The Wiener Linien (the Viennese public transport company) has just welcomed my subway car with a heartfelt thank-you note for using their services and had wished me a good concert. That sounds a good start!
The Ernst Happel Stadion begins to fill up already two hours before the supposed “kick-off”.
The various stands spill beer in rivers, while people are biting pretzels to soothe hunger.
I esteem a presence of around 30,000 people, knowing that the sold-out has been reached in a few hours – so the management has chosen to assign a second date to Vienna. Same place, same time, but the next day.
At 7 pm still nothing on the stage, despite the typical Austrian and German punctuality.
Comments from the crowd. Fortunately, we have been spared the rain of these days and the temperature is quite pleasant even if it’s August.
At 7.30 pm, finally, a ray of hope: a secondary stage lights up. Two female pianists, dressed in red, begin to play with vigor the biggest hits of the band that we are all waiting for, Rammstein. They are the Parisian duo Jatekok.
The effect is wonderful, but after the third-fourth song I start to get irritated. I’m not the only one, the murmur of disapproval is getting more and more intense, and it is clear that the applause and the shouts at the end of the various tracks are more directed to invite the band to appear on stage.
It is only after the sunset, at 8.30 pm, that all starts for real.
The imposing black and metal stage, reminiscent of an industrial structure with two enormous reproductions of guitar keyboards in the center acting as supporting columns, literally explodes.
We move from the Handel’s overture to the first piece of the setlist. The intention of the tour is to present the recent album (here you can read our review). This is why we start with “Was Ich Liebe”, which, to be honest, very few people seem to know in detail.
Few souls are fired up from the first five tracks (including “Links 2-3-4” and “Sehnsucht”). But the entire stadium celebrates the arrival of the first classic, “Mein Herz Brennt”. The stage is tinged with red and the digital writing and animations remind me of the Stranger Things’ intro.
Here I recognize the German-speaking public, which accompanies the beloved lyrics word by word.
Calm returns with the next three pieces – “Puppe” is liked, but remains just on the list of “catchy songs”.
And then another shot: the keyboardist climbs an elevator mounted between the two structures shaped as guitar keyboards and, as he goes up, it starts an exhibition worthy of Daft Punk: the electronic music confuses everyone, but soon we can recognize the refrain of an exceptional piece of the last album, “Deutschland”.
Without no doubts anymore, the underground audience lets itself dance on the atypical rhythm. They know it’s just heating. Great anticipation. Great expectation.
The lift goes down.
And finally “Deutschland” is spread in all its crude brutality. The piece is spectacular. And the special effects are not spared: fires from the four towers that surround the center of the stadium (and that redistribute the sound through columns of amplifiers), flashes from the enormous guitar keyboards, rains of paper strips all over the audience.
Now I understand why they have no need for supporters on their tours. Rammstein are complete, all-round, satisfying … they claim every penny of the € 100 minimum required for a standing place.
And we all know that the time will come: we will all go back in time!
And that moment arrives. After a very captivating “Radio”, it comes the triad: “Du hast”, “Sonne”, “Ohne dich”.
I become emotional thinking that my first German teachers were those six rabid guys!
Unfortunately, with “Ohne dich” it seems all over. Some people move to reach the bathrooms at the bottom of the stadium before others have the same idea.
But suddenly, the secondary stage lights up again. The band members are together with the pianists Naïri Badal and Adélaïde Panaget to offer us a truly refined acoustic version of “Engel”.
The excited audience safely accompanies the band members to the main stage, in a crowd surfing run on some life rafts. The first to reach the stage is the frontman Lindemann, who is preparing to take a sign and then to reach again the border of the structure. The sign clearly states “Willkommen” (“Welcome”).
The reference is clear to everyone. Refugees Welcome is a humanitarian association born in Denmark, but very present both in Germany and in Austria, especially since 2014, with the migration crisis.
Holding the sign, Till helps his companions get off the dinghies.
Many German newspapers are noticing this politicization of the band, which in the last year is expressing itself through new lyrics, videos, and these live performances. An example is the intricate representation of German history in its lights and shadows in “Deutschland” (a theme complexed by the ambiguous feeling of pride and shame that the Germans feel for their own sense of belonging) or the issue raised by “Radio”, in which the band reminds us of the impossibility of listening freely to the radio within the German Democratic Republic.
To further underline the political theme of the gesture that Rammstein have just made, the next song is “Ausländer” (“stranger”). On one hand, a reference to those arriving in Europe, on the other hand, to the European colonial past – the recent video of the track, in fact, represents explorers, colonialists, and missionaries in Africa.
Two lighter songs to follow: “Du riechst so gut” and “Pussy”. It returns to the times more sex&gore of the band.
And the great ending. “Rammstein” restarts the incendiary machine, as well as the unforgettable “Ich will”. The heat of the flames that spread throughout the stadium makes me sweat, of course, but not as much as my uncontrollable jumping.
The event has reached its peak. Literally: under hot reflectors, the band goes up on the elevator, which rises to its maximum point and then * BAM *, the band disappears with fireworks and end credits.
A Rammstein concert is never forgotten.