Following the release of The Sound of Music album in November 2018 the first tour to promote it kicked off in February 2019. The European tour included two UK dates and one of them would be Glasgow making it their fifth appearance here so far. SWG3 was the largest venue Laibach have played in Glasgow so far, even larger than some of the London venues they had used in the recent past. A large crowd had turned up on the night which was quite impressive considering there was little in the way of advertising, it did look like the biggest audience that Laibach have played to in Glasgow. The SWG3 is a former Customs & Excise bonded warehouse built next to a busy railway bridge by the river Clyde, it used to be part of a major industrial area. It had been earmarked for yet another residential development before the owners made it into a cultural space. SWG3 also had earlier stepped into the space that resulted from the demise of the ABC venue which was very badly damaged by the second Glasgow Art School fire about a year earlier.
The venue was down a long and dark alley which had one group people asking me if they were going the right way to the Laibach show. When we entered the venue shortly after 7pm the stage was all set up and ready to go. At the section before the main hall, the merchandise stall was up and running, looking busy selling t-shirts. In the concert hall the stage was fairly high something that would please Laibach, last time in Glasgow they had to build a stage themselves. There was also plenty of room so the music gear was well spaced out along with the two large background screens. The pre-show music was the occasional blast of farm animal noises, probably mostly goats, and looping from the mixing desk it was quite odd but more or less expected.
It was soon clear that the concert would start around 8pm, unsurprisingly being a Sunday night which is not the best time for public transport in Glasgow. However there were loads of parking spaces for cars nearby. A few minutes after 8pm the musicians, Luka Jamnik and Rok Lopatic along with the more recent members Bojan Krhlanko and Vitja Balzalorsky walked onto the stage and got into position. They were closely followed by Marina Mårtensson who had stepped into the role vacated by Mina Spiler, who had earlier left the band before the birth of her daughter. Marina was involved in the recording of the Sound of Music album through her links with the Children choir Edelweiss who featured in the album. Marina was wearing a long Victorian style dress with her hair tied down, just as she is seen in the extraordinary video for 'So Long, Farewell'. The show began with The Sound of Music, when it was time for Milan he stepped onstage in a long white coat similar to the one in 'The Lonely Goatherd' video. The Korean theme dominated the background videos delivered by two large screens, some images appear to come from the South as well as North Korea. It was interesting to see where they got the dance style used for their promotional video of the Lonely Goatherd.
Boris had featured in the London show a couple of days earlier but was not at the Glasgow show. At that point of the tour London was the only show to feature Boris however Marina covered most of his singing but occasionally it was specifically Boris' voice in the mix and he would appear on the screens to deliver his vocals via the mixing desk. Marina had left the stage before the last track Arirang began which was delivered by Milan and the on-screen Boris.
The first part of the show was the softer and melodic music from the new album, the next part after the intermezzo gap was quite a contrast with the reworked Industrial tracks from the mid and early 80's. With its harder sound and industrial style it was a nice balance to the more gentle sound from the first part. It was also promoting the long awaited Laibach Revisited album due out within the next few months (hopefully that's still the plan). The revamped songs have been given a new life with a much more modern sound, it's rich in samples and musical fragments. Marina was not involved in this part of the show, Milan being the main vocalist. Occasionally Mina's voice was required and it came via the mixing desk and she would also usually appear on the video screens. Milan was on stage without the big white coat he had on earlier. Mi kujemo bodocnost began this section and from the collection reworked early songs, Veir Personen was the one I had not heard live before. It's radically different from its original form back in the 80's. The original was stark and brutal driven along by its mechanical percussions and cold industrial sounds. The new version is totally revamped in a more electronic style, more complex with numerous layers of sounds and samples resulting in something could be inspired by Kraftwerk. There was actually an image of Kraftwerk in the background video though probably there as example of a team of four but it did add to the overall Kraftwerk theme.
The revisited set went down very well with the audience, certainly the revamped songs have been enthusiastically received by Laibach fans old and new. It has been a long wait since this project was first presented back in 2009 but all going well we should finally have this album very soon.
The encore was three tracks; two of them were completely new however it started with an old favourite from the 80's Sympathy for the Devil. Marina had return to the stage in a change of outfit though it was the hair change that caught the attention. It was the only old track which was performed more or less in its original form. The video seemed to focus on Russian and Putin. At a time when the western media and culture is obsessed with USA and Donald Trump it was intriguing to see Laibach virtually ignoring him (aside from a brief image in Vier Personen video) and focussing on someone who could be a real threat to Europe. This was followed by two completely new tracks to round off the show, both from the Iron Sky 2 soundtrack. The first song 'The Coming Race' was mainly sung by Marina with Milan coming in near the end and rounding off the song with the line 'Let's make earth great again'. It initially came across like a standard James Bond theme until Milan joins in, the video was mainly scenes from the film, again quite Bond like in places. The last song of the night was certainly unusual, even for Laibach, Milan had stepped off the stage briefly to return wearing a white Stetson hat over his usual headgear. The song 'Surfing Through the Galaxy' was a country and western style with Marina adding to the music playing an acoustic guitar. Surprisingly the style of music really suited Milan's voice. The background video appeared to be an 80's style video game where the character looking somewhat like Milan as he appeared in the 'Geburt Einer Nation' video (or Von Bach, DC Comics' supervillain based on Milan) riding a colourful rocket collecting red hearts. The show ended with the credit roll on the screens and instrumental music based on the last track. It was a big modern show and very slick, it even had costumes changes. It was also an excellent performance, the sound was great and the venue was ideal with a good turnout, so hopefully Laibach will be back next time they are in the UK.
The Sound of Music
Climb Ev'ry Mountain
My Favorite Things
The Lonely Goatherd
Sixteen Going on Seventeen
So Long, Farewell
Mi kujemo bodocnost
Smrt za Smrt
Krvava Gruda - Plodna Zemlja
Ti, Ki Izziva
Sympathy for the Devil
The Coming Race
Surfing Through the Galaxy
Photo by Vincent Forrest