The first leg of the Spectre tour arrived in the UK just a week after the release of their most accessible album to date and on the back of a much bigger media presence. Nearly two years after the monumental concert at Tate Modern Laibach were finally returning to London to introduce their brand new studio album.
Reviews in the press have been very enthusiastic and I personally thought the new album was excellent and had been playing it regularly since its arrival. I did notice that with certain tracks the distinctive recognisable Laibach sound seemed to be quite dilute. Some of the long term fans were a little worried that Laibach may be moving musically towards the mainstream, certainly Spectre has a much broader appeal but there were still tracks in the new album that only Laibach could deliver such as the majestic totalitarian style of 'The Whistleblowers' or the immense industrial power of 'Resistance is Futile'. However some in the audience were looking to the live performance to make their judgement and no doubt many in the audience would also be hearing the new material for the first time.
The doors opened shortly after 7pm, on entering the odd looking venue I thought it looked as if it was part of a bridge, unsurprisingly I found out that it was originally part of Broad Street Rail Viaduct. The bare brick walls gave the venue an industrial ambience which would certainly suit a band like Laibach. There would be no support band playing so the stage was all set with the two large screens at the back of the stage. A short while before the performance the Spectre emblem began rotating on the two screens. The show began a little earlier than expected, around 8.40pm however the hall was already crammed full with usual wide mix forming the Laibach audience. The show opened with the ominous sound of 'Eurovision', inspired by the recent turmoil in Europe particularly the Eurozone problems, which is still bubbling away and will no doubt keep this track topical for a while yet. On stage were the same unit that had been performing since the Laibach Revisted project. On stage with Milan and Mina were Janez Gabric on the drums; Luka Jamnik and Rok Lopatic operated the various keyboards and sound modules. Milan and Mina were both sharing the vocals duties, on Spectre Mina's role had expanded quite noticeably and of course the live performance highlights this. Milan actually goes off stage for 'Eat Liver!' with the sole vocal role going to Mina; with a fast dance sound mixed with Mina's lively dancing on stage you could have thought it actually Melodrom instead of Laibach, but it's a really good track and some Laibach elements were detected as the song progressed. The new tracks from Spectre were coming across live very well and that was to certain extent down to the sound production. One fan commented later "The live experience of the songs was truly excellent - great sound, focus, tight, and the visuals/lighting was outstanding. The quality of the sound reminded me of the way Kraftwerk have harnessed what I would call clean 'pure sound'. No matter the volume, there's no reverb or confusion - testament to the sound engineer and equipment."
The Koran is a curious track that brings the album to an end, it is a haunting and atmospheric piece and is a favourite with many fans. The lyrics are ambiguous and pliable therefore can be interpreted differently by individuals therefore the listener may take this track to a deeper level of analysis and very much what Laibach intended. On stage they added to the esoteric effect with a starry night sky on the screens and deep green lights basking the whole stage inducing a more intense and hypnotic experience. The next track was going snap everyone out of the trance, as a whistling marching beat started up. 'The Whistleblowers', one of the best tracks of from the album, my favourite at the moment and Milan's enthusiastic gusto in delivering this one seems to suggest he particularly liked the song and the audience certainly did too going by the reception at the end which Milan acknowledge with a wave.
The Spectre part of the show was brought to an end with 'Resistance is Futile' one of the big highlights from the album and had an unmistakably strong Laibach sound contrasting with tracks such as 'Walk With Me'. And it wasn't just the music; the video in the background was also strongly reminiscent of the promotional film made for Drzava back in the 80's.
The band went offstage and some waltz music started up, a timer was on the screen so we expected that the band would be back onstage in 10 minutes. In the meantime every now and again the screens would show a picture of Milan resembling 'Uncle Sam' from the American wartime recruitment poster, in this case promoting support for joining the Spectre party. When timer reached zero the band returned to the stage and began 'Brat Moj' from the still yet unreleased Laibach Revisited album. The second part of the show was quite a mix, songs from the past, revisited songs, various side projects before ending with two tracks from WAT. Oddly there were no tracks from their last studio album Volk.
Laibach always give a real theatrical show uniquely utilising totalitarian overtones to dramatic effect. One fan at the concert was later reminiscing back to the days when Laibach would have three drummers onstage pointing out that it was more entertaining to watch than musicians standing behind keyboards or sound modules twiddling a few knobs and pressing some keys. However Laibach's music since the Volk album usually has less percussive elements and certainly has less of the martial industrial sound when compared to Laibach's earlier material, so three drummers onstage is now going to look strange and unrelated to much of the music being played. But we still have Milan strutting around the stage like a flamboyant general and Mina often came out from behind her module. As bizarre as it sounds, an accented electronic voice occasionally came through the speakers acting as a compere for the night with some very cheesy lines while the band stood stony face in authoritarian black and grey outfits, the contrast was mystifying to many in the audience trying to make sense of it. It did seem to bring to mind the totalitarian kitsch you might expect from North Korea.
After nearly two hours the show was over and brought to a close with 'Das spiel ist aus'. The whole performance looks to have gone down really well with the audience going by the response at the end and I'm sure they won over many of the fans from the early days who were a little unsure with Laibach's more accessible sound in Spectre. This was just the start of a long tour program that will continue through the year so hopefully there will be another opportunity to see the Spectre set in the UK.
Part 1 (Spectre)
Walk with Me
We Are Millions and Millions Are One
Resistance Is Futile
Part 2 (Laibach Mix)
Ti, Ki Izzivaš
Under the Iron Sky
Ballad of a Thin Man
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
Love on the Beat
Tanz mit Laibach
Das Spiel ist aus