words by Dustin Meadows
On Saturday, September 24th, after rescheduling their worldwide concert tour twice (once in 2020 due to the initial shutdown in the early days of the Coronavirus global pandemic and a second postponing in 2021), German industrial metal band Rammstein took the stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the second consecutive night of their L.A. engagement near capacity crowd chomping at the bit.
Originally scheduled to tour in support of the band’s 2019 release Untitled, the band’s first new album in a decade since 2009’s Liebe ist für alle da (“Love is there for everyone”), over the course of the pandemic, the band has since recorded and released their newest album, Zeit (“Time”), which dropped earlier this year. Credited with creating the genre of the Neue Deutsche Harte (new German hardness), in almost thirty years of playing together the band’s line-up of singer Till Lindemann, lead guitarist Richard Kruspe, rhythm guitarist Paul Landers, bassist Oliver Riedel, drummer Christoph Schneider, and keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz has remained the same. The band’s chemistry, songwriting, and incendiary stage show have since become the stuff of legend since they kicked a hole in the landscape of heavy music in 1995.
Rammstein’s live show currently features a multi-tiered stage with hydraulic lifts for the band members and various stage gear, massive customized lighting rigs, delay towers, and an extensive use of pyrotechnics that require the band to travel with their own custom-built steel stage. The build takes nearly five days to put together and another day and a half to disassemble once the shows are done, which is the reason for the wide gaps between dates in Rammstein’s touring schedule. This is all pulled off by a massive touring crew of nearly 250, along with local crew hires (stagehands, security, and construction) of 250-300, as well as the coordination of logistics for local fuel and CO2 deliveries at each stop for the band’s theatrical performances, and when all is said and done, a Rammstein show doesn’t happen without the involvement of close to 1,000 people for each stop along the way.
The last time I saw Rammstein was in October of 2001 in Cleveland, Ohio, serving as the middle act for System Of A Down and Slipknot’s co-headlining Pledge Of Allegiance tour. The headliners were touring in support of Toxicity and Iowa respectively, both hugely successful albums for each. Rammstein had earlier that same year released their third album, Mutter (“Mother”). Despite being in the middle slot of a five band bill (rounded out by openers No One and American Head Charge), Rammstein’s live show was still such a spectacle that the headliners had their work cut out for them. With bombastic pyrotechnics and a performance of “Bück dich” that featured Lindemann simulating sodomy with Lorenz and then using a hose to unleash a seemingly endless spray of a white liquid all over the audience, it was one of the most memorable concert experiences of the era - becoming etched in the annals heavy music culture for generations to come.
So on Saturday, September 24th, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Rammstein had the vivid, larger than life memory of an eighteen year old from a rural, nowhere town in Ohio to live up to. And Rammstein did not fail to deliver.
After a nine song set by openers Duo Játékok, a French piano duo that played instrumental Rammstein covers, the stage was set for Rammstein, and the coliseum was filled with thunderous cheering and applause as the house lights went down. George Frideric Handel’s “Music For The Royal Fireworks” served as the opening fanfare as the lights went down, and Rammstein’s trademark “R” logo appeared on the screen. Drummer Christoph Schneider took the stage, and with a single drum hit and blast of pyros, the rest of the band took the stage, kicking off the show with “Armee der Tristen” (“Army Of The Dreary Ones”), the opening track from their most recent album, and then immediately transitioning into “Zick Zack” (“Snip Snap”), the second single from Zeit that takes a satirical jab at cosmetic surgery.
The militaristic drums and guitar riffs of “Links 2-3-4” then kicked off a three song run of high energy tunes rounded out by “Sehnsucht” and “Zeig Dich” before slowing down for the bombastic chugging riffs of “Mein Herz Brennt,” a performance which saw frontman Lindemann tease the audience with a false start on the chorus before eventually placing a pyrotechnic piece over his heart that fired off sparks during the final chorus, a literal representation of the song’s title, “my heart burns.” The set then slowed down for the whisper to shout dynamic of “Puppe,” a song in which a child is left alone with nothing but a doll for company as his sister leaves to work as a prostitute, only to be murdered just outside their home within the view of the child. Business picked back up with “Heirate mich” and then segued into the title track and lead single from Zeit, a powerful song about mortality and the time we’re all given.
After a brief interlude from guitarist Kruspe performing his remix of “Deutschland” (complete with the other band members dancing in LED light robes), the band launched into a closing run of some of their heaviest songs, a five song run that included “Deutschland,” “Radio,” “Mein Teil,” “Du hast,” and “Sonne.” “Mein Teil,” a song written about the Armin Meiwes cannibalism case in Germany, featured Till Lindemann stomping around the stage in a bloody butcher’s apron, wielding a microphone with a large butcher knife fixed to the end, as keyboardist Lorenz played from inside a massive cauldron, in one of the band’s more impressive set pieces.
As the band vamped before the final chorus, Lindemann, with a cartoonish and sadistic glee, attempts to set Lorenz on fire with flamethrowers of increasing sizes, unsuccessfully, before finally firing a cannon sized flamethrower at the cauldron, dismounting, and then finishing the song. Lorenz safely stumbles out of the pot after and stumbles to a waiting keyboard where he begins playing the opening synth riff of “Du hast,” towards the end of their penultimate song, Lindemann fired what I can only describe as a multi-barreled Roman candle launcher, which then ignited the rear pyro towers, creating a chain reaction that fired more pyros to the front, igniting massive twenty foot geysers of flame as the band finished the performance. The set concluded with “Sonne,” a performance that utilized pyro cannons on the stage, as well as twin pyro towers at the front and back of the floor areas.
The band departed the stage briefly, then reappeared on the B stage with openers Duo Játékok for a piano performance of “Engel,” then made their way to the main stage in inflatable rafts via crowd surfing to perform “Auslander,” “Du riechst so gut,” and closing with a rousing performance of “Pussy,” in which Lindemann mounted a phallic cannon that moved across the front of the stage spraying a highly suggestive white foam over the crowd before confetti begin raining down from above.
The band once again exited before returning for a second encore consisting of “Rammstein,” which saw Lindemann equipped with a pyro rig that made him appear like a fiery peacock, then “Ich Will” and the appropriately titled closer, “Adieu,” as black confetti rained down and the pyros fired off with reckless abandon. The band took a final bow before stepping onto a hydraulic platform that elevated them to the top of the stage before one final pyro explosion and the lights cutting out signaled the fictional demise of the band, a theme that frequently occurs in their performances and music videos.
After a nearly 2 ½ hour performance, the 18 year old in me not only had his expectations met, but had them set on fire, blown up, and smashed to pieces by one of the loudest and most exciting presentations of heavy music theatre in the world. More than two decades in Rammstein continues to assert their rank as undisputed in the space of alternative art.