Laibach at Tate Modern

Laibach: Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde

London - April 14th 2012

Photos by Boguslaw Mastaj - Review by D. Campbell


The very idea of Laibach at Tate Modern attracted a lot of interest and was destined to be a rare and unique occasion, unsurprisingly the tickets were sold out very quickly even although the initial late start time ruled out those wanting to catch the last trains out of London.

Earlier on the day the Neue Slowenische Kunst symposium took place in the Starr auditorium at Tate Modern. It started at 10.30am and lasted until around 9.30pm, so for many of us it was a complete day immersed in the works of Slovenia's biggest cultural force. Unfortunately I had to skip a couple of parts while sorting out a hotel for the night; in the process I visited the NSK exhibition at Chelsea Space which was close by my hotel. There was a second exhibition at Calvert 22 but this was in another part of London therefore decided to head straight back to Tate Modern for the rest of the symposium. The symposium was very good and interesting, certainly insightful although there were the odd occasions where some may have felt certain statements made were unsubstantiated or a little over the top but it was often down to individual opinions. After Alexei Monroe's talk on Laibach, which had set the mood nicely for the concert the symposium ended with a number of short films by the NSK, however most took the opportunity to get something to eat or even some fresh air before the concert.

The stage in the Turbine Hall had already been set up when I had entered Tate Modern for the symposium shortly after 10am, Laibach had to organise the soundchecks around 5am, long before Tate Modern opened to the public. The stage along with the stag head was attracting a lot of attention by many of Tate's visitors, most oblivious to who Laibach might be but at least there was a Laibach poster board giving them some idea. The stage looked crammed even although it was larger than usual but then alongside the usual equipment there was a number of old box style televisions not to mention the large stuffed stag head.

The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern makes a good concert venue, especially with the floor rising upward towards the back however it's first and foremost part of a very busy large art gallery and was the reason for the late start which had already been brought forward by an hour after a lot of requests from fans. As the new start time got closer Tate's staff began to clear the floor, sending Laibach ticket holders upstairs to the bar area where they had to exchange their ticket for a wristband then queue at a different set of stairs to be allowed back down into the hall. As we queued a television crew approached those waiting  to film comments about the impending show.

When we were allowed down into the hall the video screen started up and began broadcasting a black and white propaganda film about Yugoslavia, with Tito coming across quite favourably compared the to the standard western view. When the film ended Laibach walked onto the stage however it wasn't the current line-up but former members Srecko Bajda and Dejan Knez, also Ivan Novak who's normally at the mixing desk. A small sample from Heidschi Bumbeidschi by Heintje started up before quickly giving way to an ominous industrial rumbling mixing in various sound samples and noises, it might be difficult to imagine but the effects are quite exhilarating and hypnotic. The projected historical film that had been playing before the concert was now going in reverse while the small TVs displayed the original film material that had accompanied their early shows. The immense and sometimes intimidating wall of industrial music possibly wouldn't appeal to some Laibach fans who are more used to their post-industrial work from Opus Dei onwards although many enjoy the industrial elements that Laibach continue to use a lot in their music enriching and intensifying the overall effect. This is not Laibach's most brutal sound, this came around the Nova Akropola period when they took a martial direction and the music was stark and cold with deafening forceful beats and when this was mixed with Laibach's austere East European totalitarian image it was easy to mistake them as Stalinists. However at Tate the music was much more ambient and less militant. The recreated performance of what Laibach would have played around the period of 1982/83 was fascinating to many long term fans who had long been aware of this unique experience and would now have a very much better idea of what it might have been like back in the 80's.

Laibach        Laibach

Onstage behind Srecko was Daniel Landin playing the clarinet, he was a member of the UK band Last Few Days back in the early 80's who were important Laibach collaborators at the time. Dejan was attracting a lot of attention with his bizarre guitar, looking like something he had made himself and it made you think back to Ivan comments earlier in the symposium about how they built or fashioned a lot of their musical devices. It was fairly short set lasting around 20 minutes and it had gone down very well with the those in the audience. As it came to an end the music blended into the next part as the former members began leaving the stage, quickly swapping their positions with the current members.

