It’s rare when musicians melt their own faces, especially when it’s a warm-up for flaming angel wings, crowd surfing in a rubber boat and offing the keyboardist with fireworks and a trick bathtub.
Rammstein’s stage show is a graphic love letter to shock and awe. Sixteen years after their debut album Herzeleid inspired the genre Neue Deutsche Härte (new German hardness), the band is breathtaking—kind of like a beautiful woman wrapped in barbed wire. Here are 10 elements of the performance I’ll never forget:
1) Most bands quietly wander onstage before the lights come up. Rammstein busted through the wall with real pickaxes.
2) Lead singer Till Lindemann’s mouth light is in its own class of creepy. Apparently, he had a piercing done for the “Ich Tu Dir Weh” video so the LED could be mounted to a cable running through his cheek, though I hear the current device is a bit less macabre.
3) The mosh pit was legitimately violent, with the MVP award split between a Viking knocking people’s heads together like coconuts and a lone woman watching lesser men ricochet off her considerable chest.
4) Resident gimp Christian "Flake" Lorenz could sell out a one-man show with his signature dance alone. While playing multiple keyboards and dodging projectiles tossed by his band-mates, he marched on a treadmill through most of the show. I'll bet he was chewing gum too.
5) The bouncers were a bright yellow line of stillness in a sea of black and red chaos, almost like a protest photo.
6) From the depths of the writhing pit a pair of crutches pumped up and down to the beat. I saw this guy outside the venue, and it looked like both his ankles were broken …
7) At the end of “Feuer Frei,” Lindemann and guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers sang through flamethrowers strapped to their faces—just one dish in the show’s pyrotechnic feast.
8) “Wiener Blut” began with Lindemann crawling around and tongue darting next to a gramophone and the lamp from my grandma’s living room. Then green lasers spun down from the rafters, beaming from the eyes of hanging baby dolls. At the end of the song, mini-explosions blew them off their tethers to the stage below, and bassist Oliver Riedel played a soulful interlude in the ghoulish pile.
9) The visual spectacle reached its climax (I couldn’t resist) when Lindemann mounted a giant cannon and sprayed his frenzied worshipers with white goo.
10) After an evening of being violated and deafened, I was charmed when the band took an old-school bow and politely thanked the audience. It was a spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine of rot and hate and darkness go down.