By Jose Oliveira and Rosine Alleva -Rock At Night EU Editors
ZIK’INSIDE and PAGEO Productions set sail this year for Muntzenheim, a friendly town a few kms from Colmar for the second edition of their Tribute Rock Festival. From now on it will be called TRIBUTE ROCK’M RIED FESTIVAL. During a weekend, we took a huge dip into Rock of the 70s/80s, with the participation of dIRE sTRATS (German Tribute to DIRE STRAITS), QUEENMANIA (Italian Tribute to QUEEN) and the locals TIME TO TRAMP (considered in the States as “the sound closest to SUPERTRAMP).
The covers of the most important music world magazines are, still today, filled with images of the legendary bands who made the rock universe amazing in the 60s and 70s. We are then supposed to ask ourselves the eternal question: Is ROCK dead? Synonymous with revolt, cry of anger, in a society where young people always seem to be looking for an existence more in harmony with the environment, one certainty persists. Rock, as a musical style, will always exist but, the magic…Yes, the one that often characterized it, that one truly disappeared a long time ago. New groups have a lot of trouble breaking through. Business ended up killing every kid’s dream. Finding a label capable of putting an end to months, or even years of trouble, recognizing and betting on the talent of these new artists, is becoming increasingly rare. Many groups prefer to engage in “crowdfunding”, to avoid mishaps with traditional labels. Gone are the days when the majors sent their proteges to the countryside and paid for endless stays in medieval mansions and castles. And so, real talents roam the corridors of the underground, play in smoky bars, dreaming again and again that a lucky star would, one day, illuminate their path.
And when all that’s left is an old vinyl, an old tape to relive a live concert by these bands that have fueled so much of our passion for Rock, the alternative today is a concert by a “Tribute Band ”! And Tributes are on the rise!!! Somehow they are becoming a kind of New Wave!!! And God knows that some of them get so close to the original band or Artist…when they are supposed to pay tribute to them!!
Too bad that many Promoters haven’t really grasped this phenomenon yet!! These three days concerts in Muntzenheim (Alsace) were almost sold out!
DIRE STRAITS, SUPERTRAMP and QUEEN are legendary bands that marked a generation of “Guitar Lovers” and “Prog Rock”.
We must recognize the gift of Patrick GEORGENTHUM (at the head of ZIK INSIDE and PAGEO) for always offering Tributes of exceptional quality to his public.
ROCK AT NIGHT wanted to give voice to these musicians…….
dIRE sTRATS (Germany)
RAN – What made you decide to choose DIRE STRAITS for a Tribute?
Wolfgang Uhlich – When I heard „Sultans of swing“ I wanted to play that song on my older brother’s guitar. At that time I didn’t understand most of the other Dire Straits songs because I never heard songs like that when I was 14. So I stole my brother’s guitar and tried to play Sultans. From that moment on I began to love Mark Knopfler’s music and I learned to play guitar step by step from 1997 on. It was a question of time to form a Tributeband. For me this music radiates calm and even much energy. It sounds simple but it isn’t, so you can’t get enough of it.
RAN – What do you think are the essential qualities for a good Tribute band?
WU -For me personally, the most important thing is not only to play every original licks but to play in the style of the original. That means you have to understand what you are doing to understand the technical things and the spirit of the music. And after understanding that, you can go your own way and make your own interpretation of that music you have to love. I think a band has to have its own character because you can’t copy it 100%, but you can nail it. It’s the essence of it.
RAN – You’ve been around since 2004. Was it hard to master Knopfler’s guitar playing?
WU -I learned to play guitar when I listened to Mark Knopfler’s style of playing. It’s fingerpicking so that’s a different technique than the „normal“ guitar player technique (with a plec). So there are not too many people who invest much of energy and time to handle all these tricky tricks. I develop to copy this guitar style for many years and I never stop to develop it.
RAN -Tributes are currently very fashionable. But the purists are still very numerous to defend the original works. What is your vision?
WU -I’m a purist myself, but I’m absolutely not interested in pleasing every purist, because you can’t please them all, no matter how good you are. Like I said before, I think you need to have your own character of playing as a good tribute but this own character is not tolerable for most of the purists. Sometimes I think a tribute can never be good for purists, because Mark Knopfler is not on stage. But there are lots of interested listeners of that great music so I prefer to play for them and lots of them enjoy listening to a tribute. My vision is to play as good as possible for me and my band. I studied very hard and we always develop the versions of the songs we play – so it is organic. At first I play for myself, then I play for the audience (which I really, really enjoy).
RAN – Which DS album do you think was the most successful?
WU -Commercially, it was „Brothers in arms“, in touring it was „On every street“, for guitar players it was the first „Dire Straits“ and for my personal development it is „Communiqué“.
RAN – In Colmar, you had a “standing ovation”. The public was delighted. What impression did you keep of this Festival?
WU -I was very, very happy to have played in Colmar. For me it was a fantastic concert evening with a great audience. An enthusiastic audience but able to be absolutely quiet when it was required. The location was great – we like to play concerts in front of a sitting audience even if we like to play for standing people, too. It is another atmosphere. And we liked the work of the promoter because everything went well for us.
TIME TO TRAMP (France)
RAN – After a huge success in Madeira, Estoril and Coimbra (Portugal), you decided to renew your setlist a little. What were the criteria that guided you in this choice and from which albums did you draw this choice?
