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LAIBACH - "Alamut" - live at Jahrhunderthalle Frankfurt (October 19th 2023)

The things I do for Laibach...

Like visiting the decidedly ugly Kapital capital Frankfurt. Never had a reason to go there before - and at least after this very short stay there it remains a challenge to think of reasons other than Laibach to return.

"Frankfurt, mein Furunkel" as the locals call it - Is it even real? Seems more like a grey theatre backdrop if you as ask me. The weather and the fact that a third of the people on the street look more like actors portraying the exaggerated cliché of their own social status and/or ethnicity than actual inhabitants probably helped.

Or maybe there's just the village child in me talking. Living between several wind parks the size of the handful of financial district glass cathedrals also impressed me less than expected. What's even the point of having those in the city? With today's communication environment, couldn't you just as well put banks into the industrial zone of the outskirts, between the amazon warehouse and recycling yard?

I got to Frankfurt with Deutsche Bahn, even though I usually avoid traveling by train like the plague, because every second time I do so, something at least very annoying happens. Luckily at least the outbound trip worked, as I parried the catastrophe of missing the ICE train changing platforms by a narrow margin. Concerning the way back on the other hand, I'd rather draw a huge veil of silence over it - just because the actual topic of this report is too worthwhile and important to stall you with those unpleasant matters and other side issues any longer .

Let's rather take the city train to the center of nowhere - where the banks should be - in Frankfurt Höchst (stop "Dye Factories") to get to this night's dome-roofed and sky-high-priced venue, the Jahrhunderthalle, where Laibachians from all over Germany and Europe gathered for the rare chance to watch "Alamut", a huge and ambitious production even for the standard of the group in recent years!

"Alamut" is a historical fiction and philosophical novel of Slovenian author Vladimir Bartol from 1938, taking place in 11th Century Persia, yet written as an allegory on the fascist regime of Mussolini. In the book a self-proclaimed prophet  becomes a terrorist leader who experiments with how far he can go using religious devotion for his own benefit. A timeless exploration of evil, which has regained relevancy and popularity numorous times, when incarnations of that evil have reared their ugly heads above the world. 

Following the question where to go now after playing their famous show in North-Korea in 2015, adapting this work and performing it in Iran's capital Teheran has become Laibach's answer.
While the latter part admittedly hasn't even happened yet - and making it work for sure will prove to be an organisational and diplomatic challenge -, the piece itself, which premiered last year in Ljubljana, already is unbelievably impressive.

This genre-transcending cultural exchange included the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, the Art/Folk vocal group Gallina from Slovenia, the incredible Iranian Human-Voice Ensemble and of course alspo a certain notorious Avant-Garde group called Laibach.
Written by two Iranian composers and Laibach member Luka Jamnik and conducted by Navid Gohardi, the performance melted European classical music with Persian influences, electronic Industrial sounds and bursts of cacophonous chaos.

Being not only a fan of everything Laibach anyway, but also have a leaning towards traditional Iranian sounds this show sometimes felt like a mad fever dream to me. It just went into every direction it needed to go with maximum creativity and intensity. And then imagine an accordion player - no, make it a dozen accordion players! - walking in from the other side of the hall and playing a wild brutal war tune! Check, there comes the AccordiOna Disharmonic Cohort walking through the ranks, while two searchlight operators are glaring through the audience and the music becomes a bloody battlefield.

Before that the whole piece already had started in a related way with horn players walking through the audience, heralding the hundred minutes long performance. In these two moments it was especially obvious, but the whole show utilized a great amount of stereo and surround sound effects. The visual production was also a spectacle.
I guess the only flaw I could find were the the polylingual subtitles, just because I found that some of the German translation read a bit quirky in comparison to the English ones. (Well, and apart from the delightfully cheap Rammstein joke Ivan Novak's speech of thanks afterwards could have used some more thought beforehand. Or maybe Neue Slowenische Kunst philosopher and Unterhaltungsmaschine Peter Mlakar, who was in the audience, should have shouldered that duty in the first place.)

The emotional heart was the Iranian vocal quartet, who between beautiful folkloristic tones reminding me of The Mystery Of the Bulgarian Voices and wild expressions as experimental as animalistic made the story touchable, even if you couldn't understand the language. But even when there was no voice performance at all, there clearly was a narration with incredibly harrowing and moving pictures.
Of course Laibach's iconic frontman Milan Fras was also attendent, delivering monologue and epilogue of an experience my words can only fail to describe.

"Alamut" felt extremely relevant in times of war and also with a look onto the embarassingly fascist recent election results right there in Frankfurt. As breathtaking as thought-provoking it showcased the Laibach Kunstmaschine Gesamtkunstwerk in its full power, both in form and content.

Needless to say that - alredy the second time in a week after Swans on Monday! - this was my unrivaled live show of the year. How could it not be?

In the greater picture the only comparable events I've witnessed are the symphonic Laibach open air show in Ljubljana in Sepember 2016 (with the magic of a Mediterranean summer night and the bonus of already familiar tunes being brought to greater magnitude) and the "Wir Sind das Volk" performance at Kampnagel Hamburg in April 2022, a rather half-theatrical staging, which went a little closer home due its German context.

Needless to rank these three. Ok, well.. the overall experience of Krizanke 2016 still gets the cake. The more important observation however is that the quality, consistency and strength of Zeitgeist of all these different projects is just mind-blowing. It never fails to impress how Laibach and their many carefully chosen collaborators pull this off.

Najlepša hvala and خیلی ممنون !

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