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Einstürzende Neubauten with White and Otto von Schirach

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Since they were bypassing Dublin on this tour, I had to travel to them in London. Touring to support their new album, the boys from Berlin have put on a slightly more subdued show compared to their usual setlist. A mixed bag in terms of the support slots but a great night overall; as usual Neubauten fail to disappoint.


The Forum, London, 22nd May

The first of the night's two support acts was a dismal start to say the least. Otto von Schirach put on a tedious show, not even his "crazy" costume of a mask, cape and underwear on outside his trousers could elevate the performance beyond turgid. For about 20 minutes he squawked into his microphone with a "zany" effect on his voice while blasting boring, repetitive, pseudo-industrial beats at the audience. Thankfully this almost unbearably bad performance ended before I felt the need to engage in some form of bloodshed and Beijing's White took to the stage.

The duo of Shou Wang and Shenggy played music with such vibrancy and energy that all memories of dodgy men in capes were forgotten. Shades of No Wave acts like DNA and Mars were there, as were elements of Neubauten themselves. However, this was no pastiche act but a melting pot of these influences and White's own style and approach. Like many of the other experimental musicians currently emerging from China, they put a new spin on styles and techniques that have gone stale in much of western music. These artists, thanks to not growing up with the same cultural reference points as their contemporaries outside China, seem to be more creative by sheer dint of not thinking inside the same box as I do. Sadly, as an inordinate amount of time was devoted to von Schirach, White's set was painfully brief. Had they gone on for even another 10 minutes, I would have a hard time deciding whether I enjoyed White or Neubauten more.

On this tour, Neubauten have steered clear of playing any songs from before Silence is Sexy (aside from a brief tease of Blixa Bargeld singing "Halber Mensch"). This evidently annoyed people in the audience as cries for "Haus der Luege" were heard far too often. During "Heaven is of Honey" the band looked seriously annoyed by a very loud shout from the audience: "Boring!" I must admit, I am always bewildered why people expect a band to ignore their new material, especially considering this was billed as the Alles Wieder Offen tour this is a band who consistently reinvents themselves and deliberately confounds expectations.

Grumbles about a minority of audience members aside, the band put on a great performance. The most enjoyable songs were those from the new album; a delightfully playful and energetic performance of "Let's Do it a Dada" brought an early peak to the show (no doubt helped by the fact I had attended an exhibition of works by Duchamp, Man Ray and Piccabia earlier that day). All the band seemed to be having great fun with piece but none more so than Andrew Unruh who donned a Hugo Ball style Dada outfit and did a fantastic rendition of a sound poem. Not long after, a terrific version of "Unvollstaendigkeit" in English silenced the audience with its brooding power, shifting the tone of the show entirely.

Of course, it would not be a complete Neubauten concert without some improvisation thrown in. During their main set they performed one of their patented "Rampes" (live jams that normally end up becoming the next album after a tour) but for an encore they employed their "Dave" system of improvisation (using cards chosen at random to decide what each band member would play, see my review of the Jewels album for more details). The piece was shaky at first but before long the group got into gear and the music just took off. Unlike the "Rampe" which is jammed out differently several times a tour, reduced down into a solid song, the "Dave" piece is a true piece of improvisation that is performed and sent out into the ether, never to be recovered. It was great, trust me.

This may not have been Neubauten's best show but it was certainly one of the smoothest ones I have seen. There was the right balance between loud and soft, familiar and new; they sounded utterly comfortable this time. It was worth the trip to London to say the least.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 April 2009 03:54  


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