Monday, 30 April 2012

Madam in Berlin

As some of you may have gathered, I moved to Berlin with my partner in crime to become full time artists. Berlin inspired us a year ago when we came over to play some shows and write/record our album (out 7 May by the way). Ever since then, we'd save up money when we were in London so we could head back to Berlin, play shows, write music and hang out with inspiring people. Some months back we felt like taking the plunge and move here full time. So when I found out that Madam were touring Germany and were in town, we seized the opportunity to see them.

I've written a live review on Madam before, but that was with the full band back in London. Tonight, however, the usually five piece band is stripped down to Sukie Smith and John Robertson and even with just the two of them, their sound is rich and compelling. The venue they play in is called Madame Claude, which is situated in Kreuzberg; a rather favorite part of Berlin for artists and musicians alike.

Madame Claude is a basement venue, with black stairs twisting all the way down until you enter a quarry of individual rooms drowned in red lights. The music venue and bar is famously known for their quirky interior design; furniture and odd little settings are glued and screwed upside down to the ceiling giving the illusion of who's actually upright and who's upside down.

Tonight it's Friday and just short before 11pm, someone comes in to announce that the show was about to begin and if everyone could make their way down to the live music room please. Without much hesitation, people begin collecting their beers and head on down to an even lower level of the venue.

The evening begins with Andreas Laudwein and Stead, both who are singers and songwriters and sometimes perform together. I kind of indirectly know Laudwein, mostly through the magic of Facebook after he saw us perform in Berlin, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover he was the supporting act. At first it takes the two gentlemen some time to get their sound right, something to do with the humidity apparently as the guitars keep going out of tune (it is incredibly hot, a rather shock to the system) but with the bantering and a few jokes thrown in, the time taken to set up is easily dismissed and forgiven. Laudwein and Stead put on a rather compelling show, their sound is a mix of slowed down Dylan and Zappa with a kind of classic country rock twist. Laudwein's voice in particular is almost angelic at times, sucking you into his story telling. Stead puts on more of a comic show, creating an almost husband/wife bantering between the two performers (which is rather endearing).

The night rolls on, it's after midnight and after a quick cigarette break, we're back down stairs to catch Madam. As usual, this band pulls me in straight away and emotions come rolling in like thunder and lightning. The sound is so crystal clear tonight, that I let go from reality and dissolve into their world. Sukie's vocals have this ability to be bitter sweet whilst lost in romance, even when she's verging on a whisper. It's rich and beautiful and something along the lines of elegantly wasted all rolled into one. John's guitar playing is sensitive and weaves in and out and around Sukie's vocals, creating this effortless sonic stream of nostalgia. To me, Madam is the real underground Lana Del Rey, but way cooler and far less contrived. To me, Madam's the real Nancy Sinatra gone rogue. And even with the band stripped down to the essentials,  their sound still manages to create an atmosphere as if the entire band were in the same room.

After sharing our stories from the streets and much needed celebratory drinks with Madam after their show, my evening ends at five in the morning.

How I love Berlin for it's never ending night life.

Perfect for a night owl like me.

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