Herbert Groenemeyer at the Baloise Session - 12 October 2019

You know someone's a star when they step onto a stage and command a whole room in two minutes flat. Not only that, but they have such a distinctive voice that you'd recognise it anywhere within seconds. One such star is German singer-songwriter Herbert Grönemeyer, who opened this year's Baloise Session.

In the English-speaking world, Grönemeyer is possibly best known as an actor in 1981 submarine drama "Das Boot", but to German-speaking Europe, he's the most successful artist ever, with over 17 million album sales. He's been putting out albums since 1979, with 1984's "4630 Bochum" and 2002's "Mensch" particularly beloved.

It took the Baloise Session 14 years to get him to perform at the festival, and this year he agreed to play not just one evening, but two in a row. On this first night, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

A hugely likeable performer with amazing energy and a dry wit, he paced up and down the stage all evening, occasionally leaning down to chat to the fans who had shot out of their seats and run to the front of the stage as soon as the concert started. Hits like "Mensch" and "Alkohol" saw him walking right into the crowd, encouraging arm-waving and sing-alongs.











His huge back catalogue ranges from straightforward rock numbers to tender ballads, while tracks from his latest album "Tumult" include other influences: "Doppelherz", for example, is sung in both German and Turkish.

Grönemeyer has a knack for writing affecting ballads, and his unique staccato singing style underpins their emotional heft. On a "B" stage right in the middle of audience, he sang "Der Weg", a song about the death of his first wife, which led to more than one person tearing up. The much-loved "Flugzeuge im Bauch" received an equally rapturous response before he bounded back onto the main stage for multiple encores.












It wasn't all heartache and pain, though. Uptempo numbers "Bist Du Da" and "Kopf Hoch, Tanzen" started the concert with a bang, and Grönemeyer's self-deprecation and dry sense of humour added lightheartedness to the evening.

My personal highlight was hearing his early hit "Männer" live in concert; that track was one of the first pop songs I heard at an impressionable age and it remains a favorite.

Jazz Morley

Impassioned vocals, emotional ballads and a sense of humour also marked out support act Jazz Morley. The English singer-songwriter delivered a gentler, more hushed set than Grönemeyer, with her gorgeous voice front and centre. The song "Disconnected" was particularly touching, talking about sibling love.











Morley told the audience that she'd be out in the foyer signing CDs after her concert for anyone who liked what they were hearing and wanted to buy the album; she then added: "and if you didn't enjoy the concert, buy three CDs and give them to people you don't like", eliciting laughter from the crowd.

A thoroughly entertaining evening.

- Anna Wirz

Photography by Antoine Melis, Anton Corbijn and Jack Margerison.