The Music Pill – Concert Review: Rammstein at Chicago Open Air 2016

Chicago Open Air was an incredible weekend of music.   Three straight days of great shows,  great food, and great people.   For anyone who participated in the weekend, there’s little doubt that some of the best moments of the weekend came during the unbelievable headlining set by German-based Rammstein on Day 1 (Friday).  After a month of reliving the shows and releasing Chicago Open Air content, I am so excited to finally get back to Rammstein.

Typically, I would have covered Rammstein along with all the other Day 1 bands.  However, I’m not following my typical process here, because…..well…because nothing about this Rammstein show was typical.  It was absolutely brilliant.  From the opening fireworks to the ending explosions, this was one of the greatest live music spectacles that I’ve ever witnessed.  There is a motto around the Rammstein fan camp.   “Other bands play, but Rammstein burns.” 

Never have truer words been spoken.  Rammstein deserved a post of their own.   So,  without further adieu, let’s get to the band that absolutely stole the show at the first annual Chicago Open Air.

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Photo by Steve Tavares

At the inception of this show, the level of anticipation in the audience was unprecedented.  Chevelle had just delivered a surprisingly great show, but in the dead space between bands,  there would be little question why people were there.  Rammstein was up next, and their reputation preceded them.  For many, this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of the biggest bands in the world, and that excitement was visceral.

Finally, a series of piercing beeps informed the audience that it was time.  I was hit with some of the most intense chills I’ve ever had.  Sirens went off, and pink fireworks exploded into the sky in rapid-fire fashion.  The entire stadium was lit up by the explosions.   The drums came in, and when the lights on stage finally came on, both guitarists were descending down from the top of the stage on suspended platforms.  As the keyboard launched the song “Ramm4”, the crowd came alive.  It was absolutely deafening.

Suddenly, the music dropped out completely, and vocalist Till Lindemann tap danced his way out to the front of the stage.  He was wearing a white trench coat and hat, and when he reached center stage, he threw his hat.  True to Rammstein fashion, the hat exploded in mid-air.  Thick guitar riffs launched us back into “Ramm4” and the audience quickly learned the words to the brand new song.  Over and over we screamed along with the band. It was truly amazing.

“JA.  NEIN.  RAMMSTEIN!”

 

Photo by Steve Tavares
Photo by Steve Tavares

The show was on.  Most noticeable at the beginning was the lighting.  It would evolve over the next hour and a half, and was indescribably spectacular.  There were so many lighting elements that I couldn’t even keep up.  Ten foot tall light columns moved up and down and rotated to create stunning visuals.  Light rigs shaped like a plus sign hung on the back of the stage and projected the Rammstein logo so brightly I saw spots.  Countless other elements contributed as well,  and the result was an unbelievably dynamic and impressive set design.

Photo by Matthew Gil
Photo by Matthew Gil

As the Rammstein machine marched on,  I became more and more in awe.  “Hallelujah” was one of the first songs they played, and it was incredibly intense.  I could feel the drums pummeling in my bones, and so could Lindemann.  He spent a good portion of the show in what would become his trademark position – center stage, in a half squat, pounding his thigh as he banged his head.  The audience was compelled to join, and the place was just off the charts.

“Fruer Frei” was also incredible.  The song began slow, with an electronic keyboard part over Lindemann’s vocals.  Red smoke covered the stage, turning all the musicians into silhouettes.  It quickly transitioned to a hard-hitting chorus where Lindemann’s calls of “Fruer Frei” were echoed by the audience screaming “BANG BANG“.  Over and over it rang out.  Explosions began to go off in tandem with the screams.  “BANG BANG”.  By the end of the song, the three members of the band that were in the front row had fire cannons along with their instruments, and massive pillars of fire shot out with the screams.  “BANG BANG”.  I could barely keep up with the energy – it’s a moment I won’t soon forget it.

Photo by Logan Frere
Photo by Logan Frere

“Ich Tu Dir Weh” was also one of the absolute highlights of the show for me.  It’s a great song, but it also gives great insight into why a Rammstein show is so much more than just the music.  Up until this song, keyboardist Christian Lorenz was wearing an orange jumpsuit and remained out of the spotlight.  For the most part, he spend the first part of the show doing the robot and dancing like an idiot in front of his keyboard.  About halfway through “Ich Tu Dir Weh”, Lindemann walked back to him and drug him up to the front of the stage by a chain around his neck.  He threw Lorenz into a metal bathtub.  His lyrics rang out.  (Translated).  “I hurt you. I’m not sorry. It’s good for you”.

