With her latest CD title ‘Under Stars’ Amy MacDonald aims to prove that we are never far from others – on Earth we’re all under the same stars. On Tuesday evening though the song may have been better titled ‘Under Umbrellas’ as the last evening of Kunst!Rasen 2017 saw relentless rain turning the ‘Rasen’ into a rather un’Kunsty’ pile of mud. MacDonald was clearly surprised at the c.5000 people in front of her: “Thank you all for coming despite the weather – and for being so colourful with your coats and umbrellas!”. It almost made me forget that the rain was starting to soak through my coat. Almost…
It seems rather sexist on the part of the weather but women always seem to attract the cloudbursts. Thus far I’ve been caught out twice here. Once before Joan Baez came onstage, and once last year when Zaz went splashing about front of stage with her inimitable energy. Amy MacDonald is a Scotswoman, and as she freely admitted, therefore well used to the odd rainshower of 12 hours or more. What she wasn’t quite so used to were spiders: “Excuse me for the sudden pause during that last one” she announced in her thick Glaswegian accent “But as I was singing a huge spider landed on the microphone and ran straight towards my open mouth!”. Other than large spiders though nothing seemed to bring Miss MacDonald out of her stride. From the opener, also the new CD’s opener, ‘Under Stars’ on, there was a veterans confidence in her performance.
If you saw the picture I was using to advertise this show on my website you might not have even recognized Amy MacDonald this evening. Her blonde hair from the Museumsplatz show was now dark, and her repertoire has quadrupled since then. Still though it has to be said that the real gems of the evening were largely from that 2007 ‘This is the Life’ and much of the best of the rest was very similar to that top selling release. It came from a time when, as she says onstage this evening, MacDonald was watching as much as playing gigs. She recalls her inspiration coming from seeing Glasgow band Travis in action and then begins to sing their hit “Why does it alwas rain on me…” before pondering with a smile “Now why did that one pop into my head?” just as a gust of wind blows rainwater down from the stage canopy.
The ten years since her last appearance here, and the three subsequent albums, have created a very different Amy MacDonald. At Museumsplatz the material was thin on the ground. It’s a problem faced earlier in the evening by support act and yet another Scot, Lewis Capaldi for whom an internet search turned up a whole two complete songs and who this evening seemed to struggle initially with nervousness. Clearly it’s a great idea to give Capaldi some big audience experience because his voice was very much stronger by the sets end. it’s a pity though that local bands can’t be given support slots on these occasions. I can think of a half dozen who would have more songs and also gain from a big audience. No offence to Lewis Capaldi on that – I guess the record company has a say in such matters.
No worries about nerves for the main act though. “Now I’ve been on the road regularly for ten years I’ve learned the value of a hot cup of tea and an early night” smiles Miss MacDonald. There’s a steaming cup of tea in an ‘Amy MacDonald’ merchandise mug in her hands to prove it “Great for drinking fresh water from too” she can’t resist joking. I’m a bit more concerned about the ‘early night’ bit of that sentence though.
But old classics like 2007’s ‘Mr Rock n Roll’ take my mind off of that remark and there are after all one or two pleasant surprises for those who, like me, have lost touch with Amy. I especially loved a pared down version of ‘4th of July’ from 2012’s ‘In a Beautiful Light’. The bitter sweet ballad ‘Never too Late‘ was also a spine tingling moment (or was that a raindrop sliding under the collar of my dripping raincoat?)
Maybe a disappointment of the evening for me and possibly a fault of the gusty breeze and swirling rain, was that her beautifully distinctive voice seemed too far down in the mix at times. I did catch her exclaiming “Come crashing down, like water, like rain” at one point though and that misogynistic weatherman in the sky duly obliged.
Thank you’s are in order now at close of business for 2017 to the hard working Kunst!Rasen team who provided a safe arena (the friendly security), booked the bands (Noise Now), looked after the Kunst!Rasen (Martin Nötzel and co), fellow photographers who shared, without violence, four small wooden pallets as a photo platform for Jean-Michel Jarre), the caterers (Indian Food wagon duo especially take a bow for super vegetarian curry at a minutes notice) and indeed to everyone who came to show they want and even better, are prepared to spend time and money, to have top class live music in Bonn. I salute you all!