Remember those old ‘Unplugged’ programmes from MTV? Clapton, Cobain and co showing they could still weave musical magic without a trillion megawatts of Marshall amps and six Stratocasters behind them? Playing unplugged is, for me, the test of a good musician or band, so when the Rock & Pop Zentrum (RPZ) in Bad Godesberg announced an Acoustic Night it seemed too good a chance to miss. How would some of our own local young talent get on with just an acoustic guitar and a voice?
Well, first off, there were no Les Pauls, Strats, Ludwigs or copies there-of, but everyone had their Tanglewood, Taylor etc plugged in. (as they did on MTV I grudgingly admit). Some, like Clara Clasen and Ijaz Ali, were more used to regular acoustic playing live, but those who weren’t like Laura Langenbach, took and passed the challenge with flying colours.
“A magical place with puppies and rainbows” is how Clara Clasen once, tongue in cheek I hope, described her ‘Sound about Sunday’ website. A project to video one new song every week for a year that brought her both attention and a monsterous repertoire of ‘little monsters’ (how she decribes her songs) to fall back on for the rest of her life. So no shortage of material then, and a confident set played out with a style that underlined her award for ‘Master of Vocals’ at last years Toys 2Masters. A particular favourite this evening was the semi-frantic ‘Big Boy’ with it’s no-holds-barred ultimatum “Aren’t you a big, big, boy? Talk it out!” I wouldn’t want to argue with this lady!. Fresh off the press is a new band with Clara Clasen Call Me Papa so keep ears and eyes open for more news on the new project.
Franziska Schicketanz is someone I hadn’t seen before and her Facebook site describes music that is ‘Hoffnungsvoll, fröhlich und anrührend’ (Positive, happy and moving) but for the most part I would say ‘melancholic’ described her performance this evening. Great for relaxing after a hard weeks work though, and Artur Schultz was I think on backing acoustic to underpin things tastefully. A lively rendition of ‘Young and wild and free’ rounded her set off and was her only song in english this evening; but she made a new fan anyway by announcing London as her favourite City in the world!
Ijaz Ali comes from a little further afield than Bonn – Bad Hönningen in fact – and for those keeping records, was in 2013 the very first singer-songwriter to make the final of Toys 2Masters – bagging a very creditable 3rd place. All of which was underlined by a powerful performance this evening. Ali has both a strong sympathetic stage presence and a diverse collection of catchy pop/folk style songs. He looks a bit like John Lennon too, which can’t do his popularity ratings any harm. One to watch and listen too when he comes to your local pub/club/hall. Maybe even stadium? Well Ed Sheeran managed it with a similar bundle of talents.
I was here particularly to see the band Memories of July since they both intrigued and impressed me online. An alternative pop-rock band clearly relying very much on the extra punch of electric guitars and a punky vocal. This evening though a duo. Could they pull it off? such a reduction in raw power? As in those famous MTV acoustic nights Laura Langenbach and guitarist Jonas Schmidt stood the acoustic test very well indeed. Langenbach proved to have a good set of tonsils and delivered her stripped down electric numbers with style, power and a maturity beyond her years. She kept the raw energy high too, as evidenced by the enthusiastic front row fans making plane landing gestures as she sang ‘I Wanna Fly’. Happy faces in audience and onstage. I liked Schmidt’s guitar playing too, stepping away from chords to keep the arrangements fresh and interesting. I hope to catch this band in ‘full format’ sometime in the near future, at which time I will also ask them where the Memories of July name came from. Very promising indeed.
I caught and reported on Zufällig Hier during their appearance in the Toys 2Masters Final this year where they took the silver medal so to speak. A humorous band but not my sort of humour was my verdict – which isn’t to say I don’t like them. more that I don’t quite understand them. Their music is honed on playing in the streets, especially in Cologne, so not surprisingly they have an excellent repartee with the audience and know how to both get and keep audience attention – which are skills in themselves not to be sneezed at. The audience loved them and the atmosphere rubbed off on me too – I found myself smiling at times even though I didn’t know quite why. Maybe I’m becoming a fan? I think there will be plenty of future opportunities to decide.
An enjoyable and relaxing evening. Good to see that there is a young musical community in Bonn that sees the benefit of working together rather than every man (woman) for themselves. The RPZ is proving to be a worthy addition to the local cultural community. All acts passed the acoustic test with flying colours and would get my support for a floorspot at Bonn Folk Club -just leave those cables at home…
Finally, a topical song courtesy of Clara Clasen: