September 9, 2003
WORDS AND PICTURES BY STEVE HOLLAND
It was to be Radio Birdman's first ever gig in Germany. It was also my first time in Germany. I think I was expecting Solingen to be a bit like Berlin or Hamburg. It turned out to be a small quiet town with lots of bright red roofs. There was open countryside just a short distance from the train station.
It was hard to believe that Radio Birdman was in town. Solingen had no idea what was about to hit.
At the hotel, I switched on the TV while I unpacked. To my surprise,
the first programme I recognised was Hogan's Heroes, an American comedy show
from the 1960s set in a German concentration camp. It had been dubbed into German.
I had been trying so hard to avoid mention of the war and now this??!!
I got a cab to the venue and liked what I saw. The Cobra looked a cool place and it attracted a variety of young music-loving rock fans from far and wide. It appeared to be an oasis in the desert of provincial Germany. The place was big enough to hold several hundred people. The stage was a decent size. I stared at it in anticipation. So this was where Radio Birdman was to launch its blitzkreig...
I took up a position right by the stage, just in front of Deniz's monitor. I already had my beady eye on his set list, taped to the floor just arm's length away. Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" began to play - the signal that Birdman was about to land. Here we go again!! The lads strolled out on stage and kicked off with a powerful rendition of "Do The Pop". Everyone around me started dancing around to the music. The crowd was proving even more enthusiastic than at the Nottingham gig. Next up was "Smith & Wesson" followed by "Burn My Eye" and "Non Stop Girls".
By this stage the crowd was under the spell of the Birdmen. They were eating out of their hand. Rob Younger was putting enormous energy into his vocals and his movements as he always had done at all those wild gigs I saw when I was following Radio Birdman around London back in 1978. Striking one cool pose after another, he was singing his heart out. You could see him absorbing the music, funnelling it through his body, then letting an unbelievable power burst forth. It was a brilliant display of showmanship. He made Jim Morrison look arthritic.
Deniz's expert guitar work was more than music to the ears. It was sheer exhilaration. I was just a few feet away from him and I could see the sinews in his neck and shoulders straining as he put every ounce of concentration into working his magic with those lightning-fast fingers. Chris and Jim's guitars belted out that fantastic Birdman sound and Pip was really getting into it providing the band's trademark keyboards. Ron's powerhouse beat drove the band on to further glory.
The band were clearly enjoying themselves heaps. The audience weren't having too bad a time of it either. Other reviewers have gone through the set list in detail (see Jelly's excellent review), so I won't cover the same ground. I loved everything Radio Birdman played and rated it as a scorching performance by the band. Even better than Nottingham. What a performance!!
The set list I had wanted had been snatched by a German fan after the first encore. So I was forced to mount a one-man stage invasion after the final encore and had swerved around a roadie before liberating the set list from the drumming platform. I don't make a habit of that sort of thing, but, hey, I don't make a habit out of travelling abroad to see a band. In fact, I had never done either. But this tour was something out of the ordinary and normal rules no longer applied.
I had got to know some of the guys in the band during their '78 tour, so I hoped I would get the chance to speak to them again after the show as I had done in Nottingham. Ron came out and was sitting on the side of the stage talking to fans. He was surprised to see me in Germany as I hadn't mentioned I was going. I had a quick chat with him before he retreated backstage to a more comfortable temperature. The guy he had been speaking to introduced himself as "Jelly" and I recognised the name from his Nottingham review. We exchanged a few Birdman experiences then decided to continue in the bar.
Shortly afterwards Ron came in, bought us both a drink and had a chat. Then Deniz turned up and joined our group. He had not seen me in the audience and was surprised by my presence. After a few more drinks the time was 3am and we were the last ones in the bar. We stepped outside and Jelly set off for his hotel. I bumped into Rob on the pavement talking to some locals. Deniz and Jim were also there. The band were staying at a hotel near the station. My hotel was on the other side of the station.
There was a deathly hush in the streets. Taxi? Forget it. There wasn't a single moving car in sight. Not a sound to be heard. What a contrast to earlier. The four of us strolled off together into the night. And what a night it had been!
Photos © Steve Holland
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