So, How was it for you, Bonn music lovers?. 3songs certainly caught some interesting Concerts at Kunst!rasen – but (regrettably) missed probably the two most memorable. Tom Jones was a quality opener for sure, and Steven Wilson by all Accounts played a blinder. I did catch Alanis Morrissette but was more Impressed by Support duo Ezio (So much that I visited the duo’s ‘Xmas Show’). It was great to see Steve Winwood still so obviously enjoying making music too, although his guest star Gary Clarke Junior rather disappointed – possibly with his thoughts on the London Hyde Park gig three days later with the likes of Clapton present. The highlight from what I did see was the appearance of Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson (John Illsley’s Dire Straits Show was admirable, but Dire Straits without Mr Knopfler? Isn’t- if you Know What I mean). Singing along to ‘Dreamer.. was a dream come true!
3songs didn’t cover too much in Cologne this year, but some of the best Shows I caught were up the road. Most memorably, my favourite Band at the moment was playing to a hot and sweaty Luxor audience. The girls of Larkin Poe have been on my must See list since I caught their YouTube Videos Made in hotel bathrooms, living rooms and indeed anywhere that two Girls and a cell phone would fit. If there was no room for guitars, then they sang their Blues Acapella- to devastating Effect. Fitting therefore that when I finally caught up with them they were Number One in the Billboard Blues Chart!
As usual, there were some enjoyable shows at Bonn Harmonie. Layla Zoe brought her stunning ‘Gemini’ disc to a live stage before announcing a break from performing later in the year. Blues Caravan introduced me to a fellow Rory Gallagher fan in the fine musical shape of Vanja Sky, and the G mans music was brought back to us in fine and reverential style by his former bassist and drummer when Band of Friends made an appearance. Thanks to Gerry and Ted for allowing me an update to my previous interview. A word of praise also for Marcus Scherpenzeel who interprets Rory’s music so perfectly without sounding like a cliche. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed a number of excellent shows in 2018, including most of this year’s visits by Rockpalast. I did make sure to secure a ticket for southern rockers Blackberry Smoke though. Tickets seemed to be like gold dust for this one, but the show didn’t quite reach 22-carat level. Blame it on the band’s laid-back southern roots perhaps, but a distinct lack of fire left me going home without a single tune in my head.
My Bonn show of the year? Samantha Fish brought out two super cd’s in 2018 and is clearly at the top of her musical game right now. Just shading out Ana Popovic, who also showed that horn sections are in vogue these days, to add musical punch to funk and blues. Sharon Shannon also made a great impression, as did her talented band (I won’t forget the human percussion noises in a hurry)
Down at the Stadtgarten, local matadors the Marion and Sobo Band played a blinder to introduce their new cd. The Buttshakers were good but seemed better suited to the sweaty indoor atmosphere of the Harmonie, and Baums Bluesbenders proved again (as they did also on a sunny evening alongside The Elder Statesmen in Bad Godesberg) that they really are a local Blues treasure.
When it comes to cd’s of the year I have to give first place to Layla Zoe’s ‘Gemini’ which sounded like the record she’s been waiting to release since she first started making discs. It will certainly be a hard one to follow for the Firegirl. I wouldn’t have expected to be putting a Folk Club act in my best of CD list, but one that keeps coming back on my player is Matthew Robb’s Dylanesque debut ‘Spirit in the Form’. Hot on its heels for plays are Van Morrison’s recent Jazz releases. It was also great to see Van the Man live beside Cologne Cathedral and clearly having a good time (I’m told by those who are able to detect these things!). Sam Fish’s ‘Belle of the West was also a bit special.
More than a bit worrying though was the ever-increasing bite out of the music sales cake of streaming services, especially Spotify. Crowdfunding started as a means for talented unknowns to get themselves noticed and picked up by record labels. It’s worrying indeed when musicians of the Layla Zoe and Dana Fuchs calibre are relying on crowdfunding to finance new releases. It’s hardly surprising that many bands practically live on the road to survive on live ticket sales and signed CDs.
Whilst it was great to see Mr Music re-open its doors in Bonn Centre, the decision clearly wasn’t made for Bernie Gelhausen to eventually retire as a rich man. News from the UK shortly before Christmas was that it’s biggest (only?) remaining music/video store HMV is set to go into receivership. The message is: Go to local gigs, buy CDs at them, via band websites, or at record stores whilst you can still find them.
Happy New Year music fans – and please buy CDs and support live music in 2019!