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LAIBACH live at the Volksbühne, Cologne (April 19th 2017)

- Walk With Me on my road to Roadburn -


With the whole overwhelming Roadburn Festival experience behind me it honestly feels a little bit weird to first write about another concert now. If it wasn't for the pain in my feet, which I started to work on last Wednesday, I would be certain that the Laibach show at the renowned köllsche Millowitsch-Theater must have happened at least twenty days ago. But no, my ticket says otherwise.

When the first acts for Roadburn 2017 were announced last year, the first pieces of festival artwork were very much in a way that resembled communist propaganda, an aesthetics which led some fans to believe that Laibach had been booked for the festival. But even though this would definitely be a personal dream of mine, it was already known that the Slovenes were going to write new material and not tour much this year, so I was sure that this wouldn't happen.

Turned out that I was proved right, but Laibach still played their first of very few shows in 2017 not only exactly one day before, but also not too far from my road to Roadburn.
So as much as I love the Cul de Sac where the intimate warm up show for Roadburn takes place, I had to tweak my bookings and plan a small detour to Cologne.

ghetto lunch on the way
My trip began shortly after nine, because I wanted not only a smooth security cushion for traffic jams, but of course I at least had to have enough time on my hands for a quick walk the the main tourist attraction of the city.

All my things were in the car and I went through the house one more time, very cleverly saying something like: "Everything I have forgotten now, I can still buy later."
Good thing that when I was almost in the car I remembered that it might be useful to bring my wallet, if I want to buy or pay anything.

Fast forward five hours and I was in Cologne, hating everything in and everybody from there, because well, that's probably the normal thing to do, when you're entering an unfamiliar city by car, unsuccessfully searching for an overnight parking place for twenty minutes until you realize that there are (limited and overpriced) spots in the inner yard of the hotel.

"They say there is an outside world."
After I had found my dungeon-like room with the window beginning above my head (but at least this tower cell had a bottle of regular mineral water for only four Euros...) I was quickly leaving to explore just a little of the special ugliness of Cologne with some film cameras.

Given that I still had four full festival days ahead of me and a particularly bad day in keeping my orientation in a strange place, this probably wasn't the wisest move. But just relaxing in bed and saving some energy... nope.

that little church by the river

Luckily the Laibach concert was seated. I have an ambivalent relationship with sitting at shows, but this time with me having been driving and then walking for the whole day already, I welcomed it. As a late ticket buyer I still sat in row 3, so that was more than ok, too.

Not so ok was the fact that the theater had to deal with complaints from the neighbourhood, so all concerts had to end strictly at point ten pm. And Laibach were suppoded to start at nine. Not the usual timeframe for a Laibach show.

Amsterdam, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg again and the spectacular orchestra show in Ljubljana. For me this would be already the sixth time I saw them since the release of their last full album "Spectre". With the last concert having been an unbeatable once-in-a-lifetime experience and this one not promising to bring something new to the setlist, I could live with a "Laibach light" show, though.


Due to these circumstances the band started a little bit earlier - with a hard-hitting, angry and elaborate version of "Smrt Za Smrt", followed by "Ti, ki izzivaš".

The language changed from Slovenian to English, while the urgency increased in two politically relevant tunes from "WAT". At the latest from here it became obvious that the marriage between Laibach and the Volksbühne wasn't too lucky, because the sound just didn't fully meet the requirements of the music and the power of the performance. The drums were too weak in the mix and also the choirs and other samples should have been more present. Maybe there was also some Vorsicht with the overall volume because of the sensitive neighbours, who knows?

While this was a flaw which truly affected the set for me, be it in brutal songs like "Now You Will Pay", "The Great Divide" or the finale classic "Opus Dei / Leben heißt Leben", on the other hand it also helped to give some songs new perspective, as there was more room to concentrate on the ever evolving changes in the arrangements. Even if Laibach keep a song in their set for several years, its mood will probably shift to something a little bit different over time.
This was most apparent to me in the rendition of "Eurovision", which traded its mixture of bleakness and epic electro pop against a vibe which wasn't far away from krautrock.

No surpise yet still funny, the strangest part of the concert was the sudden shift to comedy, when Milan Fras sang about "schnitzel with noodles" in the only "Sound Of Music" song of the night "My Favorite Things".  

Musically this concert was flawless. Even the cutting of the set was acceptable. With the early start - and of course without an intermission - there were a handful of songs missing,  but still a good dozen left.

With the the mentioned shortcomings and happening in this environment, I would deem this a rather odd Laibach show. With my last concert of them being one of the greatest things I've seen in my entire life - and with a festival ahead, where the level of sound production is amazingly high - I'm surely absolutely biased here. So a local fan who hadn't seen Laibach for a longer time (or not at all before) might very rightfully have a different impression.

And yes, I am totally ready for new material and a new show by now. Regular album plus "Iron Sky 2" soundtrack anyone?

It has also been a long time since Laibach had some string intruments on stage, so why not add a bass guitar player again? No pressure, just sayin'.

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