You had to get there early for a good place on the grass beside the Stadtgarten Stage. Perfect weather for a picnic with free music was on offer on both Friday courtesy of Die Musikstation and Saturday courtesy of PopCamp. Seven bands in two nights, so there really was something for everyone, and if a band didn’t catch your attention then there was always a chance to sunbathe or share a bottle of wine with friends. Bonn Summer Magic was indeed in the air!
Back in the late ’70s, when I was an avid Rock music fan and gig-goer, Britain was rather proud of it’s contribution to the genre. We were competing largely against American bands like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and mega artists like Springsteen. The real metal-heads though knew there was also another rather excellent source of Metal music – Germany. We really didn’t have a female equivalent to Doro Pesch, Michael Schenker was seemingly both a guitar master and madman but we loved them both – and there was a band, also with a Schenker brother in it – whose name appeared on practically every one of those denim waistcoats festooned with sewn-on patches that I saw. A band called The Scorpions.
Fast forward over forty years and here we are at the closing show of the 2019 Kunstrasen season in Bonn. There are cloth patches for sale at the merchandise table still, to show some things haven’t changed. I still giggle nervously at the thought of these unkempt and motor-oil drenched bikers sitting at home with a needle and thread working on that patched to the hilt jacket. But if the patches haven’t changed, can the Band really be live up to a legendary name from the ’70s at 70? Interested to know the answer? I was too, so let’s pick up a pair of free magenta ear-plugs from the Telekom booth and find out (where were they when I saw Sammy Hagar in 1978?!)
Years ago I saw Wolfgang Niedecken walking through the Schildergasse, a main thoroughfare in Cologne. You could see people looking at him, recognizing him, and walking on. It was rather the way locals regards The Cathedral itself. A quick glance to see that the things that belong in Cologne are still where they should be. All is right with the World.
Tonight some of those locals might be looking around them with unease. The Cathedral is still there, but something is amiss… things are not right with the World in Cologne. It’s the last night of the band’s ‘Live & Deutlich’ (Live & Clear’) Tour for Niedecken’s legendary group BAP, and it’s taking place – in Bonn! The Kunstrasen to be precise.
I’m a firm believer that Brighton might well be the secret cradle of modern UK pop music. Hitchin born James Bay cut his musical teeth in the bars of that very UK seaside town at open-mikes. Now he’s heavily touted as a future Rockstar and warming up audiences for The Stones and Ed Sheeran. His appearance, along with that of this year’s Eurovision winner Duncan Laurence, made a visit to Kunstrasen on Thursday too good to resist.
Albert Hammond smiles as he recalls midway through tonight’s show: “I often have people come up to me and say ‘I enjoyed the show. But why so many cover songs?”. During the current Songbook Tour though Hammond is able to put the record (literally) straight before each song. “Here’s one I wrote that Julio Inglesias had a hit with (‘All the girls I’ve met before’), here’s one I co-wrote for Leo Sayer (‘When I Need You’) One I co-wrote for the Hollies (‘Air That I Breathe’). Roncalli Platz in Cologne was a chance to remind people just how prolific a songwriter he is – and he took his chance well. An evening of familiar songs that, if they didn’t stretch back in time as far as the Cathedral towering behind the stage, still had a long and very successful history.
Just looking at this year’s programme of events for the Rheinaue Parkrestaurant is a mind-boggling affair. From opening concert 8 July to the closing notes from local band Handmade on 30 August there is a concert virtually every evening. Straight away then kudos to Walter Schnabel for organizing such a logistical helter-skelter. That said though, the shows are some 90% cover-bands and 10% old-time Jazz, and I’m not too much a fan of cover-bands. That’s something I first admitted to Rope Schmitz some 10 years ago now. Rope, of course, is the frontman and a founding member of Bonn’s oldest Cover-band (from 1972 in fact) Sunny Skies. Tonight they are playing at the Parkrestaurant Rheinaue, and I, the cover-band hater, am once again present with a camera and a notebook. But WHY? you ask. I’ll do my best to answer that one in the next paragraphs.
The litmus-paper test of a memorable concert? For me, a show only really works if I make the walk home afterwards with a tune from it lodged firmly in my head. It hasn’t happened for a while now, but tonight I was truly spoilt for choice. How could you choose between two Rock classics like ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’? Plans for a support slot were dropped, and truthfully, anyone would have just been a distraction. This was a trip firmly focussed on the past – 50 years to be approximate, August 1969 to be precise. History was made, iconic moments captured on film forever, an era captured on videotape – excepting one particular performance. Here at Kunstrasen, we have the chance to enjoy what landed on the cutting room floor – the best songs of CCR Front-man John Fogerty.
“Welcome to Bonn’s most beautiful Concert Venue”. Perhaps Beethoven Orchestra Bonn (BOB) Director/Conductor Dirk Kaftan was genuinely only making a point about the beautiful surroundings at Kunstrasen. A few spectators at this year’s ‘Klassik Picknick’ might well have taken it as a sly ‘dig’ at the disastrous renovation plans of the Beethoven Hall just down the road, however. Aside from the fact it would get a bit cold in December though it started me to thinking that perhaps they should keep the Kunstrasen stage where it is and just build a football stadium-style roof over the spectator area to make it all-weather friendly and give the Beethovenhalle up as the ‘bad job’ it has become?