The t-shirts in the front row said it all: ’15 Years – Mr Music Presents Julian Sas‘. Sas himself celebrates the relationship by describing Bernd (Bernie) Gelhausen as “One of the few good Men still standing” in music – and dedicates ‘Devil Got My Number’ to the Man behind Mr Music. The two have come a long way, always believed in what they do, never compromising, and built up solid support over many years for it – one making music and the other selling it. It may be a big living room – but for Julian Sas Bonn Harmonie really been home for well over a decade.
The concert review from Julian’s 2005 appearance (his third in a row it states proudly!) praises better acoustics than previously and better oxygen, due to a new roof and new air-conditioning put in that year. Thankfully both are still in good working order because something else hasn’t changed since that evening – a full house of enthusiastic fans. My own attendance at these shows is somewhat more modest, even so, I recognize familiar dutch faces around me. People I only see once a year and standing virtually in the same place as last year, and the year preceding that…
Something that has changed though is the Band around Mr Sas. For many years a trio, back in 2003 Sas had the same set-up as tonight. Then with Pieter van Bogaert on keys, Pierre de Haard – “the Boogie Machine” on drums and of course Tenny Tahamata pounding the bass. I never got to hear that particular combo, but it’s unlikely they could have bettered this evening’s Sas band with Roland Bakker on keys, Rob Heijne drums and Fotis Anagnostou bass. The sheer pleasure that these guys have making blues-rock together is palpable every second of the show as each eggs the others on with a smile or a challenging run of notes to follow. If there’s a happier band onstage in this World then I’d like to know their name and what they’re taking!
There are no musical surprises for the packed-house on this slightly chilly November Saturday. That won’t bother anyone here one iota of course. The set still has its core from 2016’s ‘Coming Home Tour’ and it’s subsequent CD. You could really just stay at home and listen with a cold beer and the HiFi turned up loud – but Sas at the Harmonie is a party, and there is even a couple here who have travelled over from Russia.
The lyric of an early song this evening ‘Jump for Joy’ affirms we will be in safe hands this evening:
“The music will take you higher. We won’t let you down”
…and so it proves. A couple of thoughtful ballads in the perennially popular ‘Blues for J’ and the more recent ‘Coming Home’ affirm that Sas knows how to turn the motor down. His musical ‘chops’ don’t need proving to this particular audience, but there’s a raw version of Hendrix’ ‘Hey Joe’ in case anyone is in doubt.
There are a half dozen guitars in the rack beside the genial Dutchman, and he picks them out as a doctor might choose just the right scalpel. Instead of flesh though, it’s your heartstrings that Julian Sas is operating on – and your hips, as he announces near the end of an over two-hour set: “I have two questions for you Bonn. Question one – are you all having a good time? The answer is a loud and unequivocal ‘Yes!!!’ especially from the fan club camped out, as ever, in front of Bakker and Anagnostou. The second question also gets a loud and unequivocal “Yes!!!” and that is “Are you ready to boogie?”. Regulars won’t be surprised to hear that this question was followed by a thumping rendition of Rory’s great crowdpleaser ‘Bullfrog Blues’, curiously though, despite having two Strats at his disposal, Sas plays this one on a Telecaster.
The same procedure this year Julian?. Same procedure as EVERY year. The fans – and I’m one of them, wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not looking to re-invent the wheel, we just want a good musical time. If this is a church, then it’s the Church of Honest Rock and Boogie and the sermon is read by the Rverend Julian Sas – a man who practices what he preaches.
Tickets for next year’s show were already available on the door. It’s a year away, but don’t leave it too long before snapping them up. If you’re looking for someone to reinvent Blues-Rock then forget it. If however, you appreciate a band that loves playing together, headed by one of Europe’s best Rock guitarists, playing good, unpretentious music then Julian Sas and his band of Merry Rocking Blues Men are recommended.