310,000 people came to see the fireworks by this years ‘Rhein in Flammen’ in Bonn. Some 90,000 of them were at the Rheinaue so it’s fair to say that a lot of people were out to enjoy the sunny skies. A lot of them enjoyed THE Sunny Skies Rockband too, and it was undoubtedly an evening to remember musically as well as visually with ‘The Skies’ providing plenty of onstage musical fireworks .
Reading the report of ‘Rhein in Flammen’ in the local paper is an odd experience. Not as many drunken spectators as feared, not as many fights broke out as feared, not as many transport delays after the show as feared, ‘only’ the one death (a youth who had fallen from a roof whilst trying to get a better view of the fireworks). A collective sigh of relief then – Armageddon averted for another year. It all seems to have nothing to do with what I attended: Crowds of people, many families amongst them, enjoying the sunshineand fairground rides, or picnicking on the grass.
When I arrived on Saturday the sunny spirit was further enhanced by the Mediterranean tones of Augeri, a lively Pop-Rock band from Italy covering the likes of Ramazotti and Zucchero with a lot of flair and a lot of fun that included a heavily rocked up instrumental version of the Godfather classic ‘Speak Softly Love’. Plastic cup of Kölsch in hand I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
Truth to tell I normally avoid the Rheinaue on this day, not in fear for my life, but in fear of waiting in an endless queue for a tram home. This time however I decided to take my chances. Last year local band Sunny Skies had celebrated it’s 40th year of existence with a concert in Beuel that included the assistance of a local choir ‘BonnVoice’ that I had to miss. So this was my chance to catch the magic – and Skies founder and chief Rope Schmitz was right : “Don’t miss it!” he said with a grin shortly before showtime.
What can I say about the main body of the concert? It’s easy to knock coverbands and say they have no imagination or true spirit but The Skies have both in great quantities – Relatively new front-man Patrick Sühl was making his second appearance at this years Festival after playing in ‘Judas Rising’ the evening before but still had a bag load of enthusiasm. Pictures from the ‘Judas Rising’ gig made him look like a young Alice Cooper but he has the ability to communicate with audiences of an age from 9 to 90 and is a born frontman. I always have trouble deciding who I prefer as female lead and this evening was a perfect opportunity to make a decision as both Jeanne Altfeld and Nadine Weyer were in on the show this time. I’m still undecided as to who is better, and rapidly realing that neither is, they are just a little different in their delivery – Nadine bounces around the stage more and Jean is more a lioness staking out her ground – both can roar mightily when required.
Super first half of the show, especially liked the Cocker take-off on ‘Little Help From MyFriends’. Sühl got as gravel voiced as he could and just needs to work on the windmill arm contortions for maximum Cocker effect. All the old Skies classics – Smoke on the Water’, Rocking All Over The World’, ‘Let It Rain’ (great soloing again from Martin Behr) but no Queen?
Ah, come part two and all is revealed as the BonnVoice choir take the stage in their bright and beautiful Summer dresses. Patrick Sühl almost looks like a Black and White print superimposed on a color backdrop when he stands before them. You will not be surprised to hear that Sunny Skies with The Bonn Voices singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the highlight of the set. A song that was made for this sort of grand occasion in fact and my abiding memory of this years visit to ‘Rhein in Flammen’ will always be of several rows of smiling faces chanting ‘Mamma Mia Let Me Go’ beside a fairground big wheel that was almost as big as the smiles coming from Rope Schmitz, Patrick Sühl and indeed the whole Sunny Skies Band. It’s where the true story and heart of ‘Rhein in Flammen’ is to be found – people having a good time in the sunshine whilst waiting for the evenings fireworks and the real arrival of Summer. ‘Bunt, Laut & Friedlich’ (Colorful, Loud & Peaceful’) was the local papers headline. No rioting then, and despite the occasional late bus no-one got shot. Mamma Mia!