Week three under the old Cedar Tree in Bad Godesberg’s Kurpark and another superlative sold-out concert by local musicians – this time The Marion & Sobo Band. Also week three of good weather. Perfect then for music-lovers after a hard Monday’s work. Even the birds in the trees were in fine form…
Before continuing with the concert review, a quick hats-off to the Kleines Theater outside of which the concerts are taking place. The Theater is donating half of all ticket sales from its current show ‘Die letzten fünf Jahre’ in support of flood victims in the Euskirchen/Rhein-Sieg area. Given that the theatre has had very little income itself over many months due to Covid restrictions this really is a grand gesture. Well done Frank Oppermann and his staff and a call out from me to all readers to visit this wonderful Theater soon!
As with the opening show with Astatine, tonight’s visit by Marion and Sobo was quickly sold out. Interestingly, for a band that commands large audiences at places like Bonn Harmonie, a large portion of tonight’s audience put their hands up when Sobo asked if anyone was seeing them for the first time. I suspect that after tonight’s show the Harmonie next year will be even more crowded when the band come back there (concerts in March are planned – one with Joscho Stephan).
For anyone who is unfamiliar with them, their music is an endearing mix of Chanson, Flamenco and Jazz. Marion Lenfant-Preus is very much comparable to Zaz in stature, style and enthusiasm, whilst the influence of Django Rheinhardt on Alexander Sobocinski (Sobo) is plain to hear and enjoy. All the more surprising then that, as Marion recalled during the show, earlier Sobo CD’s had a metal influence. indeed, his early musical career was with hard-rockers ‘Jack Slater’, but from around 2000 he discovered a love for Jazz and earned a music degree for it in Arnhem. The result was a joy to hear under the Cedar tree tonight.
Having described the Band’s sound, tonight the line-up is slightly different from the standard M&S combo. No Frank Brempel on violin, and Moritz Götzen from Essen standing in for Stefan Berger on double bass. I did slightly miss the gypsy fiddle element at times, but Götzen’s contribution on double bass turned out to be one of the shows highlights and inspirational to the other band members as they traded musical phrases (and vocal ones) with his instrument. Another musical highlight was the twin guitar attack of Sobo and Jonas Vogelsang but of course the top highlight – hearing Marion Lenfant-Preus singing again after such a long Covid created live music pause.
There was a new CD to introduce this evening. ‘Histoires’ is the new discs name and an excellent collection it is too with three quarters of the material written by Marion & Sobo themselves. Included is Marion’s first-ever song completely in German. ‘Badewanne Voller Bier’ is a lively, quirky number that comes over well live and suggests there could be more German songs coming our way. I’m actually wondering how many different languages there are on the new disc/in the average M&S concert. Marion Lenfant-Preus sings them all with a seemingly effortless enthusiasm though – including the Jazz ‘language’ of Scat naturally!
The inclusion tonight of Moritz Götzen on double bass added a more improvised Jazz feeling to much of the music played, and nowhere was this more in evidence than on my favourite number of the night ‘Mo Better Blues’ with additional lyrics by Marion. Götzen was also on hand to give ‘Gute Nacht Freunde’ it’s own individual M&S stamp. This is the song by Reinhard Mey that has been requested by the organiser to be interpreted at each of the ‘Unter der Zeder’ shows this year. The musical tension created by the interplay between singer and bassist on this number was really a joy to hear. Three versions of the song down now over three weeks, and each version imaginatively different from the others.
Before sending the audience home with a rousing ‘Lule Lule’ Sobo told us the good news that not one, but two concerts by the Band are planned for Bonn Harmonie next March. There is so much ‘Spielffreude’ within the band that they could do a week’s residency and still sound as fresh by weeks end. Sobo also told us of the day some years ago now when he was playing at an open-mike night at the sadly now-defunct Cafe Göttlich in Bonn Centre. A young lady walked in and asked to sing. “Really annoying for those of us who just wanted to shred guitar notes all evening” he recalled with a smile. But sing she did, and the two became inseparable. So much so that it’s impossible for anyone who knows them to see one and not look around for the other. There is an ‘M’ monogrammed on Marion’s guitar and an ‘S’ on Sobo’s that indicate both a measure of success for the sympathetic couple professionally as musicians and personally. Had they not met that evening at Cafe Göttlich both their worlds and ours would be much the poorer.
10 pm came around surprisingly quickly as it has the last few Mondays in Bad Godesberg. It was wonderful to see so many people Unter der Zeder hearing Marion & Sobo for the first time – but really, after so many years of making superlative music there shouldn’t be a concert-goer in at least Nordrhein-Westfalen who doesn’t know them.
Still to come from Unter Der Zeder:
26 July Rock Around The World – The Seven Sins
2 August Live in Europe from the British Isles – Simon Kempston with John Harrison and Shay McVeigh
9 August African Drums in the Park – GlobalMusikOrchestra