Germany -- April 2009

Hey, Maestro… It always takes some time for the dust to settle. After spending some days around the graffiti art side streets wrestling with Stasi ghosts in East Berlin it was time for the music. There were many highlights and impressions and illuminations in these German shows. Bob is the maestro of the swirling, fairground sound and this time I understood his organ more than in previous years, and the sound that it creates. It is circular and full of movement. The sound takes a circuitous route and connects with the other musicians, and then it comes to hit you so that you feel one shoulder move, or one finger, or the side of your face, and you become a connoisseur of the electrical movement. I can’t go further without One More Cup of Coffee in Munich. I have been waiting for this for a lifetime, as I am sure many others have too. It was gorgeous, sung with poise, elegance and an urgency that fits Bob’s voice so well in these years. Listening to it made me feel like I was standing at the edge of a cliff, hovering, about to jump into the unknown and then finding solitude when he sang the verse “one more cup of coffee before I go….” Bob finished the song with a few minutes of harmonica that brought the performance to a resolute end. I have been dwelling on Lovesick from Berlin. It sounded so fresh and new but the essence of it resonated with something that I already know. Bob sang and played harmonica in the same breath thus creating an intense and uncompromising environment. The phrasing on this was powerful but it was not only the phrasing that made it- it was the singing and then following through with the harmonica in the same breath that gave it an emotionally thunderous edge. I have thought about Lovesick since Berlin and I have tried to put my understanding of the sound of it into a discernable language but the words do not measure correctly. Then, yesterday, I decided to hunt out where I knew this sound and feeling from and I found it – the second half of ‘What Was It You Wanted from the Oh Mercy Outtakes’. One of the things that struck me during these shows was the renewal and regeneration of the songs and the sound. Erfurt, for example, was a very groovy night with new-to-my-ears approaches to Man in a Long Black Coat, Can’t Wait and Most Likely... I felt that I was somewhere between a long train journey and a truck stop Ska club where you drink your rum in a plastic cup. I would not have been surprised this night if they had played ‘Marchin to the City’, it would have fit in with the energy of the night completely. Munich was a powerhouse of a show. One More Cup of Coffee was definitely my illuminated moment but there were many others too. I must say that I have never been a great fan of Tweedle Dee but this has all changed on this tour – Bob comes out centre stage and he is the man. There is an interesting dynamic between the sounds the band members create on this, as the sound seems to come at you from a different time-space field. There are numerous speeds and rhythms going on simultaneously, when this is mixed with Bob’s singing and the choppy bullets of his harmonica it makes you feel quite wild. Highway 61 in Munich was one of those loud, erring on the right side of electrifyingly urgent moments – the band were super tight here and I was sure I saw George change into a Panther. There is more to say but for now I will look forward to the Roundhouse and to Dublin.
Review Location: 
Review Date: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Review Author: 
Romy Needham