Allow me to introduce the band… AnnenMayKantereit is a young German rock band, THE hope of German music perhaps. The band is already very popular, in no small part due to the singer Mr. Henning May’s distinctively rough vocals, and tonight’s concert sold out in a matter of moments.
Allow me to set the scene… Spandau is in the west of Berlin. It has a citadel that hosts concerts all throughout the summer months, in a wonderful outdoor festival-type setting. This very setting shows how big the band has already become in Germany and the balloons that adorn the venue, that fans pick up and strap to their bags, clothes and even their kids, give the venue a lively feel. It’s close to one of the airports, so the thousands of fans can see the aeroplanes passing above the stage and no doubt the passengers on the plane can see a mass of bodies enjoying a concert.
Support comes from Von Wegen Lisbeth that reasonably open the evening’s music, but are soon forgotten amid the bravado, giant guitar solos and undeniable stage presence and energy of Austrian band Bilderbuch, who get everyone dancing, smiling and visibly bouncing with energy in perfect preparation for the evening’s treat.
AnnenMayKantereit released their first long player in the spring and is clearly marked as one of the ‘special’ German acts. Over the course of their set they incorporate elements of ska, folk, jazz and pop to a rock foundation. The trumpet adds a stunning dimension on every song for which the additional musician appears, perhaps 5 of the total number, and one of the last tracks sees a guest appearance from a rapper as the band performs its most hiphop track of the evening. The band is honest and humble. There is little fanfare not attached to the music. They wear plain t-shirts and are polite in-between tracks. It’s refreshing and perhaps explains even further why the band is so popular. They are a band for the people.
Singer Henning May is a mid twenties German Tom Waits. He sings in rough yet clear and beautiful German. The word ‘sings’ doesn’t quite do it justice though, as he actually sounds like a lion roaring. It’s a spectacular voice and even knowing the band it still seems somehow unreal, so fierce and yet stunning as every note he utters is. For anyone wanting to learn the German language, grab onto his tones immediately as he is as crisp and clear as anyone I have heard in my 3 years living here.
There is however plenty of room for the band to grow and develop. It’s just the beginning, although May somehow seems earmarked as a star in his own right. He is undoubtedly the star of the show. When May sings a solo song at the piano it’s all too easy to imagine him performing under the banner and constraints of his own name and nobody else’s. The cover of ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles is a highlight. May’s voice clearly born for such a track, you can’t help but hope the band carves such tunes in the future to truly navigate his voice into its best waters. The band’s tracks are good, this is otherworldly though.
After two encores, and the band playing all of their brilliant tracks from their thus far short career, a brilliant night of musical entertainment ends. It’s easy to see why they sell every venue out in Germany in minutes. Let’s hope that whatever comes next it’s just the start of a wonderful journey. To the t-shirts, the balloons, the songs, and the voice of a star. Hope they stay grounded enough to enjoy the ride.
Words: Dominic Stevenson
Picture: © Arne Müseler / arne-mueseler.de / CC-BY-SA-3.0