Review by Lydia Fitzer with Photography by Gary Mather

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been waiting to see Rammstein for most of my life. It’s been right up there on my bucket list, probably somewhere between ‘Backpack through Italy’ and ‘Adopt a rescue piglet’. Tonight is finally the night. I’ve booked time off work. I’ve travelled for miles. I’ve agreed to stay at Bates Motel (all the regular hotels in the area were full, so my friends and I are at the most murdery place imaginable). It’s all about to be made worthwhile, and guess what? I’m gonna share my joy with you! You are one lucky bug.

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The wonderful Duo Jatekok open to support at 7pm. Why not bring a little French Fancy into our evening of metal? Duo Jatekok is comprised of Naïri Badal and Adélaïde Panaget, a pair of dynamic pianists ready to take on the world. They’re covering songs from Rammstein’s album ‘XXI – Klavier’ (2016). This means that they’re covering Rammstein’s own piano covers of Rammstein songs. Does that make sense? They play on the B-Stage; a small plinth-type stage mid side of the crowd. I can’t help lamenting the fact that they’re not on the main stage. A vision all in red, they deserve to be front and centre.

Duo Jatekok open with ‘Klavier’. They play transcendentally. This is the ultimate classical homage to Rammstein. We’d usually associate Rammstein with anvil-beat and adrenaline, but this peels back all the layers. You’re left with the timeless clarity of the melodies, interpreted with elegance and style.

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Their rendition of ‘Engel’ is completely ethereal and captivating. They follow this with ‘Du Hast’. This wasn’t part of ‘XXI – Klavier’ at all, but I’m so glad they’ve included it. In Duo Jatekok’s hands, ‘Du Hast’ takes on a cantering energy. I close my eyes and could almost be running barefoot with euphoria. I can only imagine the finger dexterity involved in this performance.

For me, the highlight of Duo Jatekok’s set is their rendition of ‘Ohne Dich’. This is not just one of my favourite Rammstein songs, but one of my favourite all-time songs. I can’t help but sing along, softly. They’ve had the good taste not to adjust the melody. It’s heartrending and timeless, speaking of a loss of love and destruction of the environment. Truly, it’s a privilege to hear it performed in this way. They play ‘Seemann’ next, the perfect song to follow ‘Ohne Dich’. The melody rises and falls like breathing. They end with ‘Sonne’. It has such a depth of mournfulness and yearning that it brings a tear to my eye. The original tempers sadness with a great deal of assertiveness, but this version totally refocuses the dynamic. It’s only by seeing these beloved songs through a different lens that I can fully appreciate how much I’ve grown to care for them.

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Finally, after years of waiting, it’s time. Drums reverberate through the stadium. A Rammstein flag rises on the stage in grandiose fashion. There is an explosion of fireworks and smoke. The band steps out one by one, glimmering in the light. The show has begun.

Someone near me in the crowd does a Nazi salute. I’m not a violent person, but in this moment I feel a stirring of rage. I hadn’t planned to get into a political rant so early in this review, but this is something that has to be said. There is no place for prejudice in the metal community and there is certainly no place for Nazism at this show. The idea that there might be Nazis in a Rammstein fan crowd is hardly surprising. After all, a narrow-minded white supremacist might look at a white German band using shocking themes and make certain assumptions. However, any fan who has actually gone to the trouble of looking up translations of their songs (or indeed, any fan who actually speaks German) will know that Nazism is the opposite of what Rammstein stand for. (Lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe might even be Jewish. Seems kind of unlikely that he’d be pro-Nazi if that’s the case.) The song ‘Deutschland’ from their latest 2019 album ‘Rammstein’ explores conflicting feelings of wanting to love their country but also being disgusted by its history – “Man kann dich lieben / Und will dich hassen [One can love you / And want to hate you]”. The music video shows the band’s empathy for victims of concentration camps in the most literal sense. They even have an entire song rejecting the assertion that their beliefs are right-wing; ‘Links 2-3-4’ (‘Mutter’, 2001). In it, Till Lindemann (vocalist) repeatedly sings, “Sie wollen mein herz am rechten fleck / doch seh ich dann nach unten weck / dann schlägt es links [they want my heart on the right place / but if I look down on me / then it beats left]”.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, shall we continue?

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They open with ‘Was Ich Liebe’ from their newest album ‘Rammstein’ (which I adore, by the way. I love it almost more than life itself). The set is giant, intimidating metal. Piercing white lights crackle. Lindemann’s vocal travels across the space like a wave of grit. Black smoke pollutes the ashy sky. It’s already clear that this show is going to be legendary.

