Riding a Trans-European express, pop-rock juggernaut rolls into TV station to stun the punters and have fun.
Formed in Holland, named in French and popular in Germany, this team seemed destined for international success but, alas, impressive as they were while their tenure lasted, the Dutch collective failed to conquer the world. Their 1979 line-up, captured here on DVD and CD, could be the band’s best, the integrated ranks presenting at Rockpalast the material from the preceding four albums that combined white reserve and black cool in a heady musical mix – so alive on-stage. As a result, getting drafted into the VITESSE swirl doesn’t require familiarity with their recorded output, and becoming a fan is guaranteed anyway.
The ensemble start their performance in a rather relaxed manner, which is arrestingly defiant, with singer Jan van der Meij and bassist Toeroe Leerdam strutting their stuff – sonically and visually, up to, later on, occasional bum-bumping – from “First Train Home” onwards, and Herman van Boeyen, the quartet’s mastermind, placing cymbals accents on the groove the group are getting into. He takes the vocal lead on the infectious, if mid-tempo, likes of “Rollin’ Through The Midnight Rain” and “Midnight Oil” where dry funk would reign supreme thanks to fusion filigree Rudy de Queljoe squeezes out of his Les Paul, yet the foursome are equally well-versed in the nascent new wave, as suggested by the nearly irresistible drive of “You Can’t Beat Me” or “Dirty Business” that see van der Meij’s Start paint deep emotions. There’s also invigorating instrumental “Last Boat (From Ambon)” where the two guitarists trade incendiary licks and haunting “Whole Lot Of Travellin'” where they serve up several tasty riffs and a unison coda, but the spectacular, slap-driven master class of a wigout from the ever-energetic Toeroe is a spectacle in its own right.
The quartet’s white shoes may simultaneously contrast and stress their panache, and such cuts as “Heartbreaker” betray the collective’s punk angle – sharpened when the drummer prefaces a few songs with laconic spoken-word intros, imbibes behind his kit, whips “Springtime Confusion” into a frenzy and propels the six-minute “Do You Wanna Dance” to sweat-soaked delirium. The couple dozen cuts on display feature mostly short, some clocking in under two minutes, numbers, to keep the listeners on their toes, and if the brief rockabilly bash of “Screwed, Blued And Tattooed” or “Sweet Dreams” with its balladry are mood-setters, the profoundness of “Split” – an impressive percussion showcase courtesy of van Boeyen, topped with a breezy piece from the entire ensemble – shed a different light on the band. Whether humorous, like on “Larry” that’s dedicated to their manager, or soulful like on “Out In The Country” – the title track of this line-up’s first LP – VITESSE never fail to dazzle, and experiencing them live, even in a recorded form, is a timeless treat.