Somewhere in Chicago, Al Jourgensen must be shaking his head, wondering why he didn’t bother to learn German and become a pyrotechnics expert. Who knew that a German band could take the WaxTrax! blueprint, add a few coats of precise Teutonic sheen, and then toss in more explosions than a fleet of Hindenburgs to become one of the most popular metal bands of the last two decades?
Against seemingly every odd, Rammstein became that band. The sextet exudes discipline and order, its mechanized heart beating steadily, powerfully, effortlessly and relentlessly. Of course the show started with a dramatic (and fittingly titled) symphonic intro followed by a jarring explosion; they just want to let you know what’s in store for the next two hours. (Also remarkably on brand, the opening act consisted of two women calling themselves Duo Abélard on the B Stage high above the floor crowd, wearing silvery sequined dresses and playing Rammstein covers).
“Mein Herz Brennt” married some Kashmir-esque sweeping strings to an urgent, pounding rhythm that sounded like an arm of Bonzos, and on “Puppe” a giant black pram was wheeled out. Inside a hideous doll screamed a torrent out confetti out onto the stage, in tandem with the massive confetti cannons dispersed across the stadium. Like some of Rammstein’s material, it plumbs the deepest, darkest regions of the human condition.
Singer Tinn Lindemann is the de facto focal point on stage, but there’s so much going on across the gargantuan installation that it’s hard to focus on any specific area for too long. Giant light towers flanked the raised B Stage towards the back of the floor, with confetti cannons parked alongside. The stage itself rose high into the sky, with flames at the ready towards the higher reaches. The four giant sunflower-type lights suspended above the stage were the diameter of above ground pools and I’m sure aircraft on its way in from Canada could see them in the distance. On the upper part of the stage resided the rhythm section of Oliver Riedel and drummer Christoph Schneider while flanking stage left was Christian Lorenz, resplendent in a gold sequined suit and getting his steps in via a treadmill as he played two banks of keyboards. As with the visuals, the audio was top-notch, one of the best sounding large venue shows I’ve ever been to. Those Germans, always looking after the details.
The encore started placidly, with the opening act joining in and lending their pianos to “Engel” high atop the B Stage as the band sang and surveyed the crowd. When the song ended they descended a staircase to waiting inflatable rafts and sailed the sea of audience as willing hands propelled them back to the main stage. Anyone who has seen Herzog’s stunning masterpiece Fitzcarraldo is intimately familiar with the leering, wild-eyed posturing of Klaus Kinski and Lindemann dialed that particular affectation in exceedingly well. During the first encore closer “Pussy,” he banged the mic stand down on to stage floor before hurtling it to its demise to the ground down below; during another song he smacked his forehead into a metal pole and screamed to no one in particular.
When the finale came, so did the fire. The well-named ‘feuerzone’ in front of the stage was the perfect place to make s’mores during “Rammstein,” as Lindemann shot 30 foot flames from his back like some sort of pyro-peacock. Guitarists Paul Landers and Richard Kruspe also got into the action, thick ropes of flames erupting from their guitars. A quick back of the envelope calculation showed that the fuel consumed during Rammstein’s tour could have likely provided a substitute for Russian LNG during Bayern‘s upcoming winter season. Say what you want about Rammstein’s songs, lyrics, political views or overall aesthetic – there is no denying the insane, over the top entertainment spectacle they are doling out on this tour.