Return of the capped crusader – Henrik Freischlader at the Harmonie

2009’s ‘Recorded by Martin Meinschäfer’ is arguably the best Album to date by Henrik Freischlader. To borrow from a recent Freischlader disc’s title – it was where the pieces of his previous albums finally seemed to perfectly fit. Thirteen years on, and the new album hitting the shops (highstreet and virtual) is titled ‘Recorded by Martin Meinschäfer II’. It won’t actually be hitting the shops just yet though. “I’m not quite completely happy with it…” says Freischlader on stage this evening with a sheepish grin that conceals how much is joke and how much truth. One wonders if Henrik is ever completely happy with his music. The thirteen years between the two discs have seen a mixture of Freischlader bands and musical directions come and go. From talk of retirement around 2016, recording the barebones Blues of ‘Openness’ as a trio, through the brighter musical bandwidth (pun intended) of 2019’s ‘Hands on the Puzzle’ and 2020’s ‘Missing Pieces‘ through to 2021 when Covid hit the World and Henrik announced the band was no more and October 18th 2022 at Bonn Harmonie. My Birthday, and maybe a rebirth for the Henrik Freischlader Band.

So here we are again, with a Harmonie audience largely made up of men of a certain age, who have stood by all the formations because they know Henrik Freischlader is the Man, and whatever the ingredients, they will be guaranteed quality music – with a generous helping of Blues, and, if Henrik is in the mood, a generous helping too of Blues guitar solos.

Busted string Blues

And Henrik is very much in the mood to play tonight. You will all know one or more of those bands who start their sets with a simple three-chord Blues to warm up stiff fingers? Henrik Freischlader starts with Roy Buchanan’s ‘The Messiah Will Come Again’ – a tune demanding of guitar dexterity and feeling that can be unforgiving for someone fresh out of a chilly dressing room.

A brave way to start for sure, and Henrik is digging into the guitar playing so heavily this evening that we’re only a few songs into the set when his Strat busts a string. It started to look like a telecaster/Les Paul evening after that “We were planning on just heading back home after the show so we didn’t bring any spares” says Henrik, and there’s that infectious sheepish grin again. Henrik can get any sound out of any guitar of course, but the perfectionist in him is clear from his concerned face as he straps on his Telecaster for ‘The Bridge’. It sounded good enough to me Henrik, and the audience were too happy singing back “Wooh, hooh!” and having a good time to be very bothered about the change.

There were dips back into the past such as a finely executed ‘Disappointed Woman’ from 2006’s ‘The Blues’ that fit perfectly in with ‘Lost Souls’ a slow Blues number from this year’s forthcoming release. My favourite from the new material has to be ‘Turn Back The Clock’ and it’s pertinent lyric “People in suits trying to rule this planet”. Too true sadly. My favourite from the whole evening? Maybe the funky rock beat of ‘Got it made’, or the closing ‘Foxy Lady’ that really sees Henrik let rip Hendrix style? Think I’ll settle for his rendition of the classic ‘Sky is Crying’ where Henrik pulls out all the emotional stops with his Les Paul, ably assisted by Moritz Fuhrhop’s Hammond.

I recommend catching this tour. If you enjoy the show even half as much as the band itself does then you will be happy indeed that Henrik Freischlader has clearly rediscovered his old fire for the Blues and found a perfect hard-hitting band (Hardy Fischötter really lays down a powerhouse backbeat) to trade musical licks with. If you can’t make it to the show, songs from that new release CD sounded pretty damn good too.

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