Rammstein Toyota Center May 25, 2012
See pics from Rammstein's fire-fueled concert in our slideshow.
When the house lights came up at the end of Friday night's Rammstein show, the crowd headed toward the exits and the custodial crew of the Toyota Center hit the floor. Mops in hand, they began the process of cleaning up the mass of sweat, foam and confetti that covered the arena floor.
It was the type of scene that wouldn't feel out of place in the aftermath of a LMFAO or Ke$ha concert, but the crowd that arrived at the venue hours earlier weren't there to party rock or get sleezy.
While the show may have featured the pyrotechnics, choreographed moves, costume changes and S&M overtones that pop up in so many of today's pop-star tours, Rammstein's was way louder and certainly more metal.
Ende der Straße* (End of the Road): After 20 dates in just over a month, Rammstein ended their "Made in Germany 1995-2011" tour with their first show in Houston in roughly forever. For longtime fans of the band who missed the chance to see the group circa the Mutter touring cycle of 2002, it was the reward for their loyalty and passion. For those fans' significant others and friends, it was the chance to see a lot of fire and explosions.
Schauspiel (Spectacle): The word most frequently associated with the band, after "Germany," is "fire." There was a lot of that Friday night, in addition to explosions, smoke and sparks.
When it comes to spectacle, you really only have two options -- you can build up to one giant moment or you can go balls-to-the-wall and have something exciting/explosive with every song.
Rammstein falls into that latter category. Almost every song had a prop associated with it, in addition to the ever-changing lighting configuration. There were multiple backdrops, fake blood, a set on a mini stage in the back of the arena, and a keyboardist floating above the Sea of General Admission on an inflatable raft.
There was also a giant, foam-spewing penis, but more on that later.
Eröffnungsfeier (Opening Ceremony): To set the stage for their set, the band took the nontraditional route of having a DJ instead of a band for the opening act. Joe Letz of Combichrist took things in an even more unusual direction by doing a set made up exclusively of Rammstein remixes.
It's one of those things that sound goofy on paper, but was surprisingly effective in practice, to a point. In a way it made sense: Crowds rarely show up to see the opening act anyway, so give them something familiar early to get the energy up for the main set.
Things went south slightly once Letz picked up a microphone to encourage the audience to cheer more in a segment that went on a bit too long. Still, it's easy to forgive that part of the show because the remixes he did were good, including a version of "Du Hast" (You Have) with a brostep chorus that was quite nice.
Once Letz exited the stage, a bridge straight out of a steampunk lover's dream descended from the rafters. It was the setup for the most theatrical part of the night: the band's arrival to the arena.
They came down the stairs in one of the sections of the lower bowl, single file, led by bassist Ollie Riedel, who was carrying their version of an Olympic torch. Other members of the group carried the band's flag as well as the Texas flag. The introduction ended with the lighting of an even bigger torch onstage, which signaled the beginning of their set.
Knallmetall (Pop metal): While their show is heavy on spectacle, it's worth mentioning that Rammstein is actually pretty talented when it comes to writing catchy metal songs. Their music meets nicely in the middle of a spectrum that features Metallica on one end and Depeche Mode on the other.
There's a reason that "Du Hast" caught on with American audiences: It's catchy as hell, even if you have no idea what the song is about.
The set was heavy on the hits, from as far back as their first album for "Du Riechst So Gut" (You Smell So Good) up the '00s' "Amerika" (America) and "Pussy," with stops for "Links 2-3-4" (Left 2-3-4) and "Mein Teil" along the way. The newer songs, which had never been played live in Houston before, sounded even bigger and heavier than the studio versions.
It was a rare show where the crowd energy was up the entire time. There were no down moments where everyone took a seat to wait until the next crowd-pleaser came along. Fans weren't just dedicated to staying on their feet, either; a lot of people knew all the words to all the songs, even during non-singles such as "Mann Gegen Mann" (Man Against Man).
Eine Böe haben (Having a blast): Between the language barrier, the darkness of their wardrobe and the pseudo-industrial style of music they play, it's easy to forget that Rammstein is a very silly band. Although there are "serious" songs in their discography, they spend a lot of time writing about sex and violence.
Before the show, Rocks Off met up with some friends who commented on their fashion choices for the show. They wore green and gray because they assumed it would be easier to find each other post-show in the black-shirted mass of people exiting the building.
Before the doors opened, this was a pretty smart assumption because most of the crowd was in fact rocking all black, be it shirts or fetish gear.
But then that giant, foam-spewing penis shows up for the finale of the show, covering the front of the audience, and by extension all that black clothing, in white. It made for a good laugh and a hot mess on the arena floor.
Writer's Note: I speak German about as well as I speak Spanish, which is to say I can count to ten and say "thank you." All translations in this blog are the product of some research/plugging things into Babelfish.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the band long enough to miss the flaming guitar solo from "Adios" (Goodbye).
The Crowd: Germanophiles, pyromaniacs, people with Rammstein tattoos, people looking for an excuse to break out their fanciest black leather outfits, and the coolest 65-plus-year-old lady I've ever seen at a show.
Random Notebook Dump: On the subject of penis-related humor, there was something I noticed as an obsessive YouTube concert-video watcher: The Houston performance of "Bück Dich" was different from earlier performances on the tour. I can't say for certain what changed, but I like to think that Toyota Center has rules about the number of ejaculating penises allowed per show.
Random Notebook Dump Zwei (Two): I understand why people think that holograms might become a thing at concerts. I understand why people might consider fire to be a crutch to make a less interesting performance more watchable. All I'm saying is that you can feel the heat of fire on your face, which is far more stimulating.
Sonne Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flammen Sehen? Keine Lust Sehnsucht Asche Zu Asche Feuer Frei! Mutter Mein Teil Du Riechst So Gut Links 2-3-4 Du Hast Haifisch
Bück dich Mann Gegen Mann Ohne Dich
Mein Herz Brennt Amerika Ich Will
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