Following the special recreated industrial set the current line-up were now on stage to deliver the 'We Come in Peace' set which they had been performing across Europe since March. The tour was in part a promotion of the Iron Sky movie in which they had provided the soundtrack. They started with the Laibach Revisited section beginning with Sredi Bojev in its now familiar modern form. A guest, Mute's project manager Robert Schilling, was brought onstage for the song Mi Kujemo Bodočnost, dressed like a hulking blacksmith with his leather apron, where he growled and roared to great effect for a few minutes before Milan and Mina stepped in, it was a nice touch and added to the uniqueness of the occasion. They continued with some more songs from Revisited, radically reworked from the originals and utilising Mina Spiler's voice, it works very well so it was understandable that this idea expanded into later songs such as Leben Tod and Leben Heisst Leben. Across the Universe was excellent, evocatively sung by Mina as a solo and sounding somewhat much more poignant though it was the first time I had heard it live.


Some new songs were presented such as the cover of the Serge Gainsbourg song Love on the beat, they also performed Dylan's Ballad of a Thin Man and Daniel Miller's Warme Lederhaut which are expected to appear in the new Laibach compilation of the songs they have covered called 'Introduction To... Laibach / Reproduction Prohibited' due to be released by Mute Records soon. Bob Dylan has created a lot of great songs although I have the tendency to much prefer them when they are covered by other people and this version was no exception. Laibach's version of Mute's boss song was the first time I had heard it properly and I quite liked it, live web clips from earlier shows never did it justice so I will be keen to hear the studio version on the compilation.

The stage had two large projector screens and with the dynamic lighting creating quite an ambience, however it did look a bit crowded and Milan was often hidden from view behind the large stag head for those near the front of the stage but it looked a lot better a little bit further back from the stage. Also a gigantic shadow of Milan was often dramatically projected to the side walls so he wasn’t completely invisible.

The highlight for me was the updated version of Leben Heisst Leben, with the bone crushing bombastic verse from Milan contrasting with the soft melodic chorus delivered by Mina. The difference in style of vocals from Milan and Mina gives Laibach immense flexibility on stage, few singers can do Milan's unique vocal style and Mina's voice is very pleasant as Across the Universe showcased brilliantly.


They brought a historic show to an end with Ballad of a Thin Man around midnight and it was quite a show, the long journey through the night from Glasgow was well worth it. The music was excellent therefore I headed straight for the merchandising stall intending to buy a copy of the live CD but unlike last time at the CC Club back in 2007 the CDs would be sent out once they had some mixing desk work done. A little disappointed not to be taking it away that night. Some Iron Sky CDs were available, a week earlier than their release date however I already had my copy on order so I was going to have to wait for that too.  
Laibach live at Tate Modern CD and digital download can be ordered from

Laibach are attracting a lot of interest these days and have been gaining long deserved recognition for their work. Their new music is appealing to both old and new fans and with a numbers of plans lined up for the near future it will be interesting times for the fans. The Tate Modern show was special and will be remembered for a long time and with such a long and unique history and rich archive of work we can always be quite hopeful there will be similar events in future.


Tracks Performed

Laibach 1980 – 1983 Recreation Special Set
Intro      Siemens      Zmagoslavje Volje      Boji

We Come In Peace Set
Sredi Bojev      Mi kujemo bodocnost      Smrt za smrt      Brat Moj      Ti, ki izzivaš      Država     
Leben-Tod      Le Privilege Des Morts      Across the Universe      B Mashina      Under the Iron Sky     
Tanz mit Laibach      Alle Gegen Alle      Du bist unser      Warme Lederhaut      Love on the Beat     

Leben heißt Leben      Geburt Einer Nation      Ballad Of A Thin Man     


Live Reviews       Home       E-mail: