Into the Pit: 113: KMFDM – Live at Islington – 19-November 2011

A bit of a late start for me on this one – my third gig attended in a week – and as a result I missed the first two support bands, and indeed only just got into the venue in time to see most of the Global Citizen set. I’ve heard a few positive things about this band in the past, so I was quite keen to see what the fuss was about.

Supported by Global Citizen
Ghost In The Static
Live @ o2 Academy, Islington N1
19 November 2011

Well, if nothing else, they are certainly different. An apparent interest in Erotica (and particularly Japanese erotica, it seems) means lyrically the band stand out somewhat. Too many industrial bands dabble in this, making lazy attempts at “sexual” songs by simply stuffing their songs with porn samples, at least here this band are fully immersed in the culture. And the vocalist couldn’t stand out any more if he tried, either – towering over the rest of the band, in a huge coat (seemingly with feathers on it?), clad in all black and with some pretty striking artwork on his face, he kinda reminded me of Richard O’Brien if he had taken a different route post-Rocky Horror. Musically they weren’t bad, either – stark, heavy electronics provided the backbone to a sound that allowed the vocalist to take centre-stage at all times. They are supporting Front 242 next month too, and they are certainly worth a look.

And so, onto the headliners. And for once, KMFDM took to the stage earlier than was listed, and as a result we were treated to a ninety minute set that was full of interest. There was new stuff, some old stuff, and even a guest appearance, the latter more than anything bringing to mind the KMFDM of old, where appearances on particular songs by an-ever changing list of collaborators was the norm.

And perhaps that is the difference with KMFDM nowadays. Being a much more stable unit than before, perhaps, I guess it isn’t all that surprising that they want to concentrate on their newer material – it isn’t as if there aren’t enough good songs from this last decade or so to pick from.

KMFDM setlist:
Come On – Go Off
Bait & Switch
Potz Blitz!
Looking For Strange
Spectre [feat. William Wilson from Legion Within]
Rebels in Kontrol
A Drug Against War
Hau Ruck

Day of Light [feat. William Wilson from Legion Within]

Right from the off, this line of thinking was obvious, as they tore into various new songs and tracks from the last couple of albums without a hint of the past. But then, when they come onstage to the blistering KRANK – by far the best KMFDM track since somewhere in the mid nineties, even if it is simply an update of the typical KMFDM sloganeering track, like Light – it is hard to complain with the logic. Other tracks off the new album, which I still think is somewhat patchy, came off better live, too, but the fact remains that the new material is broadly a band treading water and with nothing to prove.

The mid-part of the set dragged a little – particularly with dull album tracks like Potz Blitz! (I still can’t believe the band would rather play this than Davai), but things got more interesting with the arrival of William Wilson from Legion Within (a band on KMFDM’s record label) to perform Spectre, and it added an impressive new dimension to the set. Add to it that it was followed by the band finally digging into the backcatalogue for some old favourites, and the set and crowd finally came alive properly.

In amongst the various properly old songs, though, it was interesting that Hau Ruck is now deemed a worthy set-closer. I’ve no complaints – easily the highlight of that album, it has a casual, slow-burning brilliance that has allowed it to become something of a band anthem. Total chaos ensued down the front, though, with the unleashing of A Drug Against War before it – played at a million miles an hour as usual, it was interesting that they chose not to use the updated version of the track (A Drug Against Wall Street), indeed making very few statements at all from the stage – a stance that I have always found interesting with the deep politicizing on record. Perhaps a choice of letting the music and lyrics doing the talking?

The encore revealed one tiny frustration, in that the band have kinda backed themselves into a corner. Other than a few new songs, the old stuff were the same favourites played last time, just in a different order. That isn’t to take away from how awesome D.I.Y. and Godlike sound live, but it would be nice to hear some different old songs – after all, KMFDM have released fifteen albums or so. It isn’t as if there aren’t enough songs to choose from…

Despite these minor quibbles, though, this was probably the best KMFDM show I’ve seen yet. Focused, powerful and nice and loud, this was the Ultra Heavy Beat delivered as it should be. The KMFDM machine marches on, twenty-seven years young.

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