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2012-09-18

LAIBACH comes in peace über dem København (15.09.2012)

Again? Another post about Laibach? Haven't there already been three CD reviews in this blog this year?

Yes, there was the "Iron Sky" soundtrack, then the phenomenal live recording "Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde" and lately the compilation "Reproduction Prohibited".

So for the sake of variety I'm doing this live review in english instead of german, which makes also sense, considering the concert not being in Germany and english being the main language I used in conversation with the people I met there.

I've made this decision once before in April, for the review of the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg (Netherlands). As german readers might already know, it was there where I've been asked that famous unanswerable question "What kind of band is Laibach?" the last time. While my own unprepared stumbled explanation didn't really satisfy me - once again -, I was not aware that in that very same moment of my failure Laibach themselves where giving a far better answer playing their historical "Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde" show in the Tate Modern Museum in London.
And right now, as I am typing the words of this paragraph, Laibach are where I was then - in Tilburg. Now, if that's not circles closing everywhere! Too bad I don't believe neither in fate nor in Illuminati world conspiracies...

With Laibach leaving out Hamburg on several tours (I've already had a five-year-hiatus of seeing them) and the recording of the Tate Modern show raising my expectations to the highest level, there was no question that I would drive as long as it was necessary to see them again this time.
About four hours plus breaks to Berlin or to Copenhagen, those were my two dates to choose from. I went with my Northern German affintiy to the Danish, with the weekend and with the fact that the Copenhagen concert was going to take place in a location that promised a very special occasion: the National Art Gallery of Denmark.

Since my mobile phone is one of those rare subversive devices which are only made and used for short text messages and phone calls, I can just offer some shots from the outside which I did the next morning to illustrate the venue:


As you can see the Statens Museum for Kunst is just what you expect of such an institution: one of those classic magnicifent buildings, where everything is designed in such a huge scale that - viewed in total - it almost looks small again.


Attached to the old building is a modern tract with a large glass wall on the backside. So the original facade of the old building is still intact.
 

Right at the foot of the new building they set up the stage and movie screen. All the stairs were filled with the audience watching the performance from above.

And don't mistake me for being clever enough to have done this on purpose, but just where you can see the reflection of my head and camera - that was my spot during the concert! ;)

So, if that's seriously not enough to fit in the whole rest with your imagination... In this gallery on the facebook page of Laibach you can see pictures of the actual event.


The evening started with Ivan Novak representing the "old Laibach" and Mina Špiler ("the upgrade") sitting in front of the stage and being interviewed. A nice idea, though it didn't work out as good as it might have been due to the lack of creative new questions.
In this setting with this audience one can assume that most visitors are familiar with the basics. So what's the point in coming with "Opus Dei" and "Geburt einer Nation" again? Luckily Ivan and Mina, who was obviously too young to answer most questions and basically functioned as eye candy and a mike stand, were aware of this and loosened up the conversation with some humour. I would't say that it was wholly uninteresting, because it wasn't, yet still - it felt as if the interview stayed below its potential. With all those different activities since "W.A.T." alone, there should have been some fresh subjects, I guess.


Act II of the night followed immediately afterwards - a screening of "Iron Sky", the famous finnish Moon Nazi satire, for which Laibach contributed the score and initial inspiration of the director.
This being the "We Come In Peace" tour, what better way to warm up for the show could there be?

For me it was the second time I saw the movie (can't tell how often I've listened to the soundtrack though), and it was still good for many laughs. I even spotted one of the many visual Laibach references I missed during the first time. Good thing that the Danish don't dub movies (this german habit is a pain in the ass if you ask me), so my fun was as unspoiled as everyone else's in the hall.




After those 90 minutes of brutal Laibach teasing, when the end credits had rolled over the screen, you could grab the anticipation. Time for the real McCoy, as the fictional President of the United States of ze Amerikas would have put it.

It started with pre-recorded spoken words, the snarling voice of singer Milan Fras booming in Slovene, so deep and mighty that you immediately knew that the acoustics of this vast auditorium of glass and concrete would serve the Slovenian Kunst Machine very well.
And when the band entered the stage and joined in for "Sredi Bojev"- so it was!

Roughly following the scheme of "Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde", skipping only the most exlusive primeval soup elements with which they started then, the two-hour-set of Laibach was divided into two sections, the first being a dive into the "revisited" versions of their very early works, which still aren't out as a studio album. With a delay of over a year and three records being released in the meantime, it will hopefully turn out to be number four to blog about here this year.

