24 years after they split up for the first time, the legendary Dutch pop group Doe Maar can still sell anything with their name on it, so their second reunion stint (4 club shows, three gigs at Feijenoord Stadium and a festival gig in Belgium) sold out in no time. But did they have anything to add to their first reunion in 2000, especially now that they didn't come up with a studio album this time around?
How about much better sound, to start with? The 2000 gigs, great though they were, suffered from the fact that they were in Ahoy' Sports Hall, notorious for its reverb-laden acoustics. Tonight's concert at Feijenoord's stadium had crystal clear, well-balanced sound with the deep, pure lows that the group's reggae-inspired style needs. In fact, it was easily the best sound I'd ever heard at a concert?
How about a leaner band? Back in 2000, I felt at times like there were too many people on stage - a percussionist, a brass section, an extra guitarist doubling Henny Vrienten's bass lines. I wanted to see and hear the four main guys - Vrienten, Jansz, Hendriks and Pijnenburg. This time, there were still additional musicians on stage, but the way it was handled was that the band was augmented by three people, two of whom were multi-instrumentalists. There were also two guests who came on stage for two or three songs each. While the total number of musicians was the same as last time, the impression was of a leaner band that had to choose which parts to play and which to drop.
How about a stronger set list? Though the set started and ended pretty much the same as on the 2000 gigs, the two and a half-hour concert had some real nuggets in it - "Ruma Saja", "Situatie", "Winnetoe". Paradoxically, the fact that the band didn't have a new album to promote helped make the set seem more up-to-date. The old stuff is still relevant in a way that much of the material from Klaar never managed to be.
And how about having Joost Belinfante back in the band? I had heard he was going to show up to perform his ode to cannabis sativa hollandica, "Nederwiet" but I didn't know he was going to be on stage all the time, as one of the three additional musians mentioned earlier. Belinfante is one of those performers who are more than just musicians - his mere presence added a touch of unpredictability to it all, like a morris Fool. Where Doe Maar as a whole sound like a well-oiled machine, you never really know what Belinfante is going to do next, and how his favorite plant will influence him. "Nederwiet" doesn't have a fixed lyric or even a fixed number of lines in the verses, so the musicians have to be on their toes.
And what musicians they are! With the improved sound quality, leaner band and timeless set list, Doe Maar really showed off their skill at creating tight, danceable, dynamic performances. The most impressive part of their sound is their rhythm section, with a precise, angular style driven by Vrienten's bass work. Jan Hendriks on guitar has one foot in the rhythm section, spending most of the evening strumming chords on the afterbeat - but when he gets some solo space, he uses it very well indeed.
If you're Dutch, you almost certainly know the songs. If you're not, let me tell you that Doe Maar have some great songs - humorous ones, thoughtful ones, touching ones, but always understated ones whose poetry is in their simplicity. This night, they impressed me greatly. Best concert I've ever been to.
I haven't seen any watchable footage from the 2008 gigs on YouTube yet, but here are some YouTube highlights from the 2000 gigs, taken straight from the DVD:
"Is Dit Alles"