Just days before live music disappeared from our daily lives, Baum’s Bluesbenders gave us a powerful reminder at the Harmonie of what we would be missing – as well as a reminder of what we are still missing compared to those carefree concerts that we were still enjoying at the start of the year.
In three days time live shows would be outlawed. Handing in my contact details at the door and sitting in my pre-booked seat with the beer just brought by the barman-come-waiter, despite Corona I sort of expected the show tonight to be a sell-out. The last chance to really feel the sounds of live instruments vibrating through our bodies, feel soundwaves in the way no CD, vinyl disc or Spotify list can replicate. True, there is a good turnout of around 60 people, but could we imagine last year the possibility of actually counting individually the audience members for a popular band from the Harmonie balcony?
Masks must be worn at all times, drinks brought to your seat, everyone to remain seated, no singing, dancing, or any other visible/audible sign of having a good time permitted… I even felt in danger of ejection for tapping my feet. Were these really the same people I’ve seen at past Bluesbenders shows dancing and singing along?
Many things have clearly changed then, but thankfully one has remained constant – Bill Baum and his excellent Bluesbenders band love playing music, and the bluesy four-piece are in fine form this evening. That skeleton hand with the upturned index finger on Bill’s guitar says it all: “Sucks to you Mr Covid 19 – you are not going to stop the music!” The message is at it’s most powerful on the classic ‘I’ve had my fun if I don’t get well no more’ and the titles irony is not lost on blues-harp supremo Uwe Placke’s introduction. Similarly, there is added irony to ‘Back on the Road Again’ with the impending concert curfew just days away.
No chance for Bill to do his trademark walk round the audience of course, and no sing-alongs possible. A sit-down on the stage-front for his solo on ‘Don’t you want a man like me’ and some experimenting with feedback during ‘Back on the road again’ were still on the visual ‘set-list’ though, and lapped up by the enthusiastic fans in the audience. Super music, in general, was in evidence.
I’ve always loved the Chicago harmonica sound delivered by Uwe Placke. Up there with the best in the business in my humble opinion, Placke was on great form during a super-charged ‘Going down the Highway’. Bill himself was impeccable as always switching guitars and guitar styles with the enthusiasm of a man trying out hats. He recalled one of the first numbers he ever played was Memphis Slim’s ‘Every day I have the Blues’ by way of BB King, and you could tell it was as true for him today as the day he first played it.
A great time was had by all then, on and off stage. Celebrating that we could be here this evening to play and listen to live music. At the same time though we were all very aware of how fragile that moment was. Fitting then that Fred Prünte and Rolf Schumacher joined in on keyboard and saxophone respectively for the evenings closing numbers. ‘A glorious ‘Caledonia’ had everyone’s feet tapping without inhibition. Most poignantly though, and getting the biggest applause of the evening, was Bill’s composition on the state of music for much of this year and the coming month’s musical prohibition – ‘Live ist besser’ (Live is better).
Crank up the music as loud as you want/can at home on the hi-fi, but a stage, with real musicians and real instruments, is where music belongs. Baum’s Bluesbenders proved it tonight in stomping R ‘n’ B style.