Hard to believe, but this was virtually a year to the day that Letlowe (then Millennia) laid claim to the title of Toys 2Masters winners 2016. That same year was also a very special one for tonight’s headliners – October saw Who Killed Bruce Lee appearing on this very stage at Bonn Harmonie for the Crossroads Rockpalast series.
An evening then with two bands who have everything to play for right now. It should be an electric evening and I don’t just mean the equipment plugged in on the dimly lit stage with the two band logos vying for attention.
It would certainly have been interesting to hold a headcount of who was here to see which band – certainly I recognized many a face from past Letlowe/Millennia shows and when the band come onstage they are immediately covered by a video camera and photographer. It seems young bands come complete with a media crew these days, a result of the modern tech minded generation I guess – not to mention the availability of good, affordable recording equipment – and of course no self-respecting young rockband could afford to lack instant videos on Facebook and Twitter tweets. One thing doesn’t change though, and that is the simple truth that however much ‘image’ you put out – to really last you need your own sound and good songs.
Letlowe have certainly got good songs now since the release of their CD this year. My only complaint is that their best one (and my favourite) the slow burning ballad ‘Whisper’ doesn’t get a place in this evening’s set. Time constraints I guess, and no complaints about the material that was played – Alassio Schröder’s vocals were spot on as always although the opener ‘Catastrophe’ saw him hidden behind mike and synth (?) stands. Hit ’em between the eyes from the start guys. There’s a reason Thin Lizzy always started with ‘Jailbreak’!. A good set then from the Bonn rockers, with the best of it coming from tracks off ‘Relations’.
‘Remaining Silence’ is very close stylistically to the missing ‘Whisper’ which perhaps explains the latter’s absence. If I was asked to suggest the quintessential Letlowe sound I would be inclined to point the enquirer in the direction of ‘Smalltown’ with it’s tick-tock rhythm and Soft Cell styled vocals.
If the band didn’t start quite on all cylinders they most certainly finished that way – with bassist Tom Englert leaping about as if on springs, and Schröder leaning out towards the audience to entice sing-alongs (and why WAS the audience always six feet away from the stage front?) Are we in a day and age where so many concerts have crush barriers that people automatically leave ‘dead’ ground stage front? As a photographer who appreciates the extra elbow room I’m not complaining – just curious. After some sixty shows in Germany this year the band are hoping to make a British tour in 2018. Their last video and indeed their name come from the UK so it seems fitting somehow. Hopefully they can get some more songs of the quality represented on ‘Relations’ for their arsenal in the meantime. I’m sure they will come back from such a tour an even better band than they undoubtedly already are.
The gap between audience and stage was a problem that even continued into the set of Who Killed Bruce Lee, which was surprising given that the band are notoriously good at getting audiences up and dancing. Maybe that was the reason the quartet took a while to get going. They certainly weren’t getting things their way despite praising the Harmonie for it’s atmosphere at last year’s Rockpalast show. Guitar/vocalist Wassim Bou Malham was exasperated enough by the perceived lack of volume to exclaim “How is it called Rock and Roll if you have a decibel meter?. 90 Decibels? It’s like a kid crying for milk!”
The sound was loud and meaty enough to my ears. As Malham pointed out – “Where we come from (Lebanon) we are very used to having rules to obey. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t…” It didn’t (was not allowed to) get any louder, but after this exclamation the band seemed to relax and the audience too – finally dancing en masse. Not that they had much choice when the band literally really found it’s rhythm. Pascal Sarkiss on bass and Malek Riz Kallah on drums know how to keep a fine line between rock and dance funk. Swirling keyboard from Hassib Dergham , together with Malham’s solid guitar rhythms did the same. With everyone keeping the rhythm there were times when I felt a lack of bite in the music but for the majority that was no problem – they came to dance!
I saw an interview with Who Killed Bruce Lee online where in answer to the question “What makes you angry?” the answer was “Living in the Land of no opportunity”. With Bayern based Brainstorm Music Marketing looking after them, and successful tours here too, Germany could well be the Land of Opportunity they lacked. Certainly WKBL are a band who care very much about their music and put a lot of effort and passion into their shows. Recommended live, but if you plan to invite them for a house concert – warn the neighbours first!