There are few bands that I have seen before who I will still travel three hundred miles round trip to see again. KMFDM is one of them. I had previously seen them on consecutive Halloweens in 2003 and 2004, and each of those shows is likely included in my personal top seven favorite shows. So, ticket in hand, I packed into the car, and off I went to Boston, and the House of Blues.
Personally, I'm not thrilled by the idea of a "chain" venue, which the House of Blues is. In my experience, the best places to see a show have always been the ones with the most individual history, and the best single-event stories to tell. A proper club should have a feel and atmosphere totally distinct from the competition (see: Saratoga Winners, which was recently burned down for insurance money, God rest its beer-battered soul.)
That said, the House of Blues is a pretty fine establishment to see a show in. The space is cavernous, designed and engineered with the best sound quality in mind. The two wrap-around balconies give the place a sense of scale, the ceilings are high, the decor is curious if a touch boring, and the high stage means great sight lines from