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Einstürzende Neubauten (live at The Forum)

London
4 May 2017

Einstürzende Neubauten live May 2017Einstürzende Neubauten are a band very close to my heart — indeed, they reside in tattoo form on my left arm, so it’s literally a matter of inches. So I am delighted when, having given up on seeing what’s billed as a Greatest Hits set due to lack of funds, I find out at the last minute that I’ve been assigned to cover it for this esteemed organ (no giggling at the back).

So here we are, waiting for the band to come on, watching an empty stage. Although, of course, where Neubauten are concerned, an empty stage is never really empty; more a sort of China Mièville skyline of bruised and beaten metal which will very soon become even more bruised, even more beaten.

And here they are, Blixa Bargeld every slimmed-down inch the showman, taking the stage in a suit and with a wry grin as they open with pastoral beauty of “The Garden”. Alex Hacke looks more and more like Asterix with every passing year, his drooping ‘tache making me yearn for a live-action Asterix And Obelix movie starring him and Sleep‘s Matt Pike. And Andrew Unruh is yet more of a mad professor than usual, even indulging in some costume-based comedy to remind everyone, if they needed reminding, that Neubauten are not only clever, literate and musically intense, they’re also, on occasion, very, very funny.

Einstürzende Neubauten live May 2017

From the comparative calm of “The Garden”, its rising strings suggesting a coming storm, we get the full-on thunder and lightning of “Haus Der Lüge”, a song so epic that it ends with God shooting himself. This is when the organic machine that is Neubauten truly springs to life, all pounded springs, hammered sheet metal and a riff that sounds like you’re trapped inside some enormous engine. It’s a song that should really give off smoke and steam, and it kind of feels almost like it does.

That’s as far back that they go in exploring their 35-plus-years career, with most of the set drawn from Silence Is Sexy (whose title track scoffs at your no-smoking laws as Blixa “plays” his cigarette to great effect) onwards. Although we also get a stonking run through “Die Interimsliebenden” from Tabula Rasa, whose haunting vocal intro makes me realise that what Blixa has most reminded me of this evening is a much taller version of the dwarf off Twin Peaks, moves and all.

Einstürzende Neubauten live May 2017

A lot of pipes get bashed, as the unbearably beautiful “Dead Friends Round The Corner” and “Youme And Meyou” work their dark magic, and we even get the spine-chilling “How Did I Die?” from 2014’s First World War elegy Lament.

By the time the apocalyptic “Redukt” rolls over The Forum, we are exhausted and exhilarated. And the band have barely broken a sweat. Even Shinya Tsukamoto could never envisage such a perfect hybrid of man and metal. A masterclass in what music can be if you forget tradition and think outside the box. And then smash it.

Einstürzende Neubauten live May 2017

-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Samantha Penny-

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