The Bierkeller, Bristol
13th Nov 2015
Arriving at the Bierkeller on a miserable rainy November evening, I discover I am half an hour late for Katzenjammer’s set as I used a different event to work out the stage times. (Always helps if promoters post up-dated info/supports/set times on the events page!) It’s been a good twenty years since I’ve seen the inside of this great venue. The last time was the early nineties when I saw shows from Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, TAD and Sebadoh, but the venue has been hosting a lot more. Which is great because it’s still one of the best places to see a band. The bar is located in the centre and there’s loads of space to watch the band, with steps to higher ground for those who are vertically challenged like myself.
Ever since the release of their debut album, ‘Le Pop’ in 2008, Katzenjammer have become a sensation all over Europe. Their English language songs incorporate varying genres such as Pop, Rock, Country and Folk, as well as employing all sorts of regular and not so regular instruments, as all four members are extremely talented multi-instrumentalists. This is definitely something that sets the band apart from their contemporaries. There’s a playful exuberant quality to their sound and stage show that is so infectious it’s hard not to be impressed by the four female musicians.
Making my way through the crowd, which is pretty large and suitably lubricated, this is the Bierkeller of course, Everyone is visibly excited and it’s easy to see why. Katzenjammer are utterly spellbinding as they play through their hits such as, ‘Lady Grey’ and ‘I Will Dance (As I Walk Away) with that infectious energy. Middle aged men are dancing and jumping around in front of the stage like it’s New Years Eve. Arm aloft, singing along. I’m impressed they are experiencing the kind of abandon usually saved for special occasions. This does seem like a special occasion for those present.
In between one song, Marianne Sveen tells a story of working at a retirement home, and how one lady with Alzheimer’s normally catatonic used to brighten up, smile and tap her feet to the music Marianne would play loudly from a stereo. Proof of the magical quality music possesses. The same magic is present here tonight. Katzenjammer’s vocal harmonies that dominate their songs are like an angelic chorus, moving some to tears around me. It’s profound and quiet unexpected for me. I am not necessarily a fan of folky-pop but tonight is a revelation. The band make an emotional connection that’s deeper and stronger than most ‘pop’ music, and to call them such is a disservice.
Their version of Genesis’ ‘Land Of Confusion’ is a lesson in turning a mediocre song into a soulful ballad of epic proportions. Led by Marianne and her exquisite crowd skills, the audience get really involved, singing along with some serious volume. The band all take turns playing each instrument, swapping from drums to the massive cat-faced bass to keyboard and guitar. During, ‘A Bar In Amsterdam’ Solveig Heilo leads the melody with a trumpet in hand, raising the energy in the room once again until those grown men (and ladies of course) are once again bouncing off each other with pure abandon.
As the encore of the Bluesy, ‘Ain’t No Thang’ gets the whole place singing in unison, the band leave the stage saying their thank you’s to the strains of KISS ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ blaring out from the PA. These band have a hell of a lot of talent and deserve the fans that so obviously adore them. I personally, wouldn’t listen their music much myself but tonight I understood the appeal that they have. An appeal that seems to be growing with each album and tour they perform.