Concert ReviewsReviews

Concert Review: Laibach (February 10th 2009, Haarlem)


Feb­ru­ary 10th 2009, Pat­ron­aat, Haar­lem
Reviewed by D.M.K.

All videos by O.S. / Even­ing of Light

After an old­fash­ioned Dutch winter, Laibach decided to grace our coun­try once more with a visit. And not just any gig, but a con­cert of Die Kunst der Fuge by the great J.S. Bach. In 2008 Laibach already made an album of this work, and now we are able to see and hear it all live. This con­cert is part of a long tour; in May 2008 the band already per­formed Die Kunst der Fuge in Het Paard van Troje in The Hague. Don’t expect the usual per­son­nel with front­man Milan Fras, how­ever. Laibach hap­pens to be a col­lect­ive with dif­fer­ing line-ups, and the singer would have little to do at an instru­mental Bach per­form­ance.

You’d have to let go of even more expect­a­tions to be able to appre­ci­ate this night. There were no indus­trial or elec­tronic rock songs; instead, we took a trip back to the sev­en­ties, to artists such as Emer­son, Lake & Palmer, who also occu­pied them­selves with mod­ern cov­ers of clas­sical pieces. But, back to the con­cert. To per­form everything the band util­ised old syn­thes­izers, mod­ern laptops, an elec­tric drum kit, and dif­fer­ent props for vari­ous effects, like a turntable. J.S. Bach never spe­cified with which instru­ments these com­pos­i­tions were meant to be played, and Laibach took the liberty of using mod­ern elec­tron­ics for this pur­pose. Dur­ing the whole show, accom­pa­ny­ing visu­als were pro­jec­ted on a large screen, which were very well made. Every song had its own visual, per­fectly match­ing the music, and this made the per­form­ance much more cap­tiv­at­ing than just watch­ing a bunch of people on a stage behind laptops and synths. For this reason, we decided not to take pic­tures this time, but a few short video clips instead. Con­cern­ing the music, there was­n’t that much dif­fer­ence with the album, as the tracks were played prac­tic­ally in the same way and order. On the album, of course, you don’t have the visu­als, and the sound is a bit less full, which lends a spe­cial qual­ity to the live con­cert. After a heavy and intense opener, the music remains rel­at­ively calm, but the com­pos­i­tions are so refined that you just keep listen­ing.

I weas lucky enough to know before­hand that we need­n’t expect a reg­u­lar Laibach night, and I can appre­ci­ate an even­ing of progrock-like exper­i­ments, so I can safely say this was a suc­ces­ful con­cert. How­ever, I can also under­stand that if you expec­ted the ‘reg­u­lar’ Laibach, this could have been dis­ap­point­ing, because it’s so dif­fer­ent. Per­son­ally, I thought it was a bold move not to per­form in the stand­ard mode, and also typ­ic­ally Laibach to play with people’s expect­a­tions like this. It forces us as listen­ers to go for the product itself, made under a cer­tain name, and it under­cuts the - in my opin­ion - often over­rated pos­i­tion of a lead singer. After all, without a fig­ure­head, a really good pro­ject would still be able to make good and inter­est­ing music, and I think Laibach has cer­tainly suc­ceeded in this respect.