Bielefeld Forum, Germany
September 10, 2003
WORDS AND PICTURES © BY STEVE HOLLAND
Before I left on this trip, two Germans warned me separately that Bielefeld has a reputation for being the most boring place in Germany. That may well be the case normally. But I knew it wouldn't be true tonight. There ain't but one place to be and that's right here and right now!!
I had bumped into fellow Birdman enthusiast Jelly on the platform at Solingen station. We travelled together on the train, exchanging plenty of Birdman chat. At Bielefeld, I set off on foot into the steady rain to pick up my ticket for tonight and to find a hotel. When it was time to leave for the venue the rain was coming down in buckets. The place was not easy to find. It turned out to be down a dirt track full of flooded potholes.
Things improved once I got out of the monsoon. The venue seemed a cool place. Jelly was there already. We had a few drinks and started to dry off as we watched the support band - not bad. Eventually, "Are You Experienced?" struck up, heralding the arrival of the main event. I struggled down towards the front with my camera. The crowd was more tightly packed than at the last two gigs. The band were on stage and they started by blasting out "Do The Pop", then "Smith & Wesson Blues" and a searing version of "Burn My Eye".
The crowd was going frantic. They couldn't get enough. Many of the audience had been in Solingen the previous night and had enjoyed it so much that they had travelled up for tonight's show. They were jumping about all over the shop. Beer was flying, ecstatic fans were being passed around in the air over the heads of the crowd. A shirtless sweaty guy suddenly plunged to the floor at my feet and he didn't move for a bit. Sorry, mate, I tried to help keep you up in the air but I had a camera in one hand...
Something was amiss on the stage. Ron had vanished from behind the drums. It later turned out that he had been unable to hear anything through his monitors. He had stormed up to the venue's monitor guy and yelled in frustration, telling him to get his act together. I had noticed earlier, during a sound check, that the monitor man didn't seem to have much idea.
The show continued with plenty of classics - "What Gives?", "Hangin' On", "Crying Sun", "Murder City Nights". This was the experience that was Radio Birdman live. I was in paradise. The show went on but all good things must end eventually. The first encore included "Route 66" and a wild rendition of "New Race" which sparked off more downpours of beer and wild leaping about.
I had wanted another set list and had earmarked Pip's which was taped to the floor. I knew it would be too late if I waited until the end, so after the band left the stage I made my move. Unfortunately the one German fan in my way had similar plans to my own and he put his hands on my shoulders to prevent me from jumping onto the stage and snatching his trophy from under his nose. Fortunately he was smaller than me and, as they say, all is fair in love and war (oh, no, I was trying not to mention the war). I brushed him aside and barged through to grab my souvenir.
The second encore comprised "Cold Turkey", "Breaks My Heart" and a fiery version of "You're Gonna Miss Me". It had been another amazing performance. Pure rock'n'roll played the way it should be played.
Jelly and I both agreed that we had never seen a bad Birdman gig. We went to the bar and before long Ron came out from backstage and joined us for a chat. Then Rob came over and joined the conversation. At various times, fans came up to say how much they loved the show. They said sorry for interrupting us, but Rob and Ron insisted there was no need for apologies. They were only too happy to chat and to sign autographs for anyone who asked. Exactly the same as they had been in '78.
I saw Pip walking nearby and re-introduced myself. I had not managed to speak to him so far on this tour and had last done so in 1978. He was full of smiles. I apologised for having swiped his set list before the end of the show and he laughed and said he didn't mind. I said I thought he had probably known it off by heart. But he confessed he had had to ask someone else what they were playing next. But that didn't matter, he smiled.
Jelly and I chatted with Rob and Ron for quite a bit longer before they said their farewells and headed for their tour van with the rest of the band. Radio Birdman had left the building! The next day Jelly was heading for Oslo. I was heading for London - a little travel-sore, but very, very happy.
The German leg of the Radio Birdman tour had been dynamite. And the people of Bielefeld could rejoice. No-one can ever again say that their city is the most boring place in Germany. After all, Radio Birdman have played there. And just how cool is that??
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