Einstürzende Neubauten @ The Tivoli, Brisbane 23.02.13
By Carmen Juarez
There’s a German girl next to me. She’s explaining to all the chicks with black lipstick (and guys with brow piercings) in earshot who Mick Harvey is, as well as translating all things Neubauten.
Beautifully simple, ‘The Garden’ launches us into an evening with, as Mr Harvey has just described them, “the best live band on Earth”.
The bass pulls us along as the rest of the band joins Blixa Bargeld on stage. Layers build, pitter patter. This is already proving to be a spectacle.
A great plastic barrel with the band’s logo painted in red on the side is struck as Blixa tells us that we’ll find him in the garden (if we want him) – unless it’s pouring down with rain.
The man is wearing a very smart suit with a good number of pockets. HIs pearly-white feet are peeping out from under his black trousers, shoe-less.
In fact, everybody on stage is kitted-out in black, save the white-singlet sporting, moustachioed bassist.
It’s not long before the imposing metal drum kit is cracked-out. Of course, Einstürzende Neubauten have many other toys to play with. A radio appears, its antenna poking right out. Blixa is holding onto a remote control. More gadgets are laid out about the stage – when will they come out? A megaphone, a drill…
Blixa starts making noises with his cheek, slapping his face. Looping it. The first smile of the night spreads across his face.
A vibrator is being used against a guitar.
This song almost sounds like that Gwen Stefani song. Tik Tok, Tik Tok, Tik Tok. And this one kind of sounds like it could be a carpet ad. That keyboard.
Blixa is becoming more and more animated. His terrifying screams and screeches echo around the theatre.
A propped-up PVC pipe is the instrument of choice for ‘Unvollständigkeit’. The drummer’s slicked-back mane is wilting.
The percussionist picks up a red, plastic box. He slowly lifts it over his head and tips it out, bits of metal pour to the floor. Blixa tells us that most of the metal we can see on stage is aluminium. There is only so much weight they can drag with them across the world.
He describes “the angel” to us, a metallic contraption resembling wings. The drummer is armed with two vibrators and a drumstick. Our angel is transformed into a “cosmic vibraphone” with the aid of those vibrators.
Mr Bargeld tells us the story of ‘Let’s Do It A Dada’. He explains that it took a very long time for anybody to learn what the Dadaist’s Dada actually meant – cowgirl, or reverse cowgirl. Let’s do it, banging on the angel.
The percussionist disappears and then re-appears dressed as… the Pope? He gives us a speech before going back to banging the angel.
Blixa pulls out a record, an electric drill and a plastic cup – et voilà – a record player!
The angel is dismantled in favour of a 2×4 with NEUBAUTEN scrawled across it in sharpie. A mic is put in a metal box and rolled around.
The percussionist has a purpose-built shelf that holds whatever he chooses to smack at. Right now, little metal rings.
Blixa whispers and flutters his hand. It’s a benediction.
The pipe is back, its rubbery, plasticky noise contrasting with all the metal. More strange screeching ends ‘Youme and Meyou’.
Red. Everything is bathed in red light. Dowsed in red light for ‘Sabrina’.
Blixa wipes the sweat off his forehead. He says that if we’ve “accidentally managed to learn German at some stage”, it’s worth it.
The percussionist is almost doing star-jumps.
For the encore, empty plastic barrels are set up with two mics poked into them.
Blixa tells us that he’s given up smoking – but it’s impossible to play this song without a cigarette. His ‘Silence is Sexy’ pack of cigarettes has obviously been brought from elsewhere. (It’s not khaki.)
You could hear a pin drop in the sexy silence. He takes a drag. Exhales into the mic. Silence. Looks around. Drags, exhales. On we go. Until it happens again.
There’s a sustained guitar note that transforms into something that sounds like a UFO might.
SI-LENCE, not sexy at all.
Drei! Screams the drummer.
It’s about time that strange contraption with the bells started making a sound, and here comes the megaphone. Not to mention the sound of a guitar-lead on flesh, eyes…
There’s something about an amplified German accent.
The bassist runs over to the guitarist for a team-up. They take turns counting to seven.
Blixa informs us that this next bass part has been with the band since 1982, recorded in a cellar under a cellar outside Hamburg. The six men on stage sing together for the first and last time all night. And so ends, as Blixa says, the final song of Einstürzende Neubauten’s final show in Australia.