A packed house for tonight’s concert. How could it be anything else? Thorbjørn Risager and his Black Tornado Band have blown into The Harmonie and, to quote the big Dane’s endearing Denglish, “Alles is Good”. Get your ticket ready and a blue stamp on the back of your hand. Some new songs and a new guitarist await us.
It’s comforting in a World of Brexit and Trump to have some things you can rely on, and a concert by Mr Risager and Co is very definitely one of them. It’s the reason that even after two Blues/Rock concerts in a row here at the Bonn Harmonie, getting from the front of the hall to the back involves inhaling to squeeze between dancing concert-goers. They all know what they will get, and that what they get will be good. Not to mention that insistent sax/horn double whammy which really does dig deep into both your soul and your tapping toes.
The show kicks off with ‘If You Wanna Leave Me’ but nobody was likely to take Risager up on that statement. The Man himself looked ready to rock all night. In past shows, I noticed a stool onstage that he tended to sit back on at times, but there was no stool in evidence today as familiar numbers bounced around the Harmonie to enthusiastic applause. The next number up, ‘Train’ with it’s rolling riff and steady beat was more than just a song, it was what we were to be on for the rest of the evening. Mostly it was an evening that chugged along at an enjoyable pace as in ‘Burning Up’ and ‘All I Want is You’. Sometimes it slowed to admire the scenery as on the mesmerizing ‘China Gate’ and, just to make sure you didn’t fall asleep with the gentle rocking and miss your stop, it occasionally rocked out in style as with ‘If You Wanna Leave Me’ and aptly named ‘Rock n Roll Ride’.
There were no surprises in the standard of the service on this train then, but there were a couple of new stations visited – although you will have to wait for early next year to catch the new numbers on disc. On the evidence of the tasters tonight it’s going to be a strong Blues release – which I am looking forward to hearing! The JJ Cale inspired ‘Come on In‘ will sound particularly great cranked up on the stereo.
No surprises also in the quality of Risager’s voice, which I think is very under-rated. He really would make an equally good career as a Soul Singer with that warm but rough throaty style of his. Finally, no surprises in the quality of his amazing Band – and I capitalize’Band’ on purpose here because they really are a tight-ass unit, and have been for a few years now. Peter Kehl and Hans Nybo blow up a storm on trumpet and Tenor Sax respectively. They also keep the party atmosphere of the show fizzing (another aspect of this Band that I love is their showmanship). Solid drums from the ever red be-hatted and ever dependable Martin Seidelin and on the button bass from the ever rather melancholy-looking Søren Bøjgaard. The keys of Emil Balsgaard give the band’s already full sound still another dimension, come especially into their own on the more reflective numbers – and then there is the ‘new kid on the block’…
Peter Skjerning was not going to be an easy act to follow, so the appearance of Joachim Svensmark in his place was an occasion for a collective holding of breaths when it came to his first solo. Svensmark joined the band at the end of last year so a lot of collective holdings of breath are likely to take place over the coming months. I am pleased to reassure Risager fans though that you are going to love what you hear.
A quick bit of research suggested to me that Joachim Svensmark has something of a Jazz pedigree. Where he really shines though is on the up-tempo numbers – turning light rockers like ‘High Rolling’ into hard blues-rockers with just the flick of a pick-up switch. If that particular number had a solo to make Billy Gibbons smile then the Thin Lizzy/Bad Company fans out there will love his contribution on ‘All I Want Is You’ – it’s only February I know, but that’s the bar set for the best solo of the year for me already. Incredible stuff that deservedly brought the loudest applause of the evening.
In many ways then, no change in the Thorbjorn Risager musical camp. Great music, great show and a great time had by all – on and off stage. A fresh wind is blowing in from guitarist Joachim Svensmark (I suspect that when he has a few more gigs under his belt his over-all contribution to the sound of songs may be significant) and the promise of some great Soul-voiced blues-rock for release. The only disappointment being that the new disc, though well underway, is exasperatingly not imminent.
The merchandise stall has an unusual item – ‘Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado Hot Sauce’. It’s good, but although it’s spicy, it’s not as hot as the Band that it’s named after!