The Bowery Ballroom, New York City • December 26, 1998
At last, the return of authentic industrial music.
My first impression when they walked out on stage: Shock! Where were F.M. Einheit and Mark Chung, mainstays of the band since way, way back? I was very disappointed to see that two important aspects of the band were no longer completing the whole, but I must admit, this was a great performance. This latest great performance can be explained by the unwritten band axiom that the most important facets of the live band are whoever writes the music (and we have three writers of the five), the vocals, and the lyrics. And with Blixa Bargeld at the helm, we have the original vocals and lyrics, henceforth, the identity of the band. This was a very rare opportunity to see a band that is truly deserving of the term dynamic . And how dynamic you ask? Well the range goes from Blixa whispering from the middle of the stage to all six players at top volume on vox, guitars, keyboards, and a jet airplane turbine engine on top speed (miked and struck and grated with two large metal batons). Replacing Mark Chung on bass is Alexander Hacke, who normally plays guitar for the band. And as for who replaces Hacke on guitar and the two people (one on percussion, one on keyboards) who took Einheit’s place — well, their names lie somewhere in a collapsed building.
It seems a few new songs were played tonight, and some that I did not recognize were in English. Speaking of which, main man Blixa Bargeld spoke quite a bit to the audience. where he’s normally gaunt, somewhat rigid, reserved, and untalkative. Instead, our Teutonic innovator regaled us with his tales of living in the projects, misdeeds of youth, and the murky origins of a couple of songs. Classic material for this evening’s performance included “Die Interimsliebenden” (The InterimLovers), “Zebulon,” “12305(te Nacht),” the 15 minute-plus epic about the mythical element known as “Headcleaner” (in all three parts), which a person uses to achieve Tabula Rasa (“the blank slate” referring to the newborn human mind, for example), “Sie” (She), and “Wuste,” all from the fantastic album Tabula Rasa .
The amazing experimental prowess of Einsturzende Neubauten verifies their uniqueness time and again. On the song “Wuste,” the beginning sounds like a serene yet melancholy dirge of stringed instruments that slowly builds into a crescendo, while the sound of waves cascading slowly back and forth on a shore are heard fading in and out. Live, this is performed with keyboards and various other electronics emulating the symphonics. At the same time, another member of the group stands on top of a platform raised higher than the drums with buckets of sand, small rocks and marbles being poured at a leisurely pace into a box that is miked. This effect is how they get the sound of the waves. All that for just one song. For fans of some of the older works, little made it to this set. None of the pieces from Strategies Against Architecture I or the double CD set Strategies Against Architecture II for the collectors out there, and nothing from Halber Mensch . Fortunately, in addition to the stellar renditions from Tabula Rasa , we were presented with “Haus Der Luege” and “Ein Stuhl In Der Hoelle” from the legendary 1989 album, Haus der Luege .
Another interesting instrument they (or perhaps just N.U. Unruh himself) fashioned themselves is their trademark metal waste bin, which has been with them for many years and been around the world at least three times. The primordial forces of the world are a spectacle few can lay claim to have beheld, while fewer still appreciate. And Einsturzende Neubauten are a singular perpetual genesis.