It was the closing night of the first Rockpalast Crossroads visit to Bonn in 2019, and what a night! Certainly not one to sleep through for sure, with Hard Rock at its blood pumping, adrenalin spiking best as Austrian rockers The Weight did indeed lay down some heavy riffs whilst Australian rockers The Lazy proved to be anything but what their name suggests. ‘Loud ‘n’ Proud’ could have been the evening’s motto as beer and metal guitar riffs flowed freely all night long at the Harmonie.
The likes of Blackmore, Plant and Page had it easy. In the early days of Hard Rock, there were so many new power chords to invent, so many hard riffs to explore. The genre was young and fresh. I rather pity bands coming to the same table now. Meagre pickings. Anyone coming up with a ‘Smoke on the Water‘ power explosion and there are immediate shouts of ‘Plagiarism!’ even louder than Mr Gillan could sing. Is that why I’ve grown a bit tired of the music I used to love? A feeling that I’ve heard the best, so why bother with the rest? It’s all been done before? Whatever, 7pm at the Harmonie on Saturday evening found me standing for the first time in over 40 years next to someone with a denim waistcoat lovingly filled with sewn on band patches proclaiming ‘Thin Lizzy’ and ‘Iron Maiden’. Did it ever occur to you how all these hard drinking, bar billiard cue swinging metal-heads came to own such jackets? Did you ever picture them with a Jack Daniels in one hand and a sewing needle in the other? Me neither. Someone did it. Life’s great mysteries…
But ah, I was talking about the music. Are there still new riffs to find? New high notes beyond those trawled vocally by Mr Gillan, Mr Coverdale, Mr Plant and co? Indeed, is it even possible to write a rock review without reference to other bands? The answer on tonight’s evidence is, sadly, ‘No’. But there is good news too – the music doesn’t need to be reborn because it’s still alive and well.
The Weight are a wonderful Austrian mix of Led Zepp meets Deep Purple fronted by Freddie Mercury with a curiously likeable twist of Progressive Folk thrown into the mix (I’m sure a Unicorn was mentioned at some stage in one song). The Queen analogy was more a visual thing through singer Tobias Jussel’s Mercurial (excuse the pun) movements. Michael Böbel on guitar stayed in the shadows ala Brian May, and a very solid rhythm section kept itself to itself leaving the stage to a natural born lead vocalist. This evening the music often reminds me of Zeppelin though – check out ‘Keep Turning’ as recorded by Rockpalast HERE and you will know what I mean.
This was, so we were told before the band took to the stage, the first appearance by an Austrian Band at a Crossroads show. On the evidence presented by The Weight on a magical evening, there should be some trawling done in Austrian music waters to look for other bands of this calibre. I liked the band a lot, they have a very charismatic frontman and are on the edge of a great future I suspect if they can put all the styles mentioned together to create one of their very own. They certainly deserve a foot in the door through European Tours, so I hope The Weight can get on the Rock circuit and become Europe-wide famous at the very least. In short – I don’t think we’ve heard either the last or indeed the best of The Weight yet, but they have the potential to be very big indeed.
The Lazy are a band of contradictions it seems. Contrary to their name they are one of the hardest working bands I’ve ever come across on a stage. What most musicians deliver in a last effort for the encore was delivered from the off – and what an ‘off’ it was too – The lights dimmed in anticipation of chaotic Hard Rock only to be replaced by the gentle voices of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing ‘Time To Say goodbye’, in itself a strange choice to introduce a band starting its set – but then The Lazys are full of such contradictions. Touted as the best thing to come out of Australias Hard Rock forest since AC/DC they actually broke through after years of touring down under by relocating to Canada. Make no mistake though – these boys shout ‘Australian Bravado’ to their collective core. There is much more of the Bon Scott of them than the Bryan Adams.
My new be-denimed aquaintances in the front row were clearly enthusiastic about the band, as were a good number of fans around them. Too enthusiastic perhaps. For the safety of both my camera’s body and my own, I decided that after the allowed 3 songs for photography were over I would head to safer waters over by the bar. Curiously enough, a good number of the Harmonie rock regulars seemed to have also taken refuge there too. They were all enthusiastic about the music but preferred to enjoy it (and the high volume) from a ‘safe’ distance. There were plenty of people happy to mix it front of the stage though as grinding riffs and screaming vocals were hammered out relentlessly from Messrs Matty Morris on guitar and Leon Harrison on vocal. Morris even took over the camera podium at the side of the venue for an aggressive metal attack with obligatory flying of hair and wagging of tongue. Drummer Andy Nielsen made Animal from the Muppets look slow-witted and bassman Liam Shearer was far from the famous cliched bassist stereotype who just stands in the shadows. In fact, I don’t think anyone in the band stood still for a single moment during the entire set. Certainly a lesson in earning audience respect here, and I’m pretty sure that the reward is that there are a good few new ‘Lazy’ fans from the Bonn area after such a dynamic performance. If I was in that ‘comparison’ mode I would say that The Lazy are a cross between AC/DC and Motörhead. I think you get the message where the volume and energy levels were.
A stormingly successful finish to this Rockpalast Crossroads Festival then. Two bands that might not have reinvented Hard Rock but will be instrumental in keeping it alive and loved for another generation of denim-clad youngsters. I might well be getting out my sewing basket and dressed up for a few more Hard Rock shows on the evidence of this excellent night. Somewhere deep in my (Purple) heart and to quote Mr Lynott, I’m a Rocker – I Love to Rock n Roll! Good to discover that there are still bands and fans around who love it too.