The band entered the Nottingham Arena to the beat of their own drum - a slow ominous beat that marked the progress of the band's slow, menacing, flag carrying, torch bearing procession through the crowd which started at the rear of the arena and made its way to a small stage (which looked more like a plinth) bathed in shafts of blue light beamed down directly from the ceiling above. The band then continued across a massive bridge over the heads of their fans, to a stage bathed in fire and light before beginning their music with the what is certainly the greatest count-in in all of rock music - the Eins Zwei Drei... that opens "Sonne" - their song about the redemptive power of violence, boxing and sunshine.
No entrance stage left. No “Hello Nottingham”. It was a huge, swaggering, epic opening to a show. It was also a huge swaggering. epic "wind up" of an opening. Those that might want to avoid the subject could describe it's tone as being Wagnerian or Teutonic - but really this was like something out of "The Triumph of the Will" - film maker Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Nazi Party's 1934 Nuremberg Rally. Rammstein have always mucked about with quasi-Nazi imagery. They don't do this because they are fascists - I think the reason that they do it is because they enjoy antagonising modern liberal Germany's sensibilities about their country's violent and awful history.
It's not just fascist imagery they use to goad modern liberal Germany. They also do it by making pornographic videos, by having supposed pictures of dead babies on their covers, by possibly naming themselves after a town most famous for an awful air crash, with songs about violence and hatred, by being whip smart about being wilfully idiotic & by being Germany's most successful band ever.
Rammstein have always mucked about with quasi-Nazi imagery. They don't do this because they are fascists - I think the reason that they do it is because they enjoy antagonising modern liberal Germany's sensibilities about their country's violent and awful history
Rammstein's entire career, from their origins in East German punk bands through to world wide tours playing in sold out arenas - is one that has always moved to the beat of its own drum. Their wit, their bonkers stage shows, their being simultaneously bright and daft, their ability to appeal to those who are fans of Kraftwerk & those who are fans of The Scorpions, their being so rooted in European culture (has there ever been a band so successful with so little debt to the American origins of rock), their use of the German language, their fascination with hatred and depravity & their fronting up to German history with a irony that is not polite or mealy mouthed but is confrontational, muscular and very funny. These are all things that just don't really exist anywhere else. They have made up their place in the world and as such are nothing if not an unique proposition.
It's an approach that has paid huge dividends for them. Their “build it and they will come” attitude to the world with its almost Quixotic dedication to constant invention has carved out for them a huge, diverse world-wide fan base. You could see it before this gig - the tribe of fans that snaked its way through the medieval layout of Nottingham's city centre streets toward the arena came from a very broad demographic & a multitude of niches. There were 60-something fans of Sabbath, middle aged Goths & Emo kids. There were sons and dads, mums and daughters. Heavily pierced fetishists, heavily tattooed mullet heads, poodle headed euro rockers, old bikers, cyber Goths, feisty pensioners and sullen 14 year old boys intent on using rock to work themselves out. There were also more women than at any other rock gig I've been too. There were gangs of them all with a domain over their obsessive & intense fandom that was every bit as awesome and righteous as a 12 year old boy's first love for Iron Maiden.
And what those fans got to see was an extraordinary show by a band that is still delighting in making up its place in the world. The show did still include some of the old routines - keyboardist Flake Lorenz paddling across the crowd in a small dingy, lead singer Till Lindemann "cooking" Flake (with very real fire) in a giant pot, but everything about this gig, the fire and light and the music, all seemed to be turned up one louder - the burning, illuminated angel wings, the flame throwing face masks, the sparks and fireworks - the thousands of Midlanders singing Ich Will & Du Hast in unison - this really was a brilliant show by a band unlike any other.
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