Show Review: Rammstein with Combichrist at the Oracle Arena, 5/18/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on May 19, 2011

God knows they don't want to be angels

God knows they don't want to be angels

There has been a recent trend of fantastic bands, both old and new, being prevented from making their way to this side of the Atlantic due to all manner of circumstances. Most often, it’s an inability to acquire visas by an international deadline, but in the case of more controversial and explosive acts, their arrival has often been deterred by high tensions overseas — acts of terrorism and war, both abroad and at home — which put a damper on the transport of any act, musical or otherwise, that is loud, aggressive, and armed to the teeth with fire, smoke and dynamite. Last night, the biggest name on this list — the German industrial metal collective known as Rammstein — finally made their way back to the Bay Area for their first show in 10 years, and brought their full cataclysmic performance with them, offering one of the biggest, loudest, and hottest shows ever seen within the walls of the Oracle Arena.

Guitarist Richard Kruspe and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz

Guitarist Richard Kruspe and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz

While the excitement of the crowd was definitely inflated by the violent light show and snarling industrial mayhem of Combichrist, the Norwegian aggrotech quintet that opened the show, the roars that greeted the second onset of absolute darkness (marking Rammstein’s arrival) could themselves have carried the Oracle Arena’s roof off of its foundations. Dedicated to an explosive performance from the onset, guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers made their entrance by destroying two wall-like partitions on either side of the stage, while vocalist Till Lindemann’s obstruction was “cut” open in the style of a circular welding torch — complete with sparks, flames, and electronic sizzles snarling across the arena floor. The ecstatic bellow of the crowd reached a fevered pitch when Lindemann marched to the front of the stage and began belting out the first words of “Rammlied”, the opening piece from the band’s newest record Liebe ist für alle da, and a massive wash of lights bathed the stage in crimson and yellow, revealing metal girders, a 4-tier stage, and a backdrop resembling a cracked stone wall. When the introduction of the song segued into the first chorus, Christoph “Doom” Schneider’s blast of drums was masked by the titanic sound of explosives erupting on both sides of the stage — the first time of many for the two-hour performance.

Till Linderman, Flake Lorenz, and guitarist Paul Landers

Till Linderman, Flake Lorenz, and guitarist Paul Landers

It was apparent from the first few songs that Rammstein was intent on upping the ante of their show with every single number of their set. In addition to the floor-and-ceiling strobes, cannons of smoke, pillars of flame, and seven moving platforms of lights, nearly every song had its own moment of pure awe that brought catatonic screams from the 12,000+ fans below. “Weiner Blut”, a song about the woeful tale of Austrian abuse victim Elisabeth Fritzl, saw a collection of dolls fall from the ceiling; they hung suspended above the band, surveying the crowd with green laser eyes, before each one was blown off of its respective line with a volley of explosions. “Ich tu dir Weh”, once banned for its controversial message (translated as “I Hurt You”), saw Lindemann dragging keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz into a metal tub, then rising up on a platform nearly 25 feet above the stage to pour out a shower of sparks and fire into the tub; Lorenz emerged moments later in a rainbow-sequined suit, perhaps “purged” of the black-leather coat he had worn earlier. The firebreathing masks that the band wore for “Feuer Frei!” were well known to the crowd and accompanied by a wall of fire jets, but the sight of Lindemann dragging a gasoline pump onstage and lighting its end for “Benzin” upped the stakes once more, when he took the improvised flamethrower and lit one of the stagehands on fire — a scripted event, perhaps, but definitely another moment of the performance that shocked all who beheld it.

Flake rides the boat for "Haifisch"

Flake rides the boat for "Haifisch"

While the majority of the band’s set was centered around their aforementioned new record, several older songs were thrown in — along with their own insane antics — and the crowd bellowed its approval within seconds of each piece beginning. Cult favorites such as “Weißes Fleisch” and “Du riechst so gut” had little visual accompaniment besides fire, smoke, and more flash-bangs, but the denizens of the arena were on their feat and yelling themselves hoarse with every word. “Du hast”, the most well-known of Rammstein’s songs, saw the biggest walls of fire for the whole performance, accompanied by Lindemann lifting a 3-headed bow and firing flares into the ceiling — which triggered screaming, scorching sparklers to fly down a set of wires that ran across the entire stadium and was perhaps the only moment where the audience’s attention was temporarily removed from the stage. “Sonne”, the thundering pseudo-ballad from the band’s third record Mutter, was perhaps the best-received song of the evening; with less wild visuals and sonic thunderclaps to accentuate the notes than most of the other pieces, it brought the crowd’s attention back to the musical brilliance that the band displayed, and the excellent level of sound that filled the arena walls.

Blitzkrieg with the fleshy weapon

Blitzkrieg with the fleshy weapon

Those who managed to stick out the entire show at the front of the crowd were rewarded with a sticker emblazoned with this accomplishment, and by the end of the set — if the fire, smoke and various detonations weren’t clue enough — it was easy to see why. Not ones to back down from the face of shock and awe, Rammstein ended their main set with Liebe ist für alle da‘s first single, “Pussy”, which saw Lindemann riding a miniature cart, armed with a cannon in the shape of the male member, which sprayed soapy white foam across nearly half of the crowd and their outstretched arms. The final song of the night, the much-loved “Engel”, marked the arrival of Lindemann’s last costume — a 14-foot-spanned pair of ghastly angel wings, with strobe lights and flamethrowers set into the edges — and a second set of bows from the band, who for every moment of the performance had looked like they had been having the time of their lives.

