Bonn’s Alten Zoll isn’t the only place near the University that workmen have been frantically re-constructing. Last week saw the Stadtgarten concert stage arising from the ash of the boules courtyard next to the Biergarten and last night saw the first concert of the new season with Belgian band The Herfsts and Bonn’s own Steal a Taxi on hand to ease the stress of a hard week’s work.
I’m here for the ‘Chengdu Special’. Sounds like I’m at the local Chinese Restaurant waiting for a takeaway, but actually Chengdu in China is a twin city of Bonn and has featured a music festival in which both of tonight’s bands have played. The Hurfst’s in 2013 and ‘The Taxi’s’ just last year.
Originally Dutchmen Aligaga were down to begin this years Season but it’s actually Leuven Band The Herfsts, purveyors of a very entertaining keyboard led style of Indie-Pop that step up to greet the couple of hundred who have settled (mainly on the grass verge) by 7 pm. Undaunted by the small crowd though they whizz through an energetic set that has me hoping they will be back in Bonn sometime. I’m not sure where they would play as far as a venue size is concerned. Band requests for people to stop picnicking on the grass and do some stage-front dancing sadly fell on deaf ears and, as always when you see a band who deserve a better reception, you can’t help feeling sorry for them. Give a listen to their video ‘Two Dancers’ and you’ll see there is a lot to like about The Herfsts and make a note to get there earlier for both bands in coming weeks. It may well be worth it.
It’s no secret of course that there is a lot to like about Steal A Taxi. If you’ve followed this website for a couple of years then you will know how highly I rate the bands mix of Pop-Funk Rock. It’s always a pleasure to hear a band progress with each listen and this band has certainly not disappointed each time. It’s especially good to see that all the effort of PopCamp coaching with the band is paying dividends both visually and musically. The backing tape that builds the excitement of the bands appearance could maybe have a bit more of a swirling keyboard feel about it and a dark stage too but it’s proof the band is putting thought and effort into putting on not just a concert but a SHOW. You’re on to a winner from the off anyway when you have a centre-point as visually striking as singer Makeda, and it would be easy to think her sultry looks were enough for fame, but she co-writes the material, plays a funky bass and a delicate electric piano, talks to the audience, sings with power and even manages to close the ‘abyss’ of a gap between stage and audience with just a few words.
I was wondering if Makeda might perhaps suffer vocally with the stresses on her tonsils from a current role as stand in for the Whitney Houston character from ‘The Bodyguard’ musical in Cologne, but actually she believes it’s helped her vocal training, and the proof of the pudding so to speak is in the performance this evening – which is a dessert to die for. From uptempo numbers like ‘I don’t think So’ and ‘Rapunzel’ to slow burners like ‘Don’t Fall In Love With Me’ and my favourite Taxi number ‘Time’ Makeda hit’s all the right notes in all the right emotional places with a seeming confidence beyond her years.
Behind Makeda too though there is an excellent band led by guitar virtuoso Martin Schmidt, whose current ‘weapon of choice’ is a red Gibson SG and he knows how to use it! Never over-playing but setting the right accents and making the perfect counter-point musically and visually to the lady stage centre. The rhythm section is exactly where it should be too – in the background but in control of the tempo. Simply put, but not always so simple to do – they do it to metronomic perfection with a short audience walk-about to stretch the legs of the band’s bass man. Both Makeda and Schmidt take turns on keys and I can’t help thinking this instrument is an important part of Taxi songs and a full-time keyboard player would add a little more texture to the sound at times. Of course they would have to fit in to what’s become a tight musical combo…
As the last songs, ‘Feel Like Home’ and the frantic Taxi classic ‘Freeway’ hit the darkness that has now descended I take my own walkabout. I’m pleased to find there is quite some walking involved before I get to the back of the crowd for some atmospheric pictures. It hasn’t been the sunniest of evenings but a lot of people are here and both they and the excellent music of the bands this evening suggest that this will be a super location for the weeks to come and a great place to relax after a hard weeks work.
STADTGARTENPROGRAMME2016 (Please check in advance for changes to the programme)
No apologies for sharing this video again – it’s GREAT!