The re-interpretations differ very much from the originals, but they doubtlessly are still laibachian through and through, carrying a timeless quality like something that's been with you for an eternity, even though you have just heard it for the first time.
Milans real-life voice could compete with the intro astonishingly well. This was my sixth Laibach concert since 1994, and the man's voice never sounded this abysmal and bottomless. Speaking in his mother tongue it sounds even deeper than in english or deutsch. If the citizens of Copenhagen ever had a nightmare of a maelstrom swallowing their famous mermaid (I've seen half of Japan snapshooting that poor thing...) - Milan opening his mouth may have been the closest thing to that.

Visually Laibach isn't as scary and untouchable as it used to be in the good bad old times, but honestly I don't really miss that aspect. Of course I loved the "W.A.T." performances with the two sternly sexy drummer girls, who revived the strong symmetrical aesthetic which had been established in the eighties and temporarily abandoned for the heavy metal approach of "Jesus Christ Superstars". Yet in retrospect they made a really good point about how mainstream a military approach has become in pop music. If Laibach would recruit some new angry young men with army haircuts in pseudofascistic uniforms today to look scary again, it might just give them a big yawn, if not only a small shrug of the shoulders, because by now we are much too used to musicians wanting to shock us with their appearances.
(Though I have to admit that some of the new old school provocative merchandising articles like the "Schwitz aus!" soap still work very well in waking people's anger instead of their minds.)

Good thing then that Laibach kept improving the musical performance instead. I'm not overstating, when I say that I am absolutely stunned by the way they just keep getting better and better.

The basis of the band's current live sound is the mixture of electronic sound delivered by three keyboard players, delivering the wagnerian orchestral bombast as well as piano and sequencer tunes, and the excellent organic drumming of Janez Gabrič.

The center of attention - and the midst of the stage - was equally apportioned between Milan Fras and Mina Špiler, who has really grown into her role as second lead singer (also handling keys and effects) since she joined Laibach for the "Volk" tour.

A captivating appearance, gifted with a beautiful voice and unique style of singing, yet also in charge of giving a megaphon rendition of the Josip Broz Tito speech in "Država" - I can't write enough propaganda for this woman. With The Beatles' "Across The Universe" and the schmaltzy "Take Me To Heaven" she surely took the level of purity and elegancy in Laibach shows to a new level.
And of course I have to mention those panic screams, which I had always considered to be samples on the Tate recording...

Each former manifestation of the band had its own special qualities, but I don't think that any of them could so flexibly switch between all those different musical directions which are actually fused together in a Laibach show.

Listen to passages like the noisy outbreaks in "Smrt Za Smrt" - with this wild piano on top of the chaos it is as much classic industrial as it something that could happen in an avantgarde jazz performance. And that may just be the range wherein it all happens.
The kraftwerkian minimalism of "Le Privilège des Morts" (more "Kapital" songs please!), the brutality of "Leben heißt Leben" or the Bob Dylan cover "Ballad Of A Thin Man", the strangely distanced bombast in "Ti, Ki Izzivaš", hints of barbershop in "Take Me To Heaven" and a space zeppelin full of James Bond references in "Under The Iron Sky"... this line-up just nails everything.


You might have noticed by now: What Laibach delivered in Copenhagen was nothing but a spectacular show. I could go on and on with highlighting all the highlights of it, but instead let me just point to the setlist below this report! I was simply blown away and happily brainwashed once again.

If the Neue Slowenische Kunst comes to town - you definitely need to get there!


This is not an advice, but ein Befehl, Herr Nachrichtenübermittlung-Oberführer!


Setlist:
  • Sredi Bojev
  • Mi Kujemo Bodočnost
  • Brat Moj
  • Smrt Za Smrt
  • Ti, Ki Izzivaš
  • Država
  • Le Privilège Des Morts
  • Across The Universe
  • B Mashina
  • America
  • Under The Iron Sky
  • Take Me To Heaven
  • See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
  • Ballad Of A Thin Man
  • Alle Gegen Alle
  • Du Bist Unser
  • Love On The Beat
  • Warme Lederhaut
  • Tanz mit Laibach
  • Leben heißt Leben
  • Geburt einer Nation





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