by Maggie Bloodstone -
SGN Contributing Writer
So, tell me: when was the last time you felt totally satisfied? I mean, emotionally, spiritually, physically - the whole 9 ½ yards? After Rammstein's performance at Quebec City's Festival d'été de Québec, I was ready to roll over onto the beer can-strewn Plains Of Abraham and light a cigarette with one of Till Lindemann's turbo-charged flamethrowers. (And I don't even smoke.)
Why can't modern American rock be this exciting, this gut-wrenching, this innovative anymore? (I ask you!) Most Yank bands nowadays are content to give their audience the equivalent of a skilled but furtive handjob in the form of one or two competent riffs, a tight-rumped bump 'n' grind, and a slick, CGI-bloated video as a money shot. Not Rammstein. If all they had performed that day was the Wagner-on-Viagra opener, "Rammlied," it would have been sufficient for the 100,000+ crowd, many of whom (like myself) have starved for the sight of these titanic Teutons in the flesh for close to a decade (their last appearance on the Northerly side of our land mass was 2001). But a Rammstein show does not merely deliver the goods; it leaves you flowers, buys you breakfast, and makes you pregnant with six feisty, squirming Ramm-babies - at the very least.
Vocalist/lyricist Till Lindemann is a thunder-throated golem who quite simply owns the shit the second he sets a booted toe onstage, lock, stock, and barrel chest. Two-hundred-plus pounds of all-natural, steroid-free muscle and meat, he wields flamethrowers, smashes mic stands, spritzes the audience with suggestive-looking foam from an even more suggestive-looking cannon, and totes the bag 'o' bones keyboarder, Christian "Flake" Lorenz, to a metal bathtub prior to showering him with faux molten lead from a towering, precarious-looking platform, all the while singing in a bone-shaking basso that attacks the ear by way of the crotch. Lindemann is also a licensed pyrotechnician who creates and/or oversees all the aspects of the show that bang, boom, and burn - and there is plenty of that, from a crossbow that fires boomeranging flares to a "fan" who gets himself flamed by Lindemann live onstage to effects that give new meaning to the words "oooh" and "aaah."
This is what most folks think of when they think Rammstein, but in truth, the pyro grew out of simple boredom - Lindemann needed something more to do onstage than sing (as if that weren't enough). Not that he doesn't do plenty, what with his patented fist-to-knee "hammer," singing with a lightbulb tucked into his cavernous maw, pec-pounding, crotch-clutching and pulling faces that would scare the gargoyles off Notre Dame. All of which would just be sound and fury signifying not a whole fuck of a lot if Rammstein didn't have what it takes musically to attract a devoted global audience (this show marked the 1/3-way point in a projected three-year planetary tour). Their 16-year collaboration has produced six studio albums stuffed with heavy metal thunder, searing poetry, and sexual and intellectual transgression that would leave your average Slayer fan sucking his thumb in a fetal position in his mom's basement. What we have here is a well-oiled machine with irreplaceable, made-in-Germany parts that runs like a Mercedes but roars like a nitro-burning Stuka.
The set list for Quebec included a smattering of older songs ("Du Hast," "Sonne," "Ich Will," "Du Riechst So Gut") and most of their new album (Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. See my review in this very paper, 11/6/09, plug plug), all of which burn down the house in performance, but there will always be fans who will moan "I wish they'd played (fill in the blank)." This just proves what a crazy stupid roster of great songs they have which they may never, ever play live (such as "Mann Gegen Mann," probably the most Gay-positive hard rock song to be conceived by a bunch of straight boys). But judging by the consistently orgasmic response that met every number, this enthusiastic multi-national audience would not have cared if the band had opted for a Lady Gaga tribute (mmmaybe&). Too many successful bands expect this kind of adulation and will slide through their hits with minimal effort, but Rammstein plays every song as if it were their first and last, with classic Teutonic precision and emotional application - which does not leave a whole lot of room for spontaneity, but there were moments where Lindemann would insert an extra vocal flourish, or guitarists Richard Kruspe, Olli Reidel, and Paul Landers would free-ball an instrumental segue. (I would not have minded a li'l solo from percussion dynamo Christoph "Doom" Schneider, but one of the few songs that allow for such luxuries, "Weisses Fleisch," was cut from their festival set, regrettably.)
Another joy to the eye besides Lindemann and his bombs bursting in air is "Flake" (pronounced "flok-ah," based on the Spanish word for "skinny") Lorenz, gangly polar opposite to the megalithic front man, resplendent in a blinding glitter ensemble and happily keeping a steady visual rhythm on a treadmill set amongst his keyboards. Traditionally, Flake has been the band's designated "chew toy," braving trauma such as simulated anal congress ("Buck Dich"), being boiled alive ("Mein Teil"), and his incineration in "Ich Tu Dir Weh." Still, he's rewarded with a leisurely cruise over the bounding main of the audience in a rubber dinghy during one of the closing numbers, "Haifisch." (This can go on for some time, depending on the crowd's willingness to send Flake back to the stage - in this case, he had cruised halfway to Nova Scotia before he could convince the adoring throng he really needed to finish the song that day.)
While Rammstein is hot enough - in more ways than one - to satisfy any audience without a warmup act, in this case, they got one that stoked the fires with blazing finesse: Apocalyptica. Oh so many metal bands have tried to marry classical music to rock, but this Finnish quartet has succeeded in a way that would leave Rick Wakeman and Ian Anderson slackjawed; three classically trained cellists have actually taught that venerable instrument to shred like Hendrix at Monterey. Following a perfectly smashing set, they helped polish off the evening by joining Rammstein onstage to enrich the two final numbers, "Haifisch" and "Ich Will." (FYI: Apocalyptica will be visiting Seattle on September 11, at the Showbox SoDo - go!)
So anyway, as I was saying: WTF is lacking in the soul of 21st-century Amerika that we can no longer produce artists that can raise the dead and kick arsch as effectively as Rammstein? Synchronistically, Rammstein began in 1994, the same year our last messiah, K. Cobain, put his own lights out - ironic foreshadowing, perhaps? An acknowledgement that Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner started the fire way back when, and Lindemann & Co. are merely picking up the torch (so to speak)? The aching heart of Deutschland compensating for a grim, too-recent past? Rammstein puts on black leather, howls like a regiment of testosterone-jacked Valkyries, and double-dog dares the teutophobic to find anything other than what they claim to be: "Love in all its manifestations."
But seriously: If you have any love in your heart for rock music whatsoever, appeal to the deity of your choice that Rammstein sees fit to bring their scorched-earth brand of sonic salvation to our shores soon, before we disappear completely under a tsunami of nondescript emo-rockers and American Idol androids forever. Now, excuse me while I sacrifice a goat and a case of Jägermeister to my personal savior, Till Lindemann&.
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