Seeing Rammstein live has existed as a myth in my mind for over 10 years. Saturday night that myth became reality, but it blew my mind so much that I’m not even sure what I experienced was real.
I first heard of Rammstein in the late ’90s on the Trent Reznor curated soundtrack to David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of German, they fit well into the industrial metal bands I was listening to. Over the next decade, they would disappear and reappear into my life, usually driven by some sort of controversy or rumor. But what always intrigued me was that their live shows were supposed to be epic. Unfortunately, Rammstein has stayed out of America for the last 10 years. But that would all end on December 11 at the famed Madison Square Garden.
In usual HRC style, there was an interesting path that led to my attending this show. It sold out in 30 minutes, long before I even determined I could go. But after sending out a plea via twitter, networking hooked me up with someone who had an extra awesome ticket that they were willing to give me. I was so humbled by this gesture….just when you think the world has gone to shit, someone does something nice and my faith in humanity is momentarily restored.
Fast forward to a couple days before the show, and I’m landing in freezing cold NYC with a full schedule. The Peewee Herman show on Friday, an interview with Rammstein on Saturday, and an interview with a German news network about being a Rammstein fan before the show. I woke up Saturday morning an excited ball of nerves with some great interview questions all ready to go, only to find out two hours before the interview that the band canceled all press. And then the German news crew and I kept missing each other. But I was so excited about the show that I didn’t let it get me down.
Hearing about Madison Square Garden my whole life had me thinking that this was the largest venue in the world. I always trip out on the history of venues, and having seen so many live concert DVDs filmed here, I was excited to finally set foot in the place. It was also interesting to think of seeing a German band in a place that to me is an American symbol of music and sports.
Walking in, a fire truck was parked out front, an indicator of the level of pyro I was about to experience. I expected security here to be ridiculous, but I was baffled and confused when they barely looked in my bag. Finding our way to our seats in the front row of a middle loge section, you could feel the energy of the crowd. It was amazing. I’ve been to so many final shows, end of tour shows…but this one felt like a new beginning. A beloved band making it’s reappearance after a long hiatus was a strange positive energy in the midst of the heaviness of the music we were about to experience.
The crowd varied widely in demographics, and the only way I could describe it was it felt like a UN gathering of industrial metalheads. I overheard a vast myriad of languages being spoken, not to mention there were flags being raised from different countries. There was a mix of ages as well. In front of me on the floor were a group of guys in bloody chefs outfits. There was a Santa in GA. It was great people watching…and it totally reminded me of the Daft Punk show I saw years ago, and would continue to do so throughout the night.
The only thing that could make this show better was to have a kick-ass opener, and that would be Combichrist. I have seen them many times over the years, and they are one of my favorite live bands. It was kind of bizarre to see them play in such a large venue, but they are the most fitting opener I could think of for Rammstein. The beginning of their set was shrouded in too much darkeness – a lighting malfunction that had me screaming ‘I can’t see my banddddd’- but once that was fixed they totally killed it and seemed to win over the audience. It was a very different setlist than I’m used to- skewed heavily towards new songs and ending with my new favorite ‘Never Surrender’. About halfway through the set, frontman Andy LaPlegua ripped off a latex mask on the bottom of his face. But the real thing to write about here was the addition of a guitarist- something I’ve never seen them with. I was sitting there trying to figure out who it is because their movements look familiar, and then he was introduced as Wes. Wes Borland on guitar….awesome!
Between sets a very talkative couple sat next to us who were live Rammstein aficionados. They proceeded to tell us what songs you can take bathroom breaks during (huh?) and how their kids have terrible taste in music. “I listened to Zeppelin and The Stones while pregnant and you give me fucking Ne-Yo?!” And then….the wife talked about how she just wanted to go up and sit on Schneider’s drum kit and feel the vibrations. I start giggling uncontrollably and she points at me and is like “she knows what I’m talking about”. Hahaha…ummm….Awkward City, Population Me.
I was also eavesdropping on the people around us. A conversation starts up about how much people paid for their seats. Via Stubhub, the range was $460-$110 per ticket, for seats that were right next to each other. Scalpers were out of control for this show, and the fans were so hungry they were willing to drop car payments on tickets.
The lights go out and everyone is on their feet. As soon as guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers burst through a wall, I knew my mind was about to be blown. It’s really interesting that exactly two weeks before I saw The Wall live, another extremely high production show that is critically acclaimed. With that show, I fell into the teeny minority that was a bit turned off by how heavy the production was, and the fact that it was a concert got a bit lost. Here, that was never the case.
The opening riff of ‘Rammleid’ was accompanied by fireworks. Till is the last to enter the stage, through a bat cave in the middle of the floor. A light came from within his mouth. The way the musicians are positioned – 3 in front and 3 in back on a platform reminded me of the recent A Perfect Circle shows I saw. But instead of seeming like they were each confined to their space, they were more like home bases that were returned to after utilizing every other inch of their territory.
