Bad Godesberg Wine Festival – ELPI Rock and Christian Meringolo Rolls out the roses for Mothers Day

The weekend music at the Bad Godesberg Wine Festival was of a heavier ’70’s rock nature on Saturday with ELPI aka Lother Prünte & Friends providing the backbeat to the excellent wine on offer at Theaterplatz, whilst Italian Christian Meringolo and his smooth sound was perfect for sipping a glass or two of wine.

Things were not looking good for any music at all when a thunderstorm set in mid-afternoon. By 6 pm though the only thunder to be heard was from Bart Schell’s drumsticks as Lothar Prünte found an excellent band of friends to back his equally excellent rock vocals. I have to admit here that I only recently moved to Bad Godesberg and so missed Lothar’s concerts at ELPI’s. My experience then was of a ‘gentler’ touch musically from his appearances at Bonn Folk Club. I discovered today though that Lothar can ROCK with the best of them.

It’s a long haul to play sets over 3+ hours so wisely Lothar gradually built up from a 6 pm start of solo acoustic numbers through to keyboard-backed songs from the likes of Supertramp and Billy Joel. The final sets with a full band really rocked and were especially appreciated by us music fans of the ’70’s with the likes of ‘War Pigs’ (Black Sabbath), ‘When a Blindman Cries’ and ‘Mistreated’ (Deep Purple) ‘Have a Cigar’ (Pink Floyd). It was especially great to hear ‘When a Blindman Cries’ which has an interesting history in that it was originally a Deep Purple B-side in 1972 and because Richie Blackmore didn’t like it was only brought into the band’s live set after Blackmore left. It has since become a staple in Purple live concerts and was a highlight of their Kunstrasen show last year. It was also a highlight from Lothar and band this evening. On the subject of Lothar’s band, it was a first for me to see two father and son duos on a stage together with Ben Schell on guitar and father Bart on drums and bassist Joachim Langbein joined by son Jannick on lead guitar. A shout out also to JPX for his accompaniment to Lothar on keyboards for much of the Billy Joel/Supertramp part of the set.

They even managed to find some excellent rock from the’80’s in the form of ‘In The Air Tonight’ (Phil Collins) and an encore of Marillion classics ‘Kayleigh’ and ‘Lavender Blue’. Lothar’s vocals throughout the evening were spot on – from Billy Joel to Ian Gillan and a bit of rock ‘n’ roll showmanship from guitarists was sufficiently tongue-in-cheek fun to make for an unlikely backdrop for wine but a very palatable one all the same!

Sunday’s music set was a sure-fire winner even before it started. How can you go wrong with charismatic Italian Christian Meringolo on Mothers Day? Front-of-stage was almost a women-only zone for most of the opening set. During the break I took time to grab a cold Weissburgünder and came back to find Christian handing out roses to the ladies. Was he checking that each was a bone-fide mother? I suspect not. There were, needless to say, a lot of happy faces and a sea of roses being waved when Christian and band came back on the stage.

If you’ve seen Christian Meringolo before then you will know he has an irresistible charm about him that can’t help but make you look up at the sunny sky, listen to the music, and smile. It’s actually easy to forget that the smoothness of Christian’s sound is a result of a very competent backing band. Guitarist Danny Acosta is the obvious man to stand out, coaxing a smooth sound out of his Telecaster but digging just a little deeper when need be on the evening’s rockier moments such as a sojourn into English into Bon Jovi territory.

Meringolo though is at his best singing in Italian and even an old chestnut like ‘Volares’ profits from a young touch. Along with Costa on guitar, Carlos Ricaurte on bass and Timur Tuglu on drums offer just the right amount of charisma and support to bring the music to life without distracting from Bonn’s best Italian export. I’ve used the word ‘smooth’ a couple of times already but it’s the best description I can give of Christian Meringolo. The women clearly love him and that sea of waving roses comes and goes in front of him like a tide throughout the evening. Long after the show has finished he is happy to smile, chat and pose for pictures with the fans. He’s a charismatic Italian with a great voice and a friendly word to everyone. The perfect choice for birthdays and wedding celebrations really – just accept that he might give the bride a rose – he’s Italian after all.

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