Photo by Steve Tavares
Photo by Steve Tavares

The song slowed way down, and turned ethereal.  Lindemann stepped up onto a metal platform and ascended into the air.  As the drums ratcheted up the intensity of the song, Lindemann picked up a metal bucket and poured a stream of exploding sparks down into the metal tub thirty feet below him. He came back down and glanced at his victim in the bathtub to confirm his kill.  Much to his chagrin, the keyboardist popped out of the tub, now wearing brilliantly shiny metallic suit and sunglasses, and scurried back to his keyboard.

Photo by Steve Tavares
Photo by Steve Tavares

Rammstein gave us absolutely no time to process how cool that show element was.  “Du Reichst So Gut” started immediately.  With our focus on the keyboardist, nobody noticed that Lindemann was back at center stage with a giant bow and arrow.  The guitars came in, Lindemann spun in circles with the bow, which began shooting pillars of sparks everywhere.  See, that’s how a Rammstein show goes – there’s no time to dwell on what amazing thing just happened, because another amazing thing is already happening.  It’s like drinking from a fire hose.  The chills never get a chance to subside…

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Photo by Matthew Gil

I could talk forever about this show, but there’s one last element I have to point out before we get to the encore.  When the intro played to their most famous song, “Du Hast”, the audience went absolutely ballistic.  In addition to loving the song is, this also marked the minute when pyrotechnics absolutely took this show over.   For starters, fire pillars were shooting down from the top of the stage, and also up from the floor.  I could feel the heat from where I was standing, but of course that wasn’t big enough for Rammstein.  During the bridge, Lindemann walked out to the front of the stage with a crossbow.  He fired his crossbow up over the audience, and fireworks shot out over the crowd, peppering the night sky with sparks.  The sparks headed towards the sound booth, and with perfect coordination, a hidden pyro column behind the sound booth exploded at the exact moment the crossbow shot arrived.  I legitimately thought the sound booth was on fire.  I was in utter disbelief – it was absolutely amazing.  As the song continued, the new fire pillar continued to go off in the middle of the audience.  It was just spectacular.

Photo by Steve Tavares
Photo by Steve Tavares

The encore was the final piece of the show, and there was little question that this encore would not disappoint.  First, they played a relatively straight forward (but incredible) rendition of “Sonne”, which saw the pyro get even bigger and more encompassing.  (Added to the fire pillars going up and down, there were now even bigger fire pillars coming in from the right and left of the stage.  Honestly, I don’t know where the band was standing to stay safe from the flames).  This first song of the encore really set the tone – the next twenty minutes were going to be something special.

“America” was next.  Red, white, and blue lights transformed the stage into a patriotic symbol, and in somewhat comedic fashion, Rammstein repeatedly told us how “wunderbar” America is.  Though the lyrics were slightly comedic, this song didn’t let the intensity sag at all.  The keyboard solo was really amazing.  The riffs were just relentless, and the band had the audience in the palm of their hand.

Photo by Matthew Gil
Photo by Matthew Gil

Finally, they closed the show with the song “Engel”.  An electronically heavy song, this was an incredible display of how much power this band harnesses.  The song sounded great, but nobody was paying attention to the song, because Lindemann had donned twenty-foot wide metallic angel wings.  As we watched in amazement, he would be raised up with suspension wires until he was hovering over the audience.  Of course, his massive angel wings were also shooting equally massive streams of flames.  It’s impossible to describe how cool this was – a picture barely does it justice.

Photo by Matthew Gil
Photo by Matthew Gil

At the end of this song, amidst some of the loudest screams I’ve ever heard, Lindemann and the rest of the band bowed, and said “Chicago, we love you.  Thank you very much.”  That was it.  They walked off.  The show was over, and the enormity started to sink in.  As I think through the entirety of the show, it’s hard to imagine how this could possibly be outdone.

  • The musicianship (which I didn’t talk about much) was absolutely album quality.  Regardless of what chaos was happening on stage, every single song was tight and spot on.  Wildly impressive, given how active the band was.
  • The show elements, which I described a small subset of, were absolutely stellar.   I can assure you I barely did them justice in this post.  Even watching this show in it’s entirety on YouTube doesn’t come close to doing it justice.
  • The crowd and atmosphere were unprecedented.  This show pulled in the crowd using a multitude of tactics, and we were enthralled, invigorated, and completely at the mercy of the band.  It was spectacular.

After thinking about it for weeks, I’m confident in saying that this was the best show I’ve ever seen.  It was a show I’ll never forget.  I hope against hope that if you haven’t seen them yet, you take the chance whenever it comes around. Unbelievable show that was worth every penny of the entire weekend.  Kudos Rammstein.  You stole the show.

 

Original source: The Music Pill
By Dave Yaraschefski
Photos: Matthew Gil, Steve Tavares, Logan Frere
August 26, 2016

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