Judging by the disappointing turnout a lot of you who witnessed Stacie Collins at past Harmonie shows will have missed this one. I have bad news for you people – you missed the best show yet. A teaspoonful of Country, a tablespoonful of Rock and a bucketful of Boogie. If Stacie and her ‘ALmighty Three’ band (headed by husband Al) were disappointed at the number of faces staring back at them come eight o’clock then they certainly didn’t show it.
When Al Collins steps out onto the Harmonie stage shortly before 8pm he seems to avoid looking any further than the fretboard of the Fender bass he’s tuning. I catch his eye long enough to point out that there’s a Jazz Festival on all week here in Bonn and weekend is bringing a long night of celebration for locals with free music and fireworks at ‘Rhein in Flammen’. He looks up enough to see several rows of sparsely populated bistro tables in front of which is a seeming ‘no man’s land’ of empty space to the stage. Perhaps at that moment, the challenge was seen – get the people at those tables standing and dancing as soon as possible.
If that was the case, then the challenge was met head-on when Al, the band, and of course their front lady hit the ground rocking with the Status Quo-boogie-riff of ‘Lost and Found’. a couple of songs in and I’ve gone from taking pictures in an empty space to being jostled by shoulder jigging, arm waving bodies and hands are punching the air to the band’s pomp ‘n’ stomp classic ‘King of Rock’ with its anthemic stop/go tempo.
All credit to the quartet onstage. Where others might have just closed off onstage and played amongst themselves this band played like we were an audience of thousands. When Collins took her habitual ‘walkabout’ with harp behind the frantic front rows I was astounded to see the bistro tables and seats again. I’d forgotten in the energy of the band and the wild, bobbing heads front of stage.
How could you not bob your head and tap your feet to this music though? Collins has created a mesmerizing musical style . It centres very often on the plain and simple twelve bar boogie riffing of bands like Status Quo (and indeed Al takes the lead for a song by those very masters ‘Break the Rules’ during the set) but gets it’s blues coating from Stacie’s superb harp playing. Really, this girl is one of the best bluesharp players in the business. Why is she never mentioned in Blues instrumental awards? Baffling.
What sets the band apart in the boogie-blues genre though is indicated by that Stetson hat that the lady loves to wear – she’s also something of a Country Queen. Fans of the band have known this for a long time – so much so that her first, now discontinued, disc from ten years ago was selling for premium prices on eBay. It’s a disc that showcases the potential of a younger Stacie Collins as a Country performer but there is an element in the voice that doesn’t quite fit the sound – a roughness that breaks out on the vocal lines normally so smoothe in Country.
That voice has certainly broken out this evening at Bonn Harmonie, like the sweat beads on the ladies face as she pours energy into each song. Some people roll up their sleeves to really get down to business. Stacie Collins throws her Stetson hat to the front of the drum podium. Now it’s REALLY serious! High octane serious in fact. Mean and magnificent with the howling harp effects on ‘Blood Moon’ and (to quote her website) ‘harp-howling, twang-banging Rock ‘n’ Roll’ when they completely rock out on ‘It’s a long way to the Top’ and of course the longtime Collins classic ‘My Baby Sister’.
Al Collins is no jazz player, and I mean that here as a compliment – he likes his Fender to pick out the groove thick and deep. It’s a style that new man on drums Ola Göransson follows happily. Old style Rock is his style too and he complements the band perfectly with a confidence and competence suggesting he’s been here for years. Guitarist Jon Sudbury isn’t such an in your face performer as the rest but then he doesn’t need to be. He plays the right riffs and has long, flowing hair for the solos. Hey, hey, Rock ‘n’ Roll is what his presence says.
We really didn’t deserve a show this good or this long (some two hours without a break). The band fed off the energy of the front rows of dancing heads to produce a powerhouse performance that will be hard to top next time. Well, hopefully, next time – great shows don’t pay the bills of bands or promoters, it’s tickets sold that do that.
There’s still time given to the faithful fans after the show for pictures and autographs. Stacie is keen for me to check out that early Country CD of hers that has just been reissued. Please don’t review it though she adds. It’s not where she is now musically. It is an indication of where she comes from musically though. Add meeting a rocker in the smiling shape of Al Collins from US rockers Jason & the Scorchers and you have the powerhouse that shook Bonn Harmonie on Thursday. Some people are born to rock and these guys and gal would give 100% to an audience of one, but what a shame so many people would miss out.