The second song is one of my absolute favourites. The crowd stamps and claps to the marching beat, wailing. Ten red flags roll down across the stadium. This is, of course, ‘Links 2-3-4’. (Our friendly neighbourhood Nazi is the first to his feet. I can’t help but wonder whether he’d be so enthusiastic if he knew what the lyrics meant… But I digress.)

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The stage lights blaze in time to the crowd’s screams. Every note throbs with energy – I can feel Lindemann’s voice pounding my ribcage. The beat is incessant and infectious. This is as close to a perfect metal instrumental as I’ve ever heard.

They play old classics along with new songs. One of the most distinctive newbies is, of course, ‘Zeig Dich’. It opens with choral Latin-sounding words, although the general consensus is that these words are actually gibberish. The whole song is a critique of the toxicity of the Church, so the faux-Latin can be seen to represent the gibberish spouted by the Church itself. Meaning aside, the high-pitched choral sounds layered with crashing metal creates the most stunning effect. Lights flare with declarations of “Zeig Dich”. Flames spring into the air, coiling like dancers – our very first taste of Rammstein’s famous pyrotechnic display.

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The opening for the next song is an ominous drawl. We hear “Nun liebe Kinder gebt fein Acht / ich bin die Stimme aus dem Kissen [Now, dear children, pay attention / I am the voice from the pillow]”. The crowd flickers with anticipation. The entire stadium cries out that iconic title; “MEIN HERZ BRENNT” (‘Mutter’, 2001), and everything turns red. This is truly the stuff of childhood nightmares, with a simple melody that climbs mountains.

An enormous metal pram with an old fashioned design emerges from the ground. Lindemann livestreams a video feed from his phone onto a screen above the stage. It shows grainy black and white closeups of the band and crowd as the introduction to the next song trembles. I get the impression of an old family video. It’s absolutely masterful.

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As Lindemann sings, a red fire flares inside the pram. The screen shows black bugs streaming from the mouth of an infant. Which song could warrant such images? Which else but ‘Puppe’, my unequivocal favourite of the 2019 album. It’s from the perspective of a child witnessing their sister performing sex work in the very next room. The “puppe” is a doll the sister gave the child “dann bin ich nicht allein [then I’m not alone]”.

‘Puppe’ progresses softly, softly… Only gentle guitar and vocals. The drums creep in gradually, quietly. As the chorus crashes down, the pram bursts entirely into flames. The chorus is wholly drum and vocal, with the most power and rawness that I think I’ve ever heard. It’s at once terrifying and tender, as if Lindemann is trying to claw his own heart from his chest. The feeling I get in my spine when I hear the first line of the chorus, “Und dann reiß’ ich der Puppe den Kopf ab [And then I rip the doll’s head off]” has to be experienced to be truly believed. The guitar wails. The black bugs from the mouth of the infant erupt into the crowd. We are surrounded by swathes and hives of blackness and smoke. The pram continues to burn.

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Honestly, this is probably the best gig I have ever attended. If I were to describe every moment in full, we’d still be here in twenty pages time. White smoke bursts into the crowd. The stage becomes a dark and intimate place for ‘Diamant’ (‘Rammstein’, 2019), then turns into the world’s biggest dance floor for a remix of ‘Deutschland’ by Kruspe featuring light-up dancing. They follow this with the original ‘Deutschland’ with ever more exciting lighting displays (vertical red lines and fire!). Their whole concept was absolutely born to fill a stadium.

Rammstein bring so much theatre to their performance, both facially and with regard to set. Nowhere is this more true than during ‘Mein Teil’ (‘Reise, Reise’, 2004). They give the classic live performance, featuring Chef Lindemann cooking Christian “Flake” Lorenz (keyboard) in a metal pot using a giant flamethrower. I’m pretty sure he switches the flamethrower for an even larger one halfway though. Lorenz escapes from the pot, only to have the flamethrower directed straight at his body! I mean, this is a song about cannibalism. Who doesn’t love a bit of flambéed musician?

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The next introduction warps as if it’s coming from a twisted xylophone. There is no mistaking this melody. This song needs no introduction. Those iconic first drum strikes ring in your ears. This is ‘Du Hast’ (‘Sehnsucht’, 1997).

Before the show started there had been an announcement on behalf of the band asking the audience not to film the show (after all, why would you watch it through a screen rather than your own eyes?). However, seeing such an iconic performance is enough to drive even the most obedient fan to rebellion. Hundreds of phone screens light up, although I am afraid those videos will never do this moment justice.

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Thousands of fists punch the air and thousands of feet hit the floor. The stadium is powerless to that stamping beat, space-like synth and guttural drawl. The band falls silent, but the crowd continues to chant; “Du! Du Hast! Du Hast Mich!” The instrumental lifts back symphonically into our ears and, at long last, pillars of flame erupt into the sky. They tower over the crowd, dwarfing the stadium. You can feel the burning heat against your skin – when you open your eyes the crowd is ablaze. The flames continue through ‘Sonne’ (‘Mutter’, 2001), creating a palace of fire. It’s fitting, I think, for a song about the sun – “sie ist der hellste Stern von allen [it is the brightest of all stars]”.

