Thorbjorn Risager has good reason to like Bonn. It was here on the Harmonie stage not so long ago that he collected an award from the German music industry, the prestigious ‘Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik’. Here too that he and the Black Tornado band recorded his (excellent) live cd/dvd ‘Songs from the road’ on RUF Records. Bonn likes the affable Dane very much too, and a big crowd has turned out at the Harmonie this evening despite the chill of what Britain has described as ‘The Beast from the East’ weather front. Inside, the music goes down like a warm, smooth bourbon and in no time at all Risager’s Tornado’s have blown the Beast from the East clean away.
Looking around soon after the doors open and not a lot has changed since the band’s last visit. There’s no giant banner with the band’s name on hanging over the stage now – but then, in case we should forget who we came to see, it’s on the ticket. No new album to sell or change of personnel eithere. but that’s no big deal. As Risager himself might say “We are back to play for you, it’s a Sunday evening in wonderful Bonn – and everything is good!”
The band are onstage and just hearing the opening chords of ‘If you wanna leave’ is rather like putting on a favorite pair of slippers at the end of a hard day’s work. The relaxing bourbon may not be in your glass, but it is most definitely in Risager’s chocolate covered rough vocal. Is this Blues? More Soul with a Blues accent would be my description. Indeed, Soul fans should check the man out. ‘I used to love her’ and ‘Burning Up’ show the best aspects of that voice which is one of the most distinctive I’ve ever heard. When Risager sings “Long gone – like a dog that’s howling at the moon” and raises his head towards the balcony where I stand, I wait for the lonesome howl that surely must follow.
The two sets are well calculated: to start it’s up-tempo, step down a gear and shift back up at the end for a rousing finish and adrenalin high that leaves the audience wanting (needing?) more. Set one sees the aptly titled ‘Rock n Roll Ride’ performing the caffeine rush before the break. The said break seems to take a lot of the audience by surprise, even though the sets have been like this for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen the band a fair few times now. It did seem though as if Risager spent more time seated than in previous shows and his by nature finely chiselled face and thin body frame seem even gaunter and thinner this evening. The voice is as powerful as ever though, and the musicians prove that the band that plays (well) together, stays together. Every man-jack of them is top rate at their instrument and chomping at the bit for a solo.
There’s time for the band to sell a few cd’s at the break, and also time to ask PR man and horn player Peter Kehl about the new material of which we had a tempting tidbit earlier in the mellow form of ‘Sin City’. Initially I’m alarmed to hear that the next disc being planned is a live one. There’s only been one studio release since the Harmonie Rockpalast dvd after all, the excellent ‘Change My Game’. The disc Peter describes though will be more of a ‘Living Room Concert’ affair, with the band circled by it’s audience – oh, and all new songs too. I can hear the enthusiasm in Peter’s voice and in two minutes my scepticism has turned to a need to pre-order the yet to be recorded disc.
Set two is paced as set one was with the added attraction to kick things off of Peter Skjerning’s ‘Canjo’ – a strange hybrid of cigar box meets diddly bow. It’s actually an industrial sized soup can with some rather nifty wood and electric work done by it’s creator. Three strings and a prayer get it going and it’s a fun instrument to be sure. It even makes a cigarbox guitar look sophisticated. Ideas involving flowerpots and watering cans come into my head and I suspect that Peter would also give them a try out if he had time between tours.
The band close out this evening as always with a batch of foot stompers in the forms of ‘Baby please don’t go’, ‘All I Want’ and the oddly titled closing number called ‘Opener’!
By this time I’ve already headed to the balcony because last year there was a special treat that I hoped jut might come again, and it did. Risager quietly takes his seat on the bar stool centrestage and picks up his guitar, but it doesn’t get played at all. The instrument of choice for this song is his own deep and rough-hewn voice. Joined just by Emile Balsgaard’s bar room piano the Tom Wait’s classic ‘Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis’ is a highpoint of the show once again and I’m in heaven. Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado are in town, the beer is cold, the band is hot – and “alles ist gut!”
and finally, a bit of magic from Sunday..