Pop, Funk, Rock, Soul, with a bit of synthesizer… Bonn band Steal a Taxi claim to cover a lot of musical ground. Far simpler to avoid all classifications except just one: Good or Bad? I’m sure George Orwell would have given them a definite “Double plus good” and, not surprisingly for a band who have appeared many times already on this site, I would very definitely agree. Sunday saw the band play their last show of 2017 to a big and enthusiastic crowd at Bonn Harmonie.
Looking round at 8pm I see a sea of cameras. I could well imagine that every moment of this show will be photographed and videoed from every angle all night. My concert photographing tells me that, mathematically speaking, the maximum number of camera clicks is in direct proportion to the maximum level of charisma exhibited by the front man (or usually in such cases, woman). I’ve seen it tested at many a Blues Caravan show – especially those labelled ‘Girls with Guitars’.
The singer with tonight’s band only has a (bass) guitar briefly this evening, but Makeda Michalke is undeniably charismatic. Rather reminiscent of Layla Zoe, Makeda also has a guitarist very much sharing the stage. Martin Schmidt is not yet in the playing league of Jan Laacks but he knows his way around a fretboard to good effect already (I’d actually like to hear him get a bit more time, but ‘Taxi’ tunes are very much of the radio friendly pop length and not generally designed for mammoth rock solos)
The sea of cameras is off and clicking from the moment the band step onstage and Mikeda takes a seat behind her Nord Electro piano. If you’ve followed this site then you will have seen the video of ‘Feel Like Home’. One of those spine tingling ballads. It lets both audience and band settle in for the night musically. A shame that for such a wonderful song the sound levels are still in need of adjustment but you’ve gotta start somewhere…
The set list currently writes itself. There should be some new material out again next year hopefully, which is no criticism of numbers like Rapunzel and Addiction but I see a smoothness and a bit more maturity on the newer numbers and would really like to hear more.
One number I hope will remain in their set as long as they have a set list is ‘Time’ which is still a killer in terms of lyrics, tune and soulful delivery. In a Rock band this would be the ‘Big Ballad’ and I would love this band to have some more up-paced pop/rock numbers, both to give the set more dynamics and also to allow Martin Schmidt more of a work-out on his Telecaster. I like hearing the funky rhythms on numbers like ‘I Wanna go there’ and ‘You Want What You Don’t Want’ but the solos always seem too short for me – a heritage of my being brought up on 70’s rock classics with five minute guitar heaven (and sometimes hell…!)
Nobody could complain about the enthusiasm of the band, and kudos that they obviously put a lot of effort into the performances and also the presentation (something learned no doubt during their time in ‘PopCamp’ and on the road around Europe). I especially loved the fluorescent red drum sticks wielded by Makeda and drummer Flo Weik on ‘Addiction’.
Makeda is of course the centre point of the show, and every time I see her perform she seems more at ease with the role. A lot of appearances in Cologne’s ‘Bodyguard – The Musical’ will have helped that, she will have had plenty of practice there dancing too, and the cameras click away as much when she sings as when she dances in between verses which says everything that needs saying on that subject.
With Michalke and Schmidt taking centre stage it’s easy to forget that this is a four piece band. The rhythm section of Körr Bass with Flo Weik give a solid performance musically but also play their part visually in the band’s performance. Hopefully they will settle in for good since any band that puts Soul and Funk on it’s sounds list needs a dynamic duo that can follow each other blindly and a solid bass/drum understanding takes time. Given Makeda’s duties centrestage it’s also good to see that The bass man can also take on synths duties but a full-time keyboard player would fill out the sound nicely. The likes of Bob Fridzema don’t come along every day though and that’s just future talk.
As always when I see this band I see the potential and start a long list of ‘what ifs…’ The bottom line with Steal a Taxi is that Makeda has a fine voice and her musical partnership with Martin Schmidt has produced some excellent and often funky Pop/Rock songs. As a live band there is a lot to enjoy now and also something to come back for in future as the band continues to evolve. 2018 will be a key year for the future of Steal a Taxi. Hopefully it will bring some new tunes, something up-tempo along with the classy ballads they deliver so well. But there I am again back in ‘What if…?’ mode. In the today and the here and the now. without ‘what ifs’, this is a live band with a fine set of songs and the enthusiasm to play them well to a live audience. Double plus good in fact.