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Faust (live at The Royal Festival Hall)

An angle, grinding
London
12 October 2001

ZappiGiven that this appearance by Faust marks both their 100th live performance since the group’s reformation in 1993 and possibly their final show, it’s somehow appropriate that the emergency services soon became involved once again. Part of the reason for the group deciding to call it a day live lies with the toll thirty years of pounding percussion, tossing television sets around and beating the rhythmic crap out of scrap metal has taken on Zappi Diermaier, and spinal problems are not so easily shrugged off.

So it’s a little disappointing to report that the Royal Festival Hall is far from full for the end of an era and a tour which has been similarly slowly-attended — apparently, this may be partly due to a general unwillingness of punters to venture out in the current international crisis situation. The general atmosphere of paranoia and violence abroad in the real world soon infects the Faust concert too; with a short preamble of exchanged imprecations to pipe down talking during the music, a serious fight breaks out in the audience eight rows from the front. The polite elderly door staff have no idea what to do, being as shocked as the rest of the crowd, and by the time some kind of dignity is restored, fingers have been broken and blood spilled in what has to be one of the more extraordinary scenes witnessed inside the South Bank Centre in years.

Faust's scrapyard at the RFH

Despite the kerfuffle, Faust play on, and the drama is soon washed away in a delicate, soothing blend of pounded rhythms struck out on bars and pipes from the construction site’s worth of ironmongery arrayed on stage. Sledgehammers are pounded into sheet metal slogan boards; gleeful percussive grounding is provided by Ekaterina Fedorova from Russian avant-skasters ZGA, and the unique Faust tightrope-walk between chaos and coherence pulses and rocks from the strangely garage psych song sung by Lars Paukstadt via frenetic motion in the darkness to the humming swirls of sampled Gorecki and Joachim Irmler‘s perennially-fractured electric organ through an accordion duet by Ekatarina and Michael Stoll, to the latter’s throbbing bass and contra-bass sweeps and flute accompaniments to the sound of electronic helicopter-beats. Business as usual for Faust in other words, freely floating from the stuttered sparks of jack-plug boogie into the sparkling whirr of an angle grinder and the dropping away of the stopped-clock motif which conceals the ever-popular concrete mixer atop a tower of scaffolding. There is one explosion only, as the RFH don’t really encourage that sort of thing, and it seems a shame that no chainsaws were used for old time’s sake.

Lars Paukstadt & Ekaterina Fedorova

Zappi Diermaier, Lars Paukstadt, Hans Joachim IrmlerWith an auditorium reeling under the odour of burning rubber, lit by flares and wreathed in smoke, Diermaier, Paukstadt and Irmler troop to perform a mesmerising vocalised counterpoint to the concept of a chorus line, resembling nothing so much as a post-apocalyptic concert party as the fires sputter behind them. After a lull where megaphones are brandished and broadcast from up and down the aisles to a flickering strobe-lit sparkle of confusion-mongering, Dave Ball (of Soft Cell/The Grid)and Ingo Vauk (also of The Grid) join the group in GEL guise behind a clutch of vintage synths. The gathered ensemble proceed to launch into the pulsating Motorik stomp of their remix of “Wir Brauchen Dich #6” to the scalding guitar of Steve Lobdell, resplendent in his best flaming hair and wraparound shades like some avatar of spaced-out rock. This latter piece is a surprisingly groovy floor-filler, dubbing up the set with a post-Kosmische dose of dance-friendly programmed rhythms and gleeful freeform percussion from the Faust side which works more than adequately to bring on the conclusion in a blend of three decades’ worth of chundering bass and klang manoeuvres.

Faust are not smoking

There is no fond farewell from the stage, just a little dance from Zappi and a sudden shudder into a brief silence which is broken by prolonged and enthusiastic applause and demands for an encore which never materialises. With Faust, it’s never going to be certain exactly if their live days are done for good, but perhaps it’s time for a break anyway, and this gig is definitely one for the scrap book, if partly for the wrong reasons.

-Tango-Mango-

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