A true achievement (issued at the end of the show)

A true achievement (issued at the end of the show)

Anyone who may undercut Rammstein, and declare that their wild antics and insanely over-the-top showmanship is their only selling point, is shockingly wrong and also completely missing the point of such a performance. In addition to bringing nearly two decades’ worth of brilliant musicianship and memorable songwriting, which has crossed the language barrier of the USA and brought thousands of fans who sing every single German lyric of the two-hour performance, Rammstein’s show rises above all other comers to provide people with exactly what they paid for: the most gigantic and incendiary show ever beheld in a musical setting. Anyone who bemoans the rising cost of concert tickets and how, quite often, the show does not justify the money that was spent, has never attended a show like this, and this writer recommends everyone who reads this and is able to attend a Rammstein show to make their way there — post haste.

Setlist:

  1. Rammleid
  2. Bückstabü
  3. Waidmanns Heil
  4. Keine Lust
  5. Weißes Fleisch
  6. Feuer Frei!
  7. Wiener Blut
  8. Frühling in Paris
  9. Ich tu dir Weh
  10. Du riechst so gut
  11. Benzin
  12. Links 2 3 4
  13. Du hast
  14. Pussy

Encore 1:

  1. Sonne
  2. Haifisch
  3. Ich will

Encore 2:

  1. Engel

See a full gallery of Rammstein photos, among other bands, at Alan Ralph‘s photo portfolio.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris May 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

Great review, and indeed it was a FANTASTIC show. Just one correction: Lindemann.

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Suzi May 19, 2011 at 11:44 am

Nice pics!!! We only got to see/shoot the first three songs in Seattle. I love that sticker they issued

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Alan May 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

^ Thanks! I did not get approved for a photo pass — “We are at capacity with photographers for this show, sorry. Is there any way you could shoot the LA show on Friday at the Forum?” (NO I don’t live in LA!) — so I brought my Nikon Coolpix P80 p&s and shot the whole show from the crowd. Photo pass… we don’t need no stinkin’ photo pass! LOL

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JennyNemesis May 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Alan, is there a photo of the exploding-baby-dolls moment? That was brilliant! I mean, brilliant even for Rammstein. It was a truly rippin’ show. No matter how ridiculous the cost of tickets these days, you always get your money’s worth with these guys. They keep rock’n’roll as it should be kept: loud, splashy, fearless, bombastic, and don’t skimp on the fire.

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Dakin Hardwick May 20, 2011 at 11:52 am

I gotta say, Alan, you are mighty impressive with your Nikon Coolpix P80. I may need to invest in one of those.

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Alan May 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Dakin, Nikon CoolPix P80 using the quick-shutter ‘sports mode’ has scored me many a good photo (Prince, Rammstein) when a photo pass was out of reach… but you need a lot of patience because the focus is not always as quick as the shutter!

Jenny, I did get a photo of the dolls, but I didn’t get the explosion. Fire/pyro/explosion photos were also not the easiest to get with this camera.

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Robert May 21, 2011 at 12:40 am

Fantastic review. While I wasn’t at your show in the Bay I did attend the show in Tacoma. This was a family event as this was something my kids (13/16/17) needed to see to believe. The price was quite high for these 4 main floor tickets but SO worth every penny! The comment in your review and the reason for me actually commenting on your article is the following statement and I can’t agree with you more. Actually my kids can’t agree with you more either. These guys are about putting on a show that you’ll never forget but if your music sucks or your not a very good musician it doesn’t matter. These guys are the whole package. True musicians. Very talented. Blowing up stuff is fun. Greatest show I’ve ever seen and I don’t think it can be topped.

“In addition to bringing nearly two decades’ worth of brilliant musicianship and memorable songwriting”

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Al Pavangkanan May 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

Wonderful review!

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Ken May 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I travelled from Eugene Oregon to catch this show and it was well worth every cent, every bump in the road, every step from the hotel to the arena and every last second of the 15 hour round trip. I’d do it again with a smile. What a show!

Rammstein have to tour North America again, soon, if the reception they’ve recieved is any indicator. I was in the stands to the right of the stage and no one sat down for the entire show. I’ve heard rumors of a “best of” tour in 2012, and am crossing my fingers that the rumors are true.

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Scorpion May 24, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for putting up the setlist. I flew out to Oakland from Texas to see this show and I wanted to make a playlist to remember the show. 🙂

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espania danse July 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Yeah I was there, and every word is highly understating things as far as I’m concerned, though it’s the best review of the concerts I’ve seen to date. Yeah I was in the front line (in front of Richard) and yeah, I screamed as loud as I could, sang the songs, and was thrilled to get coated in soap and paper during ‘Pussy’ and yeah I got the sticker, though mine looks a touch more worn because I had to hold it tight to defend it from the other fans, and I got two bows, eye contact and one of Richards Pics. So you can see why any words anyone ever tried to use would not be able to sum up all that happens at these shows and the raw, powerful emotions you feel as a fan lucky enough to get there . . .

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Richard Chisholm August 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm

DX ughh I was in the first row and did not get the sticker!!! AGHHHH

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Matt, London March 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Just seen these maniacs at the O2 and I can honestly say – best damn rock band I have EVER seen! Totally completely mind-bendingly insane! Great rock music, great thumping beats, and
the most awesome lighting and pyrotechnic display on the face of this planet..!
The made a metal fan out of me and my missus! (and I got brought up on classical music!)

However they also make every other rock band I have EVER seen look like a bunch of choirboys at a Sunday school picnic! 😉

GO RAMMSTEIN! DO THE TILL-HAMMER!!

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