I’ve seen Roger Whittaker begin his concerts in a variety of ways, and for his final concert of the Liebe Endet Nie tour, he entered the Lanxess Arena in Köln, walking along the front row of the stalls, shaking people’s hands, ‘protected’ or possibly just accompanied, by George Thornton, who does the Künstlerbetreuung on the tour. (No, I don’t know what it means either. It’s just that since I had drunk George’s Darjeeling a few hours before, I feel he must be mentioned.)
Once on stage, Roger commenced his fast paced show, which lasted over two hours, and that’s not bad going on the eve of your 73rd birthday, after 28 concerts throughout Germany and Austria, before this last one in Köln.
Not that it’s important, but I counted 24 songs, of which only two were in English, and that’s as it should be. The Germans like ‘their own’ Roger Whittaker songs. It’s what has them clapping and singing from the word go. Mind you, the two English songs were both accompanied by Roger’s ‘acting’, which also went down well. If I Were A Rich Man is an old favourite of Roger’s and he does ‘doddery old man’ to perfection.
The other one was Uncle Benny, and it might have been the proximity to St Patrick’s Day which had Roger wearing a really tasteless green velvet hat. When Daughter muttered the name John Travolta, I thought she meant he wore a green Guinness hat, too, but I understand now it was the dance moves she was referring to.
And there is a dancing horse. Not in real life, but on the video screen, and what a sight it is to find a horse dancing to a Roger Whittaker tune. It wouldn’t be a real concert without Roger’s whistling lessons. For some reason he likes to teach his audiences to whistle backwards, but I’m still not convinced he’s not pulling our legs. I don’t know what the witch looks like when whistling, but here is a good close-up of Roger in full flow.
In the interval we went looking for another Roger fan. Not that the place was short of them, you understand, but there was a specific other fan we wanted to meet. Turned out she hails from the same place as the witch’s Swedish family, which could be a coincidence, but I believe that’s typical of the Whittaker world. We just have to travel the world to meet.
Roger offered two new songs among the old favourites; Du bist ein Engel, and Dafür lieb ich Dich. The latter is a song for Natalie (Mrs W), who arrived specially for the last concert. More family involvement included granddaughter Isabella, aged two, but because of her age she only appeared courtesy of a video with her grandfather, to illustrate Mit kleinen Schritten. She’s a born performer, that girl. Isabella’s mum originally recorded A Perfect Day with Roger, but in Köln it was Kirstin Campbell who sang the duet with Roger in German. Her colleague Angie Horn sang another duet in Leben mit dir.
By the middle of the second half of the concert the number of people coming up to hang out near the stage had grown considerably. Daughter took advantage of this by joining them to get better photos, and was soon clinging to the edge of the stage while couples danced behind her. In the German concerts you get couples dancing spontaneously in the aisles and by the stage, and not just the enthusiastic stomping in your seats.
I firmly believe Roger would have found a larger table on stage useful, as the tiny one he had was overflowing with flowers, brought to him by fans coming up to shake his hand. It’s a busy life up there, singing and receiving gift. And down on the floor there were beautiful young girls coming up to be closer to Roger, not to mention the fan with flashing red horns. It takes all sorts.
They don’t bother with pretense, so the extra songs were in the programme from the beginning. We all know how the concert will end. The dancing had grown wilder still by the time Ein bisschen Aroma finished a beautiful evening. It is true ‘footstomping, handclapping, dancing wherever you like’ stuff. And when Roger reached the end of the song, he left, but because the others on stage continued singing and dancing, nobody realised that Roger must have been back at his hotel before we’d even begun to put our coats on.
(All photos by H Giles)