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Strange Days

Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, 12 April 2000

On 13 April 2000 Frank Matheus sent BtP this report 'about a great concert in Krefeld, Germany, 12 April 2000', rightly entitled 'Strange Days'

Like so many other fans in Germany I tried to get a ticket for Gary and his friends playing in Krefeld, Rheinland, Germany on 12 of April, 2000. But very strange things happened: no-one could sell tickets in advance, no internet nor real ticket box-office had taken notice of this event. Hamburg? Yes, but Krefeld? No, sorry. But at last we got them - through the ticket box of the local newspaper (they did not accept credit cards by phone, so you either had to go there twice or send money or cheques to get tickets in exchange).

The gig took place at a very strange location: the club house of the local racecourse, in the middle of the city's forest. What could have been romantic, was simply cramped. Against all their attempts to make it impossible to get tickets, the company had sold double as many as the location was capable to bear. So lots more than a thousand people stood face-to-neck like horizontal sardines. But they seemed to like it; maybe it reminded them of their first concerts in their youth.

I was late, because we had to wait for more than an hour to reach the parking place; some stewards directed each single car to its individual place, and they did not manage to serve more than two cars per minute. When we reached the club house, I first noticed a stall selling fan articles: some CDs of Georgie Fame, a (kind of official) bootleg of the last Rhythm Kings tour with Gary singing most of the songs, and Gary's last album, Within our House. Someone had nailed the CDs to the table, so that you could not pick them up and have a look at them. Strange.

By the way, you could not pay for your drinks with real money but had to obtain plastic coins called "Rappen" which means "horse" and is at the same time Swiss currency. Cool joke for a racecourse. One Rappen is the equivalent of one pound, so it must have been easy for our British guests.

There was an opening act with a German band playing a nice Dobro; a little bit country, a little bit blues. They'd got a warm welcome and an even warmer goodbye.

Franks Mead, Nick Payn,

And then the boys appeared, Gary was the singer of the first song; it was a rock'n'roll classic. Please don't ask me for the titles of the songs - I am not fond of that kind of music and therefore not an expert. But I have to admit, that they did well in what they did: playing straight rock and roll most of the time, and the crowd clapped furiously, so it seemed that they liked it.

It was very crowded on the stage, the known line-up with horns and backing vocals, so they produced a very fat sound. Gary's piano and his playing duets with the Hammond organ laid the ground for excellent guitar work, and Graham Broad did a fine job of very unspectacular though intense drumming. He wasn't challenged a bit all the time. I swear he had not one pearl of sweat on his face, and when they finished, his t-shirt was dry. Compare that to Redhill!

Gary, neither, was put a strain on. Beneath his playing he found time to smoke, drink beer, joke with the rhythm section, make finger figures and grumble at a roadie because of the mean sound of his piano. So they played and played for more than half an hour When Suddenly The Commander Moved. He stood up, undressed his waistcoat (so that you could see that he was wearing a House of Blues t-shirt. Later that evening he put on his pink jacket. I don't know why; it wasn't cold.) and put on a black Rhythm King cap (the other way round).

And then the band played Lead me to the Water. It was the only Brooker composition this evening, but this single song was worth the time and money (25 Euro). They played a very long version with some variations at the end, and the dialogue between the horns and the female background voices (great singers) was fulminant. The audience appreciated this very much. I was standing amongst some Stones fans who had never heard before of "Jerry Booker", but I noticed that they were impressed for the first time this evening.

What followed was the better part of the show. There now was some more Blues and Soul influence, and Beverly Skeete sang some outstanding standards, like Put a spell on you. Impressing, too, was Georgie Fame with Anywhere the Wind Blows. All in all, it was a very good atmosphere, nice audience, and perfect playing band whose members obviously appreciated each other and had a good time.

At the end Bill Wyman introduced the band, and when it was Gary's turn, he played a few bars of AWSoP. The reaction of this few tones was overwhelming: all Brooker fans got an adrenalin kick and went crazy; they yelled 'Play it!' - but obviously it was not on the play list. The band did Little Queenie as an encore instead, which satisfied the audience, but left a thoughtful Brooker fan: Why Couldn't This Have Been A Procol Harum Concert?

Rhythm Kings 2000 tour

More Brooker / Rhythm Kings information here

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