The sky was indeed sunny. A rare Summers day like we had when I was a boy, with puffy white clouds seemingly hung in a breezeless sky like cotton candy, underneath which people were enjoying cold drinks and hot music in the balmy evening heat. In the heavens sunny skies, and on the stage of the Rheinaue Sunny Skies too. What more could you want?
If the bright blue sky was a little unfamiliar this Summer, then so was the Band onstage. No Alex Krienke or Jeanne Altfeld this time, even an unfamiliar face on Keyboards. An elderly gentleman even asked me as I stood stageside during the set if ‘Sunny Skies’ were coming on later. I could understand his not spotting the familiar face of Founding Father Rope Schmitz who tends to ‘hide’ in the cool shadows stage left, but could you not notice Martin Behr on guitar? A man with a ready smile and an encylopedic knowledge of guitar riffs that he can actually play (often better than the people who made them famous).
Babsi Nitsche has also regularly stepped into the female lead role of the Band for a while now and has the energy and enthusiasm of a rubber ball that seems to just bounce around the stage without ever quite coming to rest. When my eyes stop bouncing around the stage with her, they alight on a young gentleman with ponytail, leather boots and flared trousers. It’s not Alex Krienke nor Detlef Kornath who stepped in last time at the Harmonie. When I arrive he’s capably hammering out the UFO classic ‘Doctor Doctor’ which isn’t surprising given his appearance. Another ‘Metalhead’ vocalist? The Band have been getting heavier with every incarnation and they do it well, but there are times when the Bands name and the music don’t seem to have much in common. My prejudices come to haunt me however when a not so young lady in the audience gestures to the new singer to make a request – “‘Highway to Hell’ “By ACDC?” she ventures. What I’m thinking is that the retro 60’s coverband music that the original Sunny Skies played for fans who longed for the ‘old days’ of the 60’s has been replaced by a new generation that wants to hear the old songs of the 70’s. By my calculation, if Rope Schmitz can hold the band together for another twenty years, there will be a Sunny Skies at the Rheinaue playing the current pop hits that by then no one else will be playing live in major venues but everyone will dance to from their past. Over to you Rope…
If you’ve seen Sunny Skies before then you will know much of their time and road tested set. New singer Patrick Sühl does a spirited rendition of ‘Angels’ that Alex Krienke still fits better to my taste, but then Sühl does a blockbustering David Coverdale take, both vocally and visually, with ‘Here I Go Again’. He also has a way with between songs banter and it’s hard to believe when he gets talking to the audience that this is only his second outing with the Band ever.
If you can only make it to one song during a Skies set then I recommend making it to ‘Let It Rain’ for the solo by Martin Behr that you can hear in any stadium anywhere in the world by a any number of top name guitarists for a couple of hundred dollars, but you get at the Rheinau just as good for free. Lets not forget that beautiful bouncing ball onstage though and Babsi Nitsche delivers an excellent take on one of my all-time favourite songs Leonard Cohens ‘Hallelujah’.
It really is always a pleasure to find a corner next to the stage and watch both Band and audience enjoy themselves at the Rheinaue Restaurant concerts. Sunny Skies above and Sunny Skies onstage – The cold glass of beer in front of you is just icing on the cake.