Einstürzende Neubauten

Photo by Mote Sinabe

World War I starts with a metallic screech. A piercing sound that goes right through. Immediately it becomes clear, this performance will not be a bowl of cherries but a tour de force. 100 years after the start of the First World War, that shook half of the world, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN shake the Tempodrom with their concept work Lament. Under contract to the Belgian town Diksmuide, which was completely destroyed during the war, the legendary band around Blixa Bargeld has set the war to music.

While Alexander Hacke beats a metal barrel and a metal table, iron chains rattle on tubes and Rudolf Moser hits on metal plates, Blixa Bargeld holds boards aloft, that say for instance ‘The war does not break out. It waits.’ He looks pale, like a sad and tired vampire, doomed to witness the atrocities of the last centuries.

Then the men yell hurray and the audience cheers. Bargeld intones a Flemish song called In the Trenches and asks tauntingly ‘Do you really want to clap along to that?’. A barbed wire harp, played with sticks by Andrew Unruh, delivers the bittersweet background music. In the audience there is a first victim: a young woman is lifted over the railing, into the trench between audience and band. Fortunately NEUBAUTEN’s weapons, their self-made instruments, look more threatening than they are.

The heart of this intense evening is an ingenious 15-minute percussion piece played by Hacke, Unruh and Moser on 20 plastic pipes, each of it representing one warring party. 120 beats per minute, 392 beats for 392 days of war. If it would have been as many beats as victims of war, they would still be playing.

It is presumptuous to press such a dark chapter of history into 14 songs – it remains inconceivable. Maybe that’s why NEUBAUTEN don’t stick to their concept but also play some songs of their own 34-year history, like Let’s do it a Dada from Lament’s predecessor Alles wieder offen (2007).

The band continues the battle with a piece about The Harlem Hellfighters, Afro-American musicians and soldiers. Hacke walks with amplified crutches, Bargeld plays an air compressor, recites a piece of a German actor and animal voice imitator, ending with the imitation of a peacock screaming ‘Hitler!’ and creates a moment of peaceful thoughtfulness by singing Where Have All The Flowers Gone made famous by Marlene Dietrich.

The memorable night ends with Ich gehe jetzt from their 2004 record Perpetuum mobile. But the war is not over. It waits.

Neubauten - Photo by Mote Sinabe

Photo by Mote Sinabe