We Brits love a bit of tradition. Queens speech on Xmas Day and all that. Maybe that’s why I always look forward to Sunny Skies playing the Harmonie. The first show of the year for the band, and a chance for the many fans to hear what’s caught their musical attention in the preceding year. February 2011was no different, as Rope Schmitz took his merry men and women onstage for the bands 39th year. The songs may have changed along the way, but the bands aim of playing good music with a smile hasn’t changed a jot.
Rope was concerned that my previous reports suggested his musical heart was still in SanFrancisco, or somewhere else evocative of the 60’s. In fact, he actually enjoys the heavier sound of the modern Sunny Skies set-up. A good thing too on this evenings performance, especially in part two where 70’s & 80’s rock ruled. The gauntlet was set down from the start as vocalist Alex took the stage to the hard rocking riff of Deep Purples ‘Perfect Strangers’. Things lightened up a little when Nadine bounded on and fairly bounced from one stage side to the other like she was on springs. Was all this talk of not being well she gave me before the show really true? Heaven help the floorboards when she’s fully fit.
Highlight of Nadine’s set was one of the new numbers: Beth Ditto’s ‘Heavy Cross’ which proved perfectly suited to her style, slotting in well with Natasha Bedingfields brooding ‘Incompatible’ and Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Ironic’.
Alex Krienke was clearly back to his barnstorming best after last years time-out in hosptal. Looking as unlike Freddie Mercury as anyone could possibly look, he still delivers Queens ‘Hammer to Fall’ with Freddies swagger and bravado.
For longtime Skies fans there were the bands classic covers – ‘Son of a preacher man’, ‘Miami 2017’ – and of course (could there be a Skies show without it?) ‘Little help from my friends’ The Harmonie stage has been extended this year and while it looked spacious for quartets like Oli Brown and Aynsley Lister it still looked like the queue for a bus in Oxford Street rush hour at times this evening. One of those times was of course ‘Son of a preacher man’ and whenever the full horn section was onstage you wondered whether Tobias Flerus would be able to open the slide on his trombone without anyone having to leave the stage.
It seemed oddly prophetic that the first part ended with older band classics. Like closing a chapter before the hard rock of part two got underway. Outside of Alex’s wonderful Freddie Mercury tribute ‘Too much love will kill you’ and Martin’s Gary Moore tribute with an emotion charged ‘Still got the Blues’solo the mood was all out rock. More Deep Purple with ‘Black Night’ and ‘Smoke on the Water’ as well as a new rock anthem in the shape of UFO’s ‘Only you can rock me’ – announced David Coverdale-like with “Here’s one for ya”. Status Quo’s ‘Rocking all over the world’ sounded almost poppy by comparison. Coming up to it’s 40th year of existence, the list of hard rock gems leaves no doubt where the heart of Sunny Skies lies musically.
I rather missed the acoustic duo set with Martin and Alex playing ‘Stairway to heaven’ and ‘Dead or Alive’. If you missed playing them too guys, my colleague John Harrison at Bonn Folk Club will happily add you to a future bill – just say the word!
A packed out Harmonie says the band is doing it right with the current choice of material, so it’s not just Rope and myself that like to rock! As long as they continue to mix rock classics with modern gems like ‘Ironic’ and ‘Heavy Cross’ the Harmonie shows of Sunny Skies will continue to be a tradition to savour every year. Give me The Queen at Christmas, and the band that covers Freddie Mercury’s Queen so well every year as an early concert treat each year, and consider me happy. Long may one reign, and the other rock!