This almost seemed like a continuation of my previous visit to Stadtgarten just two weeks ago. Ladies Night revisited? Two bands fronted by ladies in the forms of Magdalena Ganter with Mockemalör down from Berlin and Makeda playing a ‘home gig’ with Steal a Taxi were playing just a stones throw from the Rhine. The show was presented by PopCamp which supports popular music in Germany, offering up-coming talent coaching Germany-wide. Is there such a thing in England? If not, there should be! It’s a great idea as it creates band’s that are very enjoyable and very different, as this evening’s show was to prove. Even the weather decided to play along – so much so that by shows end, and counting in the crowded beergarden and the (reasonably) dry embankment, some 2500 people were there to share some Bonn Summer magic.
Apologies straight away to Kassel’s Wir bringen kalte Kaffee mit. I couldn’t make it to Alter Zoll in time for their set. They did by all accounts do an excellent job of setting a relaxed atmosphere for the evening that followed.
Mockemalör. If anyone can tell me what the name means, please do so. Musically I know that it stands for ‘Berlin Blackforest Electro-Chanson’ or so my trusty guide to this year’s Stadtgarten tells me. Certainly they were from Berlin, formed in 2010 in fact and with a couple of CD’s under their collective belts on the prestigious JazzHouse label. If you give their videos a listen you are likely to hear a sound nudging at times in the direction of Kraftwerk. Tonight though there is less of the electro in their set and much more of the chanson.
Martin Bach on drums and particularly Simon Steger on keys create the atmosphere audio-wise but it’s really Magdalena Ganter who provides the visual soundtrack of the set so to speak. She has that lively impish presence onstage that reminds me of Zaz. Every song, indeed every line of every song, has it’s own visual nuance. The lady commands attention with arms, legs, lips and eyes that are constantly changing shape and mood.
She changes instrument quite often too. An accordian that fits perfectly with the 20’s Berlin Jazz sound, a single drum, and most notably, a Weltmeister Basset Keytar. No, that’s not a spelling error. The ‘keytar’ in question is something of a bass guitar but with lots of keys and an array of nobs and switches that make it sound more like a church organ than a Fender Precision bass.
Magdalena’s best instrument though is undoubtedly her rich voice. If you imagine Jazz with a twist of contemporary electronics you will be well on the way to knowing what Mockemälor sound like – ‘Berlin Blackforest Electro-Chanson’ actually turns out to be spot on.
Was there some danger of Magdalena stealing some of Makeda’s thunder? Not really. The music of both band’s really bore no comparison. Goodbye electro chanson, hello Funk-Rock.
Steal a Taxi have been on my musical radar for a while now and it’s been especially interesting to see their development since the 2015 PopCamp (also the year Mockemalör took part). The songs have always been there. Without them of course there would be no band to coach. Numbers such as ‘Rapunzel’ and of course the band’s signature rock-out closer ‘Freeway’ are great Pop-Rock songs.
Last year’s show at Bonn Harmonie displayed a classy showmanship to the band’s presentation and indeed it’s the presentation that hits you squarely between the eyes when the band take the stage at 9 pm. No instantly plug in and play. Build up the atmosphere with some swirling synths for a minute or two and POW! pyrotechnics each side of the stage of a kind I haven’t seen since the heady days of Lizzy breaking into ‘Jailbreak’. Makeda commands the stage as did Mr Lynott, she even plays a Fender bass. The fireworks though, like the bass playing, is gentler. This isn’t ACDC although Martin Schmidt throws some lead guitarist shapes as if he sometimes wishes the band were more of a hard rock combo.
Makeda though is not a Rock singer. She has a very fine soul-funk voice that has got a lot of workouts over the last couple of year’s through often taking the lead role in Bodyguard at the theatre in Cologne. She’s a little funkier than Whitney Houston and I can’t imagine that Houston would have strapped on an electric bass guitar. Makeda is Makeda purely and simply. She has an enthusiasm and charm that makes the entire audience – from beergarden to distant grass bank feel like she’s the girl next door who just happens to have a voice to die for.
The onstage partnership of Schmidt and Michalke (Makeda) is as irresistable as ever but the band seems in a state of flux. On drums today is Flo Weik and Kör Bass is (surprise, surprise) playing bass. Is the latter a real name or a play on his instrument? They did a good enough job laying down the rhythm of the band and hopefully some stability is at hand. There is a new song added to the set this evening, otherwise it’s a set based around 2015’s ‘You Want What You Don’t Want’ (YWWYDW) and that was just six tracks in length. Hopefully there is more new material on the way because the band is getting everything right onstage. Great to see so many people were there but if you weren’t then you can catch Steal a Taxi on 8 November at the Harmonie. Do you really want to miss it? To steal a song title from the band itself, and based on tonight’s performance – ‘I don’t think so!’