Music these days isn’t measured by discs sold, sometimes not even by files downloaded. Careers now are made (and presumably also ended) via YouTube. Take tonight’s show at Bonn Kunst!Rasen: Wincent Weiss first made his musical mark via an acoustic version of Turkish/German pop-singer Elif Demirezer’s song ‘Unter meine Haut’ on YouTube. Main support act LEA (aka Lea-Marie Becker) began making music at 15 but broke through when a YouTube video of ‘Wo ist die Liebe?’ rang up a mind-boggling 45,000 clicks overnight (now almost 3 million). In addition – the best introduction I could give you of local openers for the evening Steal a Taxi would be to send a link to their song ‘Time’ – on YouTube…
Do they measure up, not on a flat screen after countless edits, but on a stage with just one chance to deliver?
It’s 6 pm at the Kunst!Rasen ‘playing field’ and I’m standing in the photo-pit listening to Mike Zito. Sadly Mike is only playing from the speakers and is not here in person. The amiable Texan does good business at Bonn Harmonie with an audience of 400 – but that’s not going to be enough for a venue that takes 9000. Such is the pity and injustice of this musical World. All is not lost musically, however, because shortly after Mike fades from the speakers a young lady steps onto the stage with a band that I know has some classy Pop/Funk numbers up their collective sleeves – Steal a Taxi with the charismatic Makeda are playing a home gig.
She only has a half hour to do it, but Makeda still somehow manages to impress an audience that is probably largely from outside Bonn. There are CD’s on the merchandise table, but I suspect this is a Spotify/YouTube crowd so I hope the kids check out the aforementioned Steal a Taxi video. Certainly, there were plenty of photo requests with Makeda after the set. But lets not fast forward, we would miss a lot of excellent music if we did. The band themselves were clearly enjoying the big stage, in their hometown.
The Kunst!Rasen stage this year has an additional front of stage ramp and Makeda was quick to make the extra stage space her own. Sitting out on the end of it, she seemed so relaxed that she could as easily have been at home on the sofa watching the TV rather than in front of several hundred teenagers. A short set sadly, but all the best SAT songs got an airing. They know how to deliver a catchy melody of course, and it says something about the remaining evening that when I head for home after the whole show I have the band’s ‘You Want What You Don’t Want’ melody running round in my head. Hopefully, with Makeda’s commitments to playing in the ‘Bodyguard’ musical over, there will be more time to devote to the band. Steal a Taxi really are one of Bonn’s brightest musical stars and it would be a shame if they were to run out of steam now.
When LEA steps onto the stage it’s to loud cheers. The sound seems almost surreal given the unassuming young lady herself – a smile, a wave and straight to her electric piano. The ‘songwriting ladies at piano’ category is a small one in the pop world. I think of Tori Amos for example. Lea’s songs are not in the ‘Me and a gun’ league of Miss Amos, but the 25 year old Hanoverian does have some simple but thoughtful pop lyrics to offer. :
“Schaut euch nur diese Welt an, es ist so komisch
Leben geniessen gibt es nicht mehr, weis nicht was los ist
bald wird die Welt sich nicht mehr weiterdrehen
wenn wir nicht einsehen
dass wir für unser Glück selbst verantwortlich sind” – ‘Wo ist die Liebe hin’
I can well imagine Lea going down well at Bonn Folk Club. Just don’t make it public – we might find ourselves a couple of hundred tables and 1900 chairs short.
The breakthrough that Wincent Weiss made via YouTube was an indirect one. As a teenager, he had a ‘famous 15 minutes’ through Germany’s musical talent show DSDS but faded away again, until a video he’d downloaded was mixed into a hit by some clever young DJ’s. He then had not only the male model good looks but also the hit records – everything required for a pop-star really; which is largely why he’s pushing through a densely packed crowd of young ladies with a microphone in one hand and a packet of Haribo sweets (a present from fans) in the other. Weiss actually makes numerous such forays into an audience that seems, not as I would expect, to tear him to pieces, but instead, content just to reach lightly out with a touch to prove they’re not dreaming.
The songs, like the band, do what they need to do – which is underpin the popstar image. They don’t have the thoughtful texts offered by Lea – ‘Regenbogen’ for instance isn’t any sort of allegory as far as I could translate. It’s all just about seeing a rainbow. I can almost imagine that ‘Feuerwerk’ was actually written so that paper confetti could be shot out from the stage as it indeed does on cue. Admittedly, I did enjoy the duet between Weiss and Lea of the latters ‘Wohin willst du’, but then I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. sugary ballads though are like sugary sweets – enjoyable in moderation.
It’s easy to be critical, but The Beatles started out with ‘Help – I need somebody’ and ‘She Loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’ so there always was, and still is, a place for fun formula pop songs. Tunes written with no other reason than to make people happy or sad according to a simple sprinkling of major or minor keys. Let’s not be pretentious, the youngsters came to this concert to have a good time and they were not disappointed. For Wincent Weiss mission accomplished. I’ve seen plenty of shows where top musicians have used deeply crafted lyrics and uncharted chordal progressions which only stunned listeners into comatose boredom. I won’t be buying a Wincent Weiss album any time soon, but some 4000 people left the Kunst!Rasen happy after a concert they enjoyed and that’s finally what matters.