16 June 2013
It might have been Iron Maiden’s Spitfire fly-past that grabbed the Download headlines but for our man in the field it was Rammstein’s set that did the business – in what he speculates may’ve been their last show on UK soil.
It had been a long and difficult weekend. The vast majority of it was spent constantly being told to “Make some motherfucking noise, Motherfucker” or to “Jump the fuck up, Motherfucker” by testosterone-fuelled knuckle-draggers fronting whatever Kerrang! friendly band they were in. Even the ex-public schoolboy turned pilot rock star’s Spitfire fly-past left me spectacularly underwhelmed. Thank fuck for Rammstein!
As the early evening sunshine warmed the East Midlands race track on sunday we took our places just in front of the sound desk to await the arrival of the Teutonic masters.
A good spot however came with a high price as we had to endure the colossal ego project of a Hollywood filmstar. The only thing that could have made it bearable would have been if his band suddenly started to play ‘Hip to be Square’ by Huey Lewis and the News and a well dressed Yuppie in a raincoat appeared with a shiny axe. Life imitating art? We weren’t that lucky.
Eventually his sense of self-importance was satisfied and they left the stage to the murmurings of utter apathy and indifference from a crowd that went mild.
A curtain fell over the front of the main stage as the scene was prepared for the main event.
Being an obsessive Rammstein fanboy I had researched this leg of the tour on the internet and knew what was coming. About five minutes before they were due to come on stage the more keen-eyed could have seen a bleached-blond persons head, and shoulders clad in a pink fluffy coat, peering down from above the top of the curtain.
Without any warning, a barrage of rockets were launched in the backstage area in perfect time to the drum intro to the set opener, ‘Ich Tu Dir Weh’, the curtain dropped and Till, resplendent in the previously mentioned pink fluffy coat was lowered from the lighting rig on a platform that naturally, was spewing sparks everywhere.
Any slight doubts about a compromise in the Rammstein production for an outdoor festival appearance evaporated and they were as slick and machine-like as I’d ever seen them in the past.
I’m not going to mention all the set pieces involving all the pyro, I’m sure if you are reading this you will be more than aware of what goes on at a Rammstein show, instead, I’ll concentrate on something that tends to get a little overlooked, the music.
Make no mistake, every member is an excellent musician. The twin guitars of Richard and Paul manage to perfectly capture that ‘Crunch’ that all great metal riffs need to stir the soul, the rhythm section is faultless. Surely Schneider is one of the most under-rated drummers on the planet? And of course the keyboard genius of Flake is essential to the Rammstein sound.
As it was a festival, it was the inevitable ‘Greatest Hits’ set that spanned their entire career. Old classics such as ‘Wollt Ihr das Bett in Flammen Sehen?’ and Asche Zu Asche from the debut album right up to the more recent ‘Leibe Ist Fur Alle Da’ material were delivered with an iron fist and a sense of urgency, it was almost like they had something to prove and this certainly never looked like a band who were just doing a job.
For me, the absolute pinnacle of the set was the stripped down piano version of ‘Mein Herz Brentt’.
Just Till, Flake and a piano was all that was needed. For all the overt ‘Manliness’ that comes across with Rammstein, this one song showed a fragility and sensitive side that is hardly ever seen.
Overall, they played pretty much everything you would have expected them to, the only real curveball was ‘Wiener Blut’ from the LIFAD album.
Another thing worthy of mention is during the inevitable ‘Du Hast’ the sheer volume of the crowd singing it back to the band seemed to surprise them and the normally poker-faced Rammstein looked a little shocked.
As the holy trinity of ‘Ich Will’, ‘Sonne’ and ‘Pussy’ drew the set to it’s conclusion and as the band took their bow at the front of the stage, a genuinely emotional looking Till thanked the crowd and told us he loved us. I’ve been to many Rammstein gigs and he’s NEVER acknowledged a crowd in such a way.
And that was it. A re-defining moment that all future headlining sets will be judged by. The bar wasn’t just set ridiculously high, it was completely destroyed.
There are many rumours surrounding the future of Rammstein, it’s well known that they find the recording process very difficult and the stories of Till’s wish to retire at the age of 50 just won’t go away. He turned 50 in January this year.
If this was the last Rammstein show on UK soil, it certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Personally, I think that if they are planning on calling it a day, there will be the definitive final show at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
I can 100% guarantee my attendance if that is the case.
All words by Andy Santiago. You can read more from Andy on LTW here.