in your hotel between four and six PM. That’s when everyone’s trying to go home.