“Die Bühne hier gehört jetzt mir. Ich könnt‘ hier wohnen!“ – from ‘Jamsessions‘
For Cynthia Nickschas a stage, any stage, seems like a second home. Even no stage, when she is playing on street corners for change collected in her famous ’Mad Hatter’ top hat. So why tonight, for her Unter der Zeder concert, is she nervously plucking at her guitar strings and chattering like a nervous sparrow in a tree full of sparrow hawks? Looking round at the sold-out seats in front of her, Cynthia explains her predicament. “I know everyone here personally!” It’s a ‘home concert’ for Cynthia, playing in her own backyard of Bad Godesberg, and that’s the source of the nervosity. She’s actually relieved later on when the light dims and the stage lights mean recognizable faces are hidden from her sight.
There is very likely also nervousness because the band is, with the exception of violinist extraordinaire Alwin Moser, completely new (They’ve so far played barely a handful of shows together). Will she rise to the occasion? Or will this evening be a disaster? Will it all end in tears? In actual fact, it does end in a few tears for Cynthia – but that’s two hours away now and Cynthia’s dog Snoop is padding around the audience impatiently waiting for the music to start.
The new disc is still awaiting some vocals from Cynthia, so her many fans will have to be patient a bit longer. There are still plenty of Nickschas classics to fill the show though. Going back to numbers from 2014’s ‘Kopfregal’ and ‘Gedankensalat’ or the even more relevant now than at the time of release ‘Positiv Denken’. How can you not love a song titled ‘Stock im Arsch’ even before you hear it? Not that many people here haven’t heard it before – most could sing along word for word. I was actually sitting next to a Cynthia concert ‘first-timer’ brought here by YouTube videos and curiosity. A fan by the end of course.
Lots of old songs then, but what about the new band? I was a little disappointed that Christian Zerban’s saxophone was absent. It’s always a luxury extra-musical texture to the songs. I sort of missed too the ‘raggle-taggle gypsy’ feel of the youngsters, There was an air on the night of professional musicians who you knew would play well rather than the young band who looked like they might or might not hit the right notes in the right order – and I don’t mean that as an insult to the old band members because they always did hit the right notes, but visually the dynamics have changed. Certainly, you would be hard-pressed to find fault with the new men. Daniel Schild was master of the shuffle on drums and Dirk Kunz played some excellently funky bass, particularly on ‘Egoschwein’. Olaf Roth clearly knew his way around the electric piano too. A pretty tight band considering the number of shows they’ve got behind them together.
I certainly must give a bow to Alwin Moser. His fiddle contribution is central to the Gypsy feel of the band during the uptempo numbers, but his violin playing gives the quieter moments added gravitas – and all on the same instrument, often in the same song!
‘Gold Glanzt Nicht’ is always a popular sing-along number at Cynthia’s concerts so it’s a pity when the opportunity for singing is limited. I did detect some quite loud humming along the lines of ‘Gold Glanzt Nicht’ to my right and ‘Ohne Licht’ to my left though. Dancing being banned in the audience was no problem for someone who knows the entire audience of course. Cynthia merely invited all the women in the audience to join her onstage and dance. If they had all done so, the stage would have collapsed. In the event, close friends and family joined in, socially distanced according to social bubbles, and enthusiastic to the core. The rest of us had to be content with tapping hands and feet.
Did I mention that there is a new rule for musicians at Unter der Zeder this year? Reinhardt Mey’s ‘Gute Nacht Freunde’ is a set-list pre-requisite for each evening. It was mastered to perfection last Monday by Astatine, who gave it one of those wave your cigarette lighter to the gentle beat in a giant stadium feels (all-be-it without giant stadium or indeed cigarette lighters!). But how does a top-hatted street punk with attitude handle this unashamed ‘Deutsche Schlager’ composition? Well, for one, she takes off her top-hat. Suddenly it’s a new, smoother, sexier, Cynthia. Slinking round the stage with imploring arms and sad refrain. Okay, a grin at the absurdity of it all also kept creeping onto Cynthia’s face every second or third line, but (and don’t tell Cynthia!) it also sounded good. Snoop came up on the stage to give her a quizzical doggy look that seemed to say “Why are you singing this?” and I’m sure die-hard Cynthia fans will be relieved to hear that she failed to maintain the schmusen (smoochy) mood all the way to the end, finally giving a nod to Olaf Roth to switch to Funk mode on piano. ‘Gute Nacht Freunde’ delivered. Mission accomplished.
This was the first concert back in Cynthia’s ‘backyard’ in Bonn for a while. A lot has happened since last year’s show here Unter Der Zeder, and that includes sadly the passing of Cynthia’s father, Reinhard, in March. There were tears then at the concert’s end, from Cynthia as she dedicated the last number to him. But that’s Cynthia Nickschas. Real feelings don’t come from song texts, they’re not conjured alone by singing ‘Gute Nacht Freunde’. Real feelings come from the singer’s heart and are felt in the hearts of those who hear them expressed. Cynthia Nickschas has a slogan above her Facebook picture ‘Musik ist Lebensmittel’. When you see Cynthia Nickschas in concert you really do understand that Music is Life.