The militant overtones of their appearance and music, along with the crowd chanting made for a very interesting ambiance. It was like a scary thrill, especially since it was all in German. Which brings up one of the most interesting components of the night- we’re all singing in German. Everyone. I’m willing to bet most of us don’t speak German, but for that night we did and it was such a bizarre feeling. I had been listening to them so much lately that by the time of the show I felt like I knew what I was saying, though I really could be singing about puppies and kittens and rainbows for all I know.
Between the production and the foreign language and Till’s low booming voice it felt in many ways like an opera. It’s an artform that evokes such dramatic emotion, you get completely swept up into it. But then there’s the heaviness of the music that brings you back down into the grittiness of the sound. It was an interesting sensation. This was physically embodied by the way the band would play stiff and stoically and then completely let loose and thrash around.
After the first song, I turned to my ticket giver with my jaw dropped. ‘Wow’ was all I could say.
If Till was the General of the evening, then Flake, the keyboardist, was the Court Jester. There were many times throughout the show that he provided the comic relief. By ‘B****’, he was dancing around at the front of the stage like a maniac; a bizarre contrast to how hard and serious everything else was.
Hearing the beginning of ‘Weisses Fleisch’, my favorite Rammstein song, I felt like one of those people on Oprah who had just been given a car. My head almost exploded. And the way they were marching forward and backward in synch…it was just so perfect. Schneider shined on drums during this song.
Once the pyro really started going, during ‘Feuer Frei’, I was fascinated by how much rehearsal time must go into this. Not only do they have to make sure that they aren’t standing in the way of some fire (and I know the bassist got grazed in the face at one point), but they handle a lot of it themselves. I think realizing this added to the feeling of power that this band exudes.
Two lines lower from the ceiling with babies hanging from them at the beginning of ‘Weiner Blut’. I was like ‘wow- that looks really demented’ and then they totally one-uped me as the babies exploded one by one at the end of the song and fall to the floor. Oh. My. God….
‘Ich tu Dir Weh’ had one of the most interesting production elements. Flake attacks Till and he falls to the ground, but then Till throws Flake into a bathtub looking thing. Next thing you know, Till is rising 10 feet or so in the air on a tiny platform. Then, he pours a bucket of FIRE into the tub. And finally, Flake emerges in a sparkly suit and dances away. All while the song is going on. Unbelievable.
As ‘Du Richt so Gut’ begins, Flake is now walking on a moving floor while playing keys.
In the middle of ‘Benzin’, Till brings out what looks like a flamethrower and sets someone who looks like he’s just run on stage on fire. And they stayed lit for a bit longer than made me feel comfortable. It made me forget how I don’t really care for this song. At this point I think they could have started singing ‘Edelweiss’ and I would have still been eating out of the palms of their hands and licking the crumbs.
‘Links 2 3 4’ is a good sing along one, but what really got the crowd going even more than they already were was ‘Du Hast’. This has always been The Rammstein song to most people. I’m fascinated by the multiple ways you can interpret the lyrics- ‘you have me’ or ‘you hate me’.
And then it was THAT song. The one with the porno sounding beginning, and the porno English lyrics, and the very porno video. Ironically it was the one song I didn’t really sing along to and it had English words! Now here was the real humor break of the evening- Till brought out a giant penis that ‘ejaculated’ foam all over the crowd. Funny, that’s the second time this has happened to me in slightly over a month. I mean, you can’t take this song seriously, can you? What makes me laugh most about it is the simple, direct aspect of it. The small Texas town I live in is of German heritage, so I have a lot of German family friends- and they are the most direct people I’ve ever met in my life. Americans are so weird about sexuality….I’ve always been so confused by how we accept violence in entertainment so much over sexual content, a much more natural part of life. This is part of why I’ve always identified with my European friends.
The band came to the front of the stage, bowed, and left. The crowd roared for them to come back- and I thought there might be a song or two more. They storm back on stage to ‘Sonne’, with epilepsy inducing lights. That led into ‘Haifisch’- which had Flake riding on top of the pit in a raft- and then ‘Ich Will’. Then they came back for one final song – ‘Engel’ – which had Till sporting giant angel wings that caught on fire. It was unbelievable, and appeared in my dreams later that night.
I couldn’t even move when it was over I was so mentally spun by what I had just experienced. All I can say is that what I could convey to you here isn’t even the half of it. If the rumors are true and they are coming back next year- go. Just…go.
I refuse to post one shitty picture I took of this evening because it doesn’t do it justice. If you want a sneak peek of the show – which was being filmed for a live DVD- check out these YouTube videos.