Mike Love ADD

Concert Review: Mike Love in Hamburg, Germany @ Prinzenbar 7/24/2023

07/26/2023 by Gardy Stein

Concert Review: Mike Love in Hamburg, Germany @ Prinzenbar 7/24/2023

"Let the healing begin!" For the first time ever, Mike Love blessed Hamburg with his musical presence, and the location chosen was doubly ideal for the occasion. For one, it had the appropriate size to house the 100 or so guests, looking full without feeling crowded. Also, the Prinzenbar simply captivates you as soon as you enter, giving you a slightly otherworldish feel with its floral frescos and angels, the huge chandelier and the colorful lighting… a sensation I remember well from the monthly Bump 'n Grind sessions that used to keep here!

This Monday, we are here for a different experience. Arriving just minutes after the announced entry, I find the opening act already in full swing. BoomcoustiX is their name, and the three members (Jasmin on vocals, melodica and percussion, Kasi on bass and Ede on guitar and vocals) present a melodious acoustic set that reminds me of Poems for Laila at times, especially when Jasmin and Ede sing in twofold harmonies. Their last track is called Reconnect To Nature, a perfect transition actually to the artist who is one of the few that constantly keep reminding us of the importance to protect our Mother Earth: Mike Love.

Whether it's because he grew up on the (assumedly beautiful) island O'ahu, because he carries love in his name or because he was born with that light and embraced the calling that comes with it, his presence is powerful. When he enters stage shortly after 9pm, a hush falls over the place and the audience seem to hold their breath while he straps his guitar. He smiles when a few people start to clap and plays a short warm-up piece. "This journey that brings us here is like a miracle!" Mike then says, "Being here in Germany and feeling the connection, I feel so strong and powerful, and I hope you feel it too! I can feel the beautiful nature of every single person here, how we move together… and remember, every one of you has a gift to offer. I want to remind you of the power you have. One way to make a change in this world is to start with our communities - when you return the power to them, making wise choices and be a good example." Welcome to the Hamburg community, Mr. Love!

The artist then starts what will become a two-hour explosion of words, sound and power, grabbing everyone's attention just by his guitar, his loop-station and his amazing voice. Although you get an impression of his versatility by listening to his releases, the live experience is something else altogether, as there are no filters or effects or re-recordings – only pure talent and energy flowing! Sending a shout-out to his musical companions Rising Tide, he plays the title track of their first joint EP, Together, also included on the upcoming album Pixel Prison. The following piece is all acapella, ringing with a truth so deep it forms a lump in my throat: "Where's all the leaders? Come out of hiding! Where's all the teachers? We need you now! To all the healers, this is a calling, this world is slipping into darkness. Where's all the lovers? Come out and dance now…"

Another new addition to tonight's playlist is Mike's take on the Cali Roots riddim produced by Collie Buddz, ting called The Butterfly Remains, but most of the songs he plays are older pieces, well known by the listeners. Among those, the beautiful I Love You and the urgent Step Lightly touch me most, not only because these pieces are so moving in and by themselves, but also because all present become one listening, singing along, participating in and moving to them (almost all present - those loud people in the corner who continue talking even when Mike lowers his voice to reason with us clearly don't get this special moment).

"Thanks for giving me the space to be myself tonight! To spread my wings, to be vulnerable, to try to reach notes I never sang before!" the artist says, and then does just that – touching notes that seem impossible to produce, dubbing and looping whatever note comes out of his guitar, which is string and percussions at once, vibrating wood and metal brought alive by Mike's hands. Grounding these experimental stretches with more familiar sounds, he also intones Promised Land, a track released more than 20 years ago with his band DubKonscious, and Marley's gripping Babylon System.

In between the songs, he shares personal stories, of how he started out in a club in Chinatown, for example, playing around with his loop-station and turning a lame Monday to the most visited day of the week. "And today is Monday, too!" someone calls out, causing laughter and applause, adding to the vibrant intimacy of this evening.

With Barbershop, a song that ignites the dancing mood once more, and Permanent Holiday, the night slowly comes to a close. The latter, both title of a song released on the 2012 album The Change I'm Seeking and the motto printed on the merch Shirts available (as well as an ideal to strive for!), is a mighty track, enthusiastically greeted by the audience as soon as Mike starts with its high-pitched signature intro melody. Most impressive for me is how the singer loops the lines: "I won't be manipulated, mind-controlled and inundated, I will seek the revelation, make my life a celebration. I will be the change I'm seeking, manifest the words I'm speaking, I refuse to be imprisoned, I will make my own decisions!" by recording and interweaving three different sets of vocals, each singing the exact syllable that completes the whole (it's hard to explain, listen to the track to get what I mean). 

The final message of Permanent Holiday is "We got to take back the knowledge, take back the power, humanity don't let this be the final hour!", and this is a strong message to take home. Mike Love waves his farewells after this two-hour marathon to long-lasting applause, but he is not gone for good. He comes out again to interact with the people he has played music for (or with), exchanging hugs and a chat and taking pictures with all who have waited – and there are many! Connecting with them thus is at once exceptional and the most natural thing to do, and although he looks a bit exhausted, Mike is obviously enjoying this part of the evening, taking his time to explain a group of interested guys his guitar and gear even, until the club's security asks everyone out.

Step Lightly, everyone, "you are trodding on sacred ground". It's nights like these, filled with beautiful music and deep reasonings, that resonate with our souls as long as we allow them to, so keep that fire lit! Because, next to praising this man's vocal talent and instrumental skills, it is his messages which are so important, urging us to observe, think for ourselves and, most of all, act to preserve our planet. The next time you hear the line "Who will stand with me and fight?", I hope that all hands go up and Mike hears a roaring "We!" as an answer. Make sure you listen to his songs if you haven't heard them yet, and in case you want to experience that Mike Love fascination live, he's still on tour in Europe during the next few weeks.

As always, I wish to thank everyone involved in making this show happen: Team Love, Fred Asbad, BoomcoustiX and the Prinzenbar-Crew – until a next time!