It’s time for the final song of the set. The stage becomes purple and downcast. Much to my astonishment and delight, I recognise the soft string intro of the original ‘Ohne Dich’ (‘Reise, Reise’, 2004). I hadn’t expected to hear this. Their previous recent sets haven’t included it. I feel genuinely blessed, and actually a bit tearful. I’m not the only one. As the audience light up their torches, the space is filled with stars. Never has a ballad reached such heights. Never has metal attained such depths. Are you not moved? The band line up on the stage and stare out into the noise.

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Right, I said that ‘Ohne Dich’ was the final song of the set. That is technically true… kind of. This isn’t like a regular encore, right, Regina? This is a cool encore! You’d expect just a couple of songs from your standard encore, but this one is gonna give you seven! It’s as if Rammstein said to themselves, “Right, we’re gonna split the show in half. If they want the second half, they’re gonna have to earn it!”

Rammstein appear on the B-Stage with Duo Jatekok on piano. They stand around the stage facing outwards and hum potently in unison. They begin to sing together, in almost hushed voices. The crowd joins voices with Rammstein to create a stunning rendition of ‘Engel’ (‘Sehnsucht’, 1997).

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You might not actually believe me when I say this, but Rammstein travel back to the main stage in boats. I’m not joking. They sail across the crowd in a fleet of boats, carried by love. They throw themselves back into full force with ‘Ausländer’ (2019), the catchiest, danciest, most badass song of the new album. You can’t fail to move to such a galvanising melody. My bones are electrified. I sing “Mi amoure, mon chéri [My love, my dear]” at full volume as I’m blinded by the biggest lighting display yet.

We flash straight from this into green light and a giant freaking Catherine Wheel on stage. It makes sense, though. If any song deserves fireworks it is of course Rammstein’s first ever single from a studio album, ‘Du reichst so gut’ (‘Herzeleid’, 1995). What a piece of metal history! This song is incidentally inspired by one of my favourite books. I like to think this means that my love of Rammstein must be fate. (Can you guess which book? I’ll give you a glue; “Du reichst so gut” translates as “You smell so good”. It’s actually ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’, a 1985 novel by Patrick Süskind. You should read it if you love fascinating creepy things.) Lindemann channels full demon vibes for a proper Grenouille-style vocal, and that jolty strobey instrumental is doing things to my insides. You can’t beat the classics.

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Next up is the unmistakable epic melody of my favourite guilty pleasure, accompanied by the red mist of lust. This is ‘Pussy’ (‘Liebe ist für alle da’, 2008). Take a noble instrumental that should be used to document victory over the Ice Giants. Pair it with the most vulgar lyrics of all time, and what do you get? A match made in Heaven. This song never fails to make me smile. You bet your bum I sing along to every word. A giant cannon squirts, um, white stuff into the front of the crowd. Hidden cannons ejaculate across the entire stadium – you really can’t make this up.

They make as if the show is over, but nein! Do not be fooled! It’s time for Encore Part Two. A proper encore wouldn’t be complete without their self-titled calling card ‘Rammstein’ (‘Herzeleid’, 1995), the most memorable sign-off from any first album. The guitar shrieks in your ears, the bass throbs in your chest, the hellfire burns your skin. A few people are having their eyebrows scorched tonight! This is indeed an industrial metal gig, and the amount of black smoke left hanging in the air is enough to make even the Victorians proud.

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I thought ‘Rammstein’ was going to be the last song, but the show is still not over. It’s time for ‘Ich will’ (‘Mutter’, 2001). The stage transforms with frosty blue light. Ice white glistens, and there are fireworks bright enough to block out the evening sky. Lindemann cries, “Let me see your hands!” He translates the whole song into one simple request: Adore us. ‘Ich will’ represents the ultimate desire of a performer; “Wir wollen eure Hände sehen / Wir wollen in Beifall untergehen – ja [We want to see your hands / We want to drown in your cheers – yes]”. You know those parts of the record where you hear a crowd scream the words? Nothing is as magical as hearing that happen for real. Looking across this stadium, watching Rammstein being worshipped, being part of this shared passion – no sensation could be purer than this.

Fireworks crackle through the air as a pair of horned flames caress the sky. A thousand screams rain down. The band sinks into the ground. My soul stirs to the poignant melody of ‘Sonne’ once more – the piano echoes in my heart.

“Danke schön. Thank you so much.”

The stage lights blind me one last time.

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