No, it’s nothing to do with Star Trek. Next Generation in Bonn though could also be a long-running series. Three concerts have been planned this year by Wolf ‘Lupus’ Fabian, with the first taking place at Bonn Harmonie on Tuesday. Rapture and Steal a Taxi were the first bands to appear in this series which is aimed at bringing the best new local groups to a bigger stage.
More senior music fans in Bonn will know Wolf Fabian as the drum man behind legendary cult-rockers Electric Sandwich. Tonight though, he is front of stage to introduce some of the best young talents in the Bonn area. ‘Next Generation’ is, he clarifies, aimed squarely at promising newcomers who not only sing and play but also write their own material. It’s always been hard for unknown musicians to completely ‘do their own thing’ of course. Audiences at pubs and clubs like to hear something familiar, something to sing along to.
Not surprisingly though, the audience at Bonn Harmonie is largely already fans of the bands. In that respect, the Summer Stadtgarten Festival offers a better chance of finding a new audience. What the Harmonie does offer though is a decent sized venue and professional set-up. When Alina Heeg and her colleagues from Rapture arrive on the stage at 7.30pm they’re doing so in the footsteps of Johnny Winter and Ian Hunter – just two Rock legends who have tread those same boards in recent years.
Not surprisingly, Rapture need a few minutes to take in their surroundings. They’re a band that likes to jump around, especially to the Reggae-fired numbers, and they initially jump a little stiffly. After the first couple of numbers though a big and confident smile appears on the face of Alina Heeg that stays there for the rest of an excellent set, and the increasing confidence is almost palpable throughout the band as they present an excellent and varied set.
Guitarist Jan Teichmann points out at one stage that putting bands into categories is an unnecessary straitjacket for creativity. I find it is usually helpful when describing a band to others to say their music is Blues or Jazz or Metal or whatever oriented, but in the case of Rapture, it is one of their strong-points that their music really is impossible to define. Certainly, the dreadlocks in Heeg’s hair put you in the direction of Ska/Reggae as does the opener ‘Fly High’ and other numbers such as ‘Save My Life’, support that notion. But then along come ‘Human Moment’ and ‘No Jah’ that push into Rock territory. The arrival onstage of Maren Teichmann clutching a flute as special guest took the band in another direction again, this time into electric-folk territory. it speaks volumes for the band that the change in style was seamless.
I managed to get a short chat with the band after the show and they really are a very down to earth friendly bunch of keen youngsters. Currently, they are enjoying just making music live and when I raise the question of getting something down in a recording studio it almost seems like something they haven’t really talked about. Guitarist/writer Jan Teichmann promises me a video soon and it’s now online I’m pleased to say, so give ‘Fly High’ a listen HERE
If you’ve checked out the link above then you’ll know Steal a Taxi had quite something to follow. No problems there though. Despite being in musical terms still a young band, Taxi, and in particular charismatic front-lady Makeda, have already collected quite a bit of musical experience. Where Rapture stepped onto this stage for the first time. Steal a Taxi have been here a few times already. They were in Chengdu China as part of a cultural exchange with Bonn City and my last sighting of them was on the big stage at Kunst!Rasen supporting Wincent Weiss, where Makeda sat at the front of the stage dangling her long legs over it as if she were at home on the sofa. That’s not to mention the stint in ‘Bodyguard’ where she also stood in for the Whitney Houston lead role.
The result is a sleek, professional set that marked out some yardsticks regarding presentation that the previous band hopefully will have noticed. There’s the build-up music – Lights down and build the tension time. Korbian Stöcker builds on this with gentle keyboard overlay, Makeda takes her place at the electric piano and tension builds… I remember a similar start from John Miles some forty years ago. Stagecraft. Makeda has had plenty of time to work on her stage presence with Bodyguard and again, it’s the seemingly simple things visually that make the difference. Musically we have been lucky to see two excellent bands tonight, but the extra polish of Steal a Taxi is evident, and only dips slightly when Stöcker mislays whatever instrument he planned to play during ‘Time‘ and ends up as extra drummer on the side of Thomas Esch who is standing in on only his third outing with the band tonight (and you wouldn’t know it by his confident performance). The band get in the groove from the opening chords of YWWYDW (You Want What You Don’t Want) and keep that groove throughout.
Steal a Taxi can groove with confidence of course as on ‘Rapunzel‘ and ‘Dirty Shoes’ but it’s still the big ballads that hit home best. ‘Don’t Fall in Love with me’ for example with Makeda back behind the electric piano and especially on a bewitching acoustic version of ‘Time’ where the mirror lighted walls competed with Makeda’s voice to hypnotize. Others will argue that the Lady looks her best, not behind a piano, but behind a Fender Precision Bass. Certainly, there are loud cheers when she straps this on for ‘I Don’t Think So’. It makes for both a funky and a sexy five minutes for sure. Should she spend more time like this? It looks good, but I remember Nik West on this very stage recalling how Prince showed her how to really play bass – as a physical extension of her body. Makeda has other, and better talents – especially a voice that can tackle pretty well anything. Strap the bass on all night? I don’t think so.
A high-point came with the encore. Not a surprise in that it was the always popular rocker ‘Freeway’. What made it extra special was a deliciously put together loop track from Makeda’s vocal. Great to hear some experimenting with the sound going on. Which brings me to a critical point. Steal a Taxi undoubtedly deliver a solid and professional set, and make no mistake, they are certainly still one of Bonn’s finest musical exponents in my book. Martin Schmidt is musically and visually a great counter-point to Makeda (and visually something for the girls whilst the men have their attention on Miss Purple!) They need, and have, a solid fundament of bass and drums to keep a Funk/Rock groove going. Makeda though has been down to Poland this year, mixing in Jazz waters with the likes of Pee Wee Ellis and Polish Jazzman Gregor Piotrowski. She has some fine songs under her belt without a doubt, but I really would love to see her try something a little different – take a few steps down the Jazz road musically perhaps (with a little sprinkling of Funk still, naturally) alongside the work with Steal a Taxi.
No complaints about the music itself tonight though. Two fine bands. One that has already made a way down the success road and another who will have made a lot of fans this evening. Both with a mountain of potential to go on to greater things still. A great idea from Wolf Fabian to give creative and talented local bands a good stage to be heard, and I’m already looking forward to the following ‘Next Generation’ bands. Bonn’s Rock and Pop Ambassador Hans-Joachim Over had a big smile on his face at the end of the evening that suggests Rapture will have another big stage to play on before long at Stadtgarten. Steal a Taxi are still very much cruising but may have to plug in their navi and decide which road to take soon. Whatever happens, good and creative music from all the musicians onstage tonight is assured – hopefully for many years.