It’s shortly after 11.30 am. I’m standing on the roof of the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. It’s called the General Anzeiger’s Sommergarten Season but the question bugging me is, will it rain? I’m English so I assume the worst, but the two ladies onstage in front of me have come prepared – songwise at least, as Bonn’s own Anne Haigis and Thüringen born Ina Boo kick off in classic thumb to the nose at grey skies fashion with Tony Joe White’s ‘Out of the Rain’. Gauntlet firmly laid down by messrs Haigis and Boo, the grey clouds go scurryingly on their way – one force of nature conquered by another. Anne is here on the back of her latest disc ’15 Companions’ and within ten minutes she has several hundred companions hanging on her every lyric.
Anne Haigis really has a sense of being in command when she’s around. Where others have to win over their audience it seems as if hers comes ready wrapped to enjoy themselves from the off, and this they do throughout a lively three sets that have the duo pulling songs out of their collective hats long after the standard 90 minute set would be over – and all with a seemingly nonchalant ease. Truth to tell, all songs in the set are pearls but some are diamonds. ‘Kind der Sterne’ reminded me of Wolf Maahn’s Rockpalast appearance in Bonn last year and it’s funny that Haigis seemed to have more raw power sitting down on a Sunday afternoon than Maahn did on a sweaty Harmonie night.
Particularly welcome to my ears was ‘You can sleep while I drive’, always a Haigis favourite of mine that seems perfectly suited to her soulful, world weary vocal style. It’s a style that’s also perfect suited to Trude Herr’s moving song ‘Papa’. Phil Collins fans will recognise the melody but Herr’s German lyrics, sung at her father’s funeral, bring a solemn silence to 600 people . Even the rustling breeze in the grass seems to stop and listen.
There are no rain drop shaped tears from heaven though and it even seems to be getting sunny as the second set closes with the most unlikely hit that rocker John Bon Jovi ever had – ‘Bed of Roses’. There are plenty of flower beds to lay in dotted around the Fürst-Pückler Garden but I suspect the security guards would have even Mr Bon Jovi ejected for flower flattening. The alternative is to grab a glass of Kölsch from the refreshment booth and find someone to while away the break with. Bill Baum is the man for this, and after a quick lesson on the best acoustic speakers and where to buy them (a little gem of a shop in Bad Godesberg apparently is the place…) Anne and Ina are off sailing into part three.
All this mention of the excellent Anne Haigis reminds me to point out that besides her talents as a vocalist she is also very good at finding accompanying guitarists – think Jens Filser and Jan Laacks. For the last couple of years her musical partner on the road hs been a highly underestimated young lady by the name of Ina Boo. Well, not totally underestimated, Boo’s 2006 debut disc was voted ‘Best German language album’ by the Deutschen Rock & Pop Bundes. Boo’s smile is almost as enigmatic as her acoustic playing, with both seeming to effortlessly lift up the heart, even (especially?) in the Bluesier numbers. Boo switches to electric piano for the highlight of the afternoon as the voice of Anne Haigis singing ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’ floats away from the stage, swirls gently over the small pond in front of where I stand and caresses my earlobes gently. How has this sound travelled so far, so powerfully, so emotionally? The truth is of course that this voice and this song were made to be together. I’ve heard Tom Waits original and I’ve heard Rod Stewart (at the Museumsplatz) but Anne Haigis takes the gold.
It really is a shame when we realise that the lyrics to ‘Meet me in the Dark’ proclaiming “Goodnight, we’re gonna leave you now” are both a song and a statement of intent. We’ve had over two hours of music from Anne Haigis and Ina Boo but it seems like it’s only been a half hour. Worse still, as the stage is dismantled and the spectators drift down the stairway the sun finally comes out with authority . I can almost imagine that Anne Haigis had made her weather wishes known beforehand – A force of nature indeed. As mentioned, her latest CD is titled ’15 Companions’ and is unbelievably hAnne’s15th release. It’s a disc as powerful as the lady herself. Anne Haigis will be back at Bonn Harmonie next February – do you dare not be there?
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