Saturday 10 March 2012, Patronaat, Haarlem: Blaudzun
After hearing 'Heavy fruit' (review here) a few times I knew I had to go and see this band, just to make sure whether it's as good as the record sounds. I bought a ticket for the small concert hall of the Patronaat. Not much later Blaudzun got upgraded to the main hall. And sold out! A sure sign that a buzz has started around the band. Like singer Johannes Sigmund asked: "Who were here in the café during Germany - England at the World Championship"? No show of hands that I noticed. Recently Blaudzun appeared on a well viewed talk show at prime time several times, a form of endorsement any band could use. After that they're on their own and succeeding.
The band manages something which not all bands is given. Blaudzun can create a spell-binding atmosphere of intimacy, while it can also rock full blown within their own spectrum of the musical universe. Sigmund gathered seven musicians around him, who manage to create the atmosphere of his albums on stage. This means literally that all but two of them switch between instruments all the time. Violin, mandolin, percussion, keyboards, bass, other percussion, ukelele, pedal steel guitar, electric, accordion, acoustic guitars, horns, xylophone, everything it took to make the songs come alive and stand out. Sigmund took us by the hand through his universe of absolute vulnerability in songs presented with just him and a ukulele all the way to songs which are almost, a peculiar Blaudzun-like form of, hard rock.
There is one disadvantage to bands breaking through. Not everyone in the audience seems to come for the music or the experience. They tag along with friends or whatever and pretend like they're in the local pub or something and strike up conversations in an ever louder streak. Concentrating on one thing is hard sometimes and doing artist and audience the courtesy of shutting up is hard to understand. The sound man did us the courtesy to never turn up the volume beyond
the perfect. It was clear as a bell and almost every instrument could be
heard. From a small egg-shaped shaker to the bass drum and always the
voice clearly on top. The down side is, that voices in the audience are
clearly heard as well. But two things happened. One, Sigmund introduced his song 'Streetcorner shelter' with the introduction that sometimes one would wish a street person would shut up his ... "foul mouth" filled in a lot of people quite loudly in the back of the hall. This signal worked, but after that it did become more quite and sometimes the hall was silent, enraptured. The almost unconquerable seemed conquered!
Something is brewing in The Netherlands where Blaudzun is concerned. This is music that is engrained with an inner beauty, that shines out for all to hear. So people living outside this small country, you better start acquainting yourself with this band and don't miss out on something bordering on unique.
One special note. In one of the songs Blaudzun incorperated two lines from Springsteen's 'I'm on fire'. That's a bit hard to imagine, although "nothing human will be strange to him", as a Dutch saying goes. Want I want to say is, don't be put off by appearances, but listen. Open your ears and your soul will be touched.