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Madison Square Garden
Friday, December 11
Better than: Any concert where band members don’t attach flamethrowers to their faces.
I’ve seen dozens of concerts at Madison Square Garden, but Rammstein brought more pyro than every previous show I’ve personally witnessed there put together, and that includes Coldplay.
The German techno-metal act, whose music piles roaring guitars atop a thumping 4/4 beat and occasional dips into Wagnerian balladry, hadn’t played the U.S. since 2001, when they had a support slot on the Family Values tour. Though they sell out arenas across Europe, a combination of moderate record sales and skittish venues kept them from bringing their full, gasoline-soaked show back to American fans — until now. The concert reportedly sold out in half an hour, and the fans in attendance were screaming with joy from the moment the band members began chopping through a barricade with axes and welding torches as they launched into “Rammleid,” from last year’s Liebe Ist Für Alle Da.
Language barrier? What language barrier? You may remember the band’s one Stateside semi-hit, “Du Hast,” but you haven’t heard it until you’ve heard 16,000 people chanting the lyrics at once. Other musical highlights included the double-time marching beat of “Links 2-3-4,” the Depeche Mode-ish synth line on “Haifisch,” and “Fruhling In Paris,” during which barrel-chested basso singer Till Lindemann crooned the chorus of Edith Piaf’s “Je Ne Regrette Rien.”
But honestly, most Rammstein songs sound pretty much the same, with their downtuned guitar riffs, pounding drums, and Lindemann’s growling voice. One-finger synth lines from Christoph Lorenz (who spent much of the set dancing around in a sparkling rainbow suit–seriously) provide most of the melody. So a Rammstein performance is more about over-the-top visual spectacle (as with their awesome, black-humored videos), and the band delivered exactly what their U.S. fans, prepped by the Live Aus Berlin and Volkerball concert DVDs, had arrived hoping to see.
An incomplete rundown of the night’s moments of maximum awesomeness:
• During “Feuer Frei,” Lindemann and the two guitarists, Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers, strapped flamethrowers to their faces and shot comets of fire across the stage at each other.
• During “Weiner Blut,” racks holding about 20 baby dolls descended from the rafters; when the song ended, all the babies exploded into showers of fireworks.
• During “Ich Tu Dir Weh,” keyboardist Lorenz descended from his spot and kicked Lindemann to the ground. Lindemann rose, picked Lorenz up and threw him into a metal bathtub, then climbed onto a rising pedestal carrying a metal milk can, from which he poured sparks and flames down onto the bathtub from above. When Lorenz emerged post-spark-shower, he was wearing the rainbow suit he’d sport for the rest of the show.
• During “Benzin,” Lindemann dragged a full-size gas station fuel pump onstage. A “stage diver” jumped onto and ran across the stage, whereupon Lindemann lit the pump’s nozzle with a torch and set the “intruder” on fire; he ran back and forth a few times, totally engulfed in flames, before being extinguished by stagehands.
• During “Pussy,” Lindemann revealed a gigantic cannon painted to look like a penis; he rode it back and forth across the stage on dolly tracks, firing white foam into the audience. At the end of the song, millions of small sperm-shaped streamers fell from the ceiling.
• During “Haifisch,” keyboardist Lorenz climbed into an inflatable raft and was carried across the floor on the audience’s hands.
• For the band’s final song, “Engel,” Lindemann lumbered onstage wearing 20-foot steel angel wings that shot jets of fire from their tips.
This was not a subtle show. A friend who came with me said that if it wasn’t for the language barrier, the band could easily take up a residency in Las Vegas. I don’t think a single person left unsatisfied.
Critical bias: I own every Rammstein studio album, and Volkerball.
Overheard: “Honestly, it’s like a Julie Taymor production.”
Random Notebook Dump: I spotted at least two Juggalos (no face paint, but visible hatchetman tattoos), an unexpected but predictable audience crossover — Juggalos like fire.
Fruhling in Paris
Ich tu Dir Weh
Du Richt so Gut