Live Review – Echo Me, Karl Neukauf and Hans Rohe in the suburbs

Echo Me, Karl Neukauf and Hans Rohe battle it out in a joust of niceness

Sunday night finds me with two friends walking down a snowy street in Kleinmachnow in the southwest part of the city. We’re counting house numbers and someone says, „Seventy!“

We look at each other. I’m not sure what we were expecting but it wasn’t this quiet-looking suburban house. We walk down the path to the front door feeling a little nervous. But we knock on the door and surprisingly we’re admitted by the man who invited us – Bernd Ehnes from Für Records.

Inside there are not too many people; there’s a dining room that opens into a medium-sized front room and this front room holds a concert piano; next to this is a guitar with amplifier, and leant in the corner is someone’s double bass. I already feel a little reassured.

We say our hellos and sip red wine and chat to people. It seems to work. Everyone seems a little nervous. I think it’s this whole home concert thing – it’s a nice idea but when you agree to host an acoustic concert in your own home for a bunch of strangers it must feel a little weird to be walking around your own living room finding glasses for people who could frankly be anyone and who tend to treat the place like a bar. I want to say, hey, we’re invited: We’re in the know. We’re part of the circle. We are not the great unwashed. No no. No way. We’re here for the house concert with Jesper Madsen, otherwise known as Echo Me, who has recently released an exceptionally strong debut album which has been receiving very positive critical reviews; and Karl Neukauf – a name that has been bandied about recently as one to watch. Reason enough.

After a little smalltalk, laughing knowingly and sharing the odd abstract anecdote, Echo Me kicks off – he’s playing a solo acoustic show tonight. And frankly his performance is superb (and you know that I say that very rarely, if ever) – he has an extremely high standard of control over his voice, hitting very high notes and tumbling way down into the bass and then fluttering back up again without missing a trick. His guitar playing and songwriting are equally assured. I was impressed when I heard the album (a more electric affair, recorded with a full band), and now seeing him live I have no doubt at all that Echo Me is going to be a name on everybody’s lips before too long.

After a suitable pause Karl Neukauf plays: Until I ask afterwards to be honest I’m a little unsure which one Karl Neukauf is: there’s a guitarist in glasses who plays nice hollow-body electric and sings a few songs about living in Kreuzberg and being broke; and the piano player, in even heavier-rimmed glasses, who plays beautifully and contributes among other things a very beautiful ode to a slug. Later I discover that the piano player is the man in question and the guitar player is another artist in his own right, Hans Rohe, also a name on people’s lips, and they have come together tonight to complement each other – which they do nicely, with absolutely no ego, swapping the lead with each song and slotting in with each other’s style quite easily.

The double bassist plonks competently away behind them and all in all it’s a competent and happy performance.

I thank my hostess and leave up the brick path from whence I came, warm despite the winter night and reassured that entering unknown suburban houses will from here on in hold no horrors for me.

Review by Noel Maurice

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