Sunny Skies at Forty

This Saturday saw the first Sunny Skies of the summer, musically speaking that is.

It’s been a long road since the bands formation in 1972, but anyone expecting a musical journey through time would be disappointed.  The band in 2012 are a very different animal from the one that covered Beatles and Byrds numbers.  The Harmonie though was filled with people aged it seemed from almost nine to ninety – so they are clearly doing something right still after all these years.

There are not many seats available for the show, and those that do still exist are quickly snapped up in the first half hour after the doors open.  True, it’s not the youngest of audiences, but it’s always pleasing to see youngsters in the hall too.  Sunny Skies must have been the very first real band that many people in Bonn witnessed in their lives, and as I’ve said previously, people could do a lot worse – ‘The Skies’ know their stuff, and they play it with feeling too.  Oddly enough, the first track up is actually called ‘Hot Stuff’ and straight away Jeanne Altfeld steals the show both vocally and visibly.  She’s both looking and singing better than ever.  Their seems to be more ‘balls’ in her voice than in years gone past – very probably a result of having to adjust to the bands ever increasing Hard Rock repertoire.  A repertoire that is not going to be reduced tonight, that’s for sure.  Health problems have forced Alex Krienke to miss the gig and his replacement this evening is Detlef Kornath, best known as singer with local metal bands Krysmah & Stargazer.  He’s certainly the man when it comes to Deep Purple classics like ‘Perfect Strangers’ and ‘Highway Star’, he makes an excellent foil for Martin Behr’s acoustic playing on ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and he positively shines on Ronnie Dio’s ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, but it’s much more of an uphill task when it comes to slightly less metallic numbers like ‘Addicted to Love’.   At such times Alex Krienke’s breadth of musical styles becomes very clear and how difficult he is to replace becomes all too evident.

Martin Behr & Detlef Kornath

As far as female vocalists go though The Skies are spoilt for choice these days.  Nadine Weyer has always covered well for Jeanne Altfeld, and this evening Babsi Nitsche also laid claim to being able to cover the role.  I might even suggest that Altfeld’s terrific performance this evening is a knock on effect from sharing the stage with such a fireball of a singer.  Certainly Nitsches version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’ was an explosive highlight of the set.  Having checked out Clarkson doing it on YouTube I know I’d prefer to see ‘The Skies’ do this one every time.

Jeanne Altfeld-Sounded as good as she looked

A regular highlight for me is Martin Behr’s soloing on ‘Let it Rain’ and it’s not hard to believe Rope Schmitz when he says that many people come to the shows these days just to hear their guitar player.  He gets a couple of solo spots on his own too and shows himself to be a pretty good composer on his own instrumental ‘Floating’.  As he hops around the foot pedals lightly on this one, it occurs to me that pedals seem to be making a come-back:  that pedal rack of Aynsley Lister’s on Thursday was also pretty ponderous and a recent picture I saw of Oli Browns stage gear had more blinking lights than Heathrow Airport.  I’ve seen better guitarists than Martin Behr, but not many, and we’re talking Jeff Beck and Gary Moore here.  I suspect that the longevity of Sunny Skies is in no small part down to the presence of Behr, Krienke and Altfields abilities to be musical chameleons – capable of  handling a variety of styles and still come out sounding good.

Old favourites like ‘Rockin All Over The World’ don’t need a lot of effects of course to get the feet tapping.  Neither does ‘Smoke on the Water’ although Behr baits us (pardon the pun) with a half dozen variations of the intro before he hits the one we, and indeed Detlef Kornath, are starting to believe will never come.  It’s a song that goes down a treat of course, and Kornath is the right man for the job.  I can’t help thinking though that at some stage  a decision will need taking regarding the Heavy Metal that the Band is heading into.  The likes of ‘Little Help From My Friends’ seem more out of place every year.

Martin Behr

Shortly after 10.30pm and with a pounding rendition of ‘Highway to Hell’ still resonating round my head I  wish Rope Schmitz good luck for the rest of this anniversary Year Tour and for the next forty years.  Normally that would be a joke, but when a band has lasted this long, what’s another year – or forty?

A reminder that fans should make a diary note for  October 20 in Brückenforum where the band will be celebrating their Anniversary in style with the Hofgarten Orchestra and the Bonn Voice choir.

A full stage - Sunny Skies in 2012

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