Rumour has it that the CD promised at Steal A Taxi’s release party in May will finally be out very soon. In the meantime, if you want to hear the band your best bet is a live show like the one at Bonn Harmonie on Sunday night.
Sure, you could play the band’s 2013 released ‘Addiction’ EP, but that already seems like Milleniums ago, as the band just keeps getting better and better.
Take ‘Addiction’ as a case in point. Follow it across several incarnations courtesy of YouTube and see how it, and the band around it, have progressed. Is it all down to ‘musical grooming’ and a visit to ‘Pop Camp?’ I prefer to think it’s all about a band maturing.
We’re not at the end of the learning phase I’m sure, but that’s half the fun of following a young band with oodles of talent and bundles of enthusiasm. Where will the music take them. I admit to a little concern that the music could get lost in the mix somewhere. I particularly remember a rather big concert at Kunstrasen not so long ago with a young band that seemed more interested in choreography than music. There’s certainly a lot to distract at the Harmonie this evening – waiting for the shows start I count a still video camera being assembled on the Harmonie balcony, a hand held videocam wandering the hall and of course some competition coming my way in the form of good old still photographers. Heck, this is more than Johnny Winter got and not a whole lot less than Rockpalast…
Will the music live up to all this? We will have to wait some time to find out, since there are two support acts to give attention to beforehand.
Neither support is actually entirely new. Safetyville sounds like an Indie Pop Band but is actually a person rather than a whole City. Isabell Meiner and her acoustic guitar in fact. My thoughts that I’d seen Isabell before were not unfounded either, she was/is a part of ‘We Used to be Tourists’ who actually were/are an Indie Pop Band that played here not so long ago. Dare I say that I actually prefer Isabell with just guitar for company, possibly because she’s singing everything in English in a relaxed way and I feel like relaxing. I don’t remember the songs in any detail, only that she has a strong American accent that belies her residency in Cologne. If the songs didn’t really win me over, her laid back style did – especially the ultra laid back ‘What it Is’.
I definitely remember feeling sorry for Luis Schwamm at the Steal A Taxi CD release party. Playing his set as most of the audience arrived, there was a constant to-ing and fro-ing in front of the stage that night. On this night however the entrance door is further down the corridor and he hits a little harder with his rhythmic melodic style of Indie Folk, aided by Alexander Roseling on electric piano. They would have hit harder still if their drummer hadn’t been in Australia I heard later. It’s amazing the difference an attentive audience makes. “Das ist Luis, mit vier Buchstaben und Schwamm wie ein Schwamm” as he pointed out. Can’t help but like someone who calls a sponge a sponge. No frills, just a keen eye for a lyric and a melody. German Folk music can be, if not exactly a riot of fun, very enjoyable.
So we’ve been here for a while now and the air of expectancy mounts. Finally the lights dim and the beat starts in earnest as Martin Schmidt steps onto the stage with his white Telecaster. First rule of live shows: build the expectancy. A bit of Popcamp know-how from the off for certain. Makeda is singing off-stage and the lights are dimmed whilst she makes her entrance. This is the part where a super-trooper spotlight powers on and the band kick in. Except Harmonie doesn’t do huge spotlights. The intention is there though and before we even realise it we’re into the title of the yet to appear CD ‘You want what you don’t want’ (or as it’s less ponderously and more mysteriously called – ‘YWWYDW’). The band is up and running, the fans are up and running, and the cameras are up and running.
Makeda herself looks a world away from the girl in those not so very old YouTube videos. The songs very often remain the same but are a world better live in 2015. They have more urgency, and I thought of Alice Cooper’s advice to young bands that every song has to be played like it’s the encore – not just the encore.
Whether the bass driven ‘Addiction’, The slow funk of ‘Don’t Fall in Love’ or the rocky ‘I Wanna Know’, there is Something for everyone but always with a trademark vocal from Makeda. The girl herself has made quantum leaps as ‘front Frau’ too. There’s a positiveness and tempo about her that only slips on a couple of occasions when she maybe talks a little too long and lets the energy levels slip. Really only small criticism though compared to a commanding stage presence that was part charisma and part sheer confidence and saw her move effortlessly from behind a bass guitar with a funky beat, to behind a piano with an evocative ballad.
The ever popular band anthem ‘Freeway’ comes around all too soon and has me thinking that maybe until the own compositions increase there might be some room for a cover or two – I’m sure the band and singer in particular could breathe new young life into some RnB/Soul classics. The new songs are coming though, and what I heard and saw on Sunday suggests Steal A Taxi have not just stepped several rungs up the ladder but have rolled a six and headed up the next one with not a snake in sight. If the music stays ahead of the hype then Bonn may even become known as a place for making great live music rather than preventing it.