Raymon Halbeisen – Founded in 2017 around singer and pianist Angelo Dolcemare, Time To Tramp’s repertoire had hardly changed since… In Alsace, we estimated the number of spectators who came to listen to us at 40,000 and many fans were present at all concerts. We also found some of them in the front rows of our concerts in Portugal and Madeira… 🙂 We therefore decided that it was time to rework the scenography and to renew some titles by drawing on the “others” Supertramp classics like “Gone Hollywood” from Breakfast in America, “Crazy” from Famous Last Words or even “Even In The Quietest Moments” from the album of the same title or “Lady” and “Sister Moonshine” from Crisis what Crisis…
RAN – A Tribute to SUPERTRAMP requires special attention, I suppose. Musically, where are the biggest difficulties?
RH– We chose to play the “studio” versions of the Supertramp albums. These albums, recorded over several months , at one of the greatest studios of the time, are admirably produced. They reveal melodic lines, brilliant and sometimes complex musical arrangements, breaks in rhythm, remarkable vocal harmonies, a multitude of instruments and sonic surprises. In addition, Supertramp’s Rock never stopped evolving and reinventing itself from year to year, flirting with fashions, trends and technical developments. Getting as close as possible to these original versions, transcribing, live, the power, the emotion and the sound is therefore a challenge for a seasoned multi-instrumentalist and therefore an important job for each of us…
RAN – In view of the enormous popularity around the Tribute bands, a controversy arises. Some say they leave little room for groups trying to emerge. What is your opinion ?
RH – Perpetuation and nostalgia cohabit at all times and in all fields with creation and modernity. There has always been and there will always be room for innovation, invention, novelty. There’s no need to worry about artists and bands who have “things to say” and work hard. They make space for themselves!
RAN – During your participation in this Festival, you received a visit from Dragan NIKITOVIC. The Big Boss of JOYBRINGER CONCERTS, a respectful label in German Showbusiness. It seems that he was delighted to the point of hiring you for a concert in Luxembourg. Can you tell us about it?
RH – Nice surprise and nice meeting! Dragan NIKITOVIC is indeed a must in show business… After Portugal and Switzerland, we are once again offered the chance to perform abroad. On April 20, 2024, it’s in Luxembourg we will once again have to convince the audience. And we thus hope to consolidate our collaboration with Dragan and, why not, move on with Belgium, Germany and….
Sonny ENSABELLA – Voice / Paul Uzo VALLI – Drums
Amudi SAFA – Guitar / Luca NICOLASI – Bass
RAN – This Tribute to the iconic QUEEN is original with this off audiovisual part and the succession of hits played. How did you come up with the idea for such a concept?
Sonny Ensabella– Our aim was to create a show that reflected our own style and was different from what you could find around. –
RAN – Tackling the musical universe of the iconic QUEEN requires a lot of work. Do you think you have reached a perfectly good level, able to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other Tributes that exist?
SE – Of course we are not the ones who can talk about it. Over the years the large number of shows all over Europe, always successful, made us reach a great level. We are always looking for refinement and new ideas to improve the show. There are thousands of tribute bands : being different from others is our goal.
RAN – We are currently experiencing a Tribute mania in Europe. Do you think it will last? How do you explain this fever for Tributes Bands? –
SE– There is a need from new generations to be part of something that they could not live because of different timing. Some Artists died many years ago, others retired from scenes, some bands broke up … The tribute bands are intended to bring back the atmosphere of times gone by. – –
RAN – Freddie Mercury was, in my opinion, the most important piece in the QUEEN puzzle. What was the biggest difficulty in the making of this Tribute? The vocal approach or the musical side?
SE- Both. Queen’s specialty is right that: Brian May’s orchestrations and unique vocal mixes and arrangements. …plus a hundred other ingredients… …plus the genius of Freddie and company! Bringing this magic back on stage is not always easy… We try with passion and professionalism. RAN – In the 70s, the public came to the concerts not only to see the legendary bands (such as The WHO, LED ZEPPELIN, GENESIS…) but also to see the visual effects, such as the light show or lasers. Do you think videos should accompany more and more live performances?
SE – The use of images, videos, lights and effects has always helped the viewer to get into the concept of the show. Every song has its own vibe. Performances and colors are connected. We also love raw and no frills shows. Of course, music is on top.
RAN – Please, tell me a little about your background .
SE – This show has been touring for almost 20 years. The band is formed by very experienced musicians, well known in Italy and Europe: Sonny Ensabella – Voice Paul Uzo Valli – Drums Amudi Safa – Guitar Luca Nicolasi – Bass
RAN -You had a “stand ovation” in Colmar. The public came out delighted. What impressions do you keep of this Festival?
SE – It’s been great! When the theater or the arena is full of shouting, singing and dancing people, we get filled with a very strong energy. We live by that.
RAN – What is your main target in this QUEEN’s musical work?
SE – Always improving. Our goal is to convey to the audience our passion for music and our joy and fun in playing it. Each of us has something to communicate and does it through the music of Queen. Each of us has his own touch. Always respecting the original, of course.
RAN – What would you say to anyone who prefers to stay true to the originals and has a certain reluctance to come see a Tribute Band?
SE– “You’re right! ( Laughs) ) Just maybe you can give it a try… I bet you’d enjoy it!
Rock At Night wishes these great Tribute bands a lot of success on this hot summer!
Photos credit dIRE sTRATS – Philippe Hausmesser
Time To Tramp & Queenmania – José Oliveira
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