Michael Rother Live Review,
Focus Wales Wrexham,
April 27th 2013
Legendary German experimental krautrock musician and composer Michael Rother visited Wales at the end of April to perform a set as part of the Focus Wales festival. It turned out to be an inspired booking. Louder Than War were there.
Michael Rother provided the perfect headline on the Saturday night of this outstanding festival as he performed the work of NEU!, Harmonia and his own solo work before a packed crowd which, in addition to the fans who had enjoyed the 3 days of great music, contained many of the bands who had so regally entertained us. No one was going to miss the chance to see this legendary figure that is now seen as the influence on so many of the key bands of the last 40 years.
Entering the stage with minimal fuss accompanied by the drummer, keyboard player and guitarist from Camera, the venue is suddenly filled with the sound of ‘Neuschnee’ from Neu 2.This is a sound that is still so futuristic and fresh some forty years after it was first written. Next up is ‘Neutronics 98 (a tribute to Conny Plank)’, a hymn to the legendary producer that Michael Rother had spoken of so warmly earlier in the day. His first solo album ‘Flamande Herzen’ from 1977 is where the next track, Karusell, is pulled from. There’s no doubt from the crowd reaction that Rother is held in awe and this is unsurprising as the sound unfolds in layers with an irresistible melody set along a powering train-like rhythm that has us all entranced. Everyone’s absorbed in the sound, nodding then moving in time to the vortex of sound that is created on stage. A few Harmonia gems are tossed in, ‘Veteranissimo’, ‘Deluxe Immer Wielder’ and ‘Dino’ but Rother himself says nothing for most of the set, content to make adjustments to his guitar, laptop and synth set up as calmly as if he was arranging the dinner table for some guests. What a host he is!
Earlier in the day Rother had spoken about his early life and the importance of his time in Pakistan where he first fell in love with the idea of music that has no beginning or end but seems to go on for ever. He also told of listening to guitar heroes like Hendrix and Jeff Beck as he grew up, but having a desire to avoid influence as he would always want to go his own way. The avant-garde sound he pioneered is so innovative it could have been written yesterday and , if you so wish, there is the DNA of so many bands in there. However, you would only need to look at the rapt expressions of the many fine musicians here tonight to judge the importance of this man’s work.This is a seriously powerful and arresting sound that stays with you longer than the 75 minutes he was on stage.
The three guys in his backing band are on fire tonight, buzzing with the adrenaline of being on stage with him and creating such soundscapes. We are treated to the irresistible ‘Hallogallo’ which shows the late Klaus Dinger’s ‘motorik’ beat ( though he apparently preferred to call it ‘Apache Beat’) before, after thanking the crowd and saying what a pleasure it was to play this music live in Wales for the first ever time, Rother gave us the Harmonia classic, ‘Holta Polta’, and was gone. We were left to ponder the power and relevance of the stunning set we had witnessed and marvel at those who, like Michael Rother, push boundaries and take music in so many new directions and by so doing, open a world of ideas and opportunities for others. It was an absolute privilege to be there to see him.
All words by Dave Jennings. More work by Dave Jennings on Louder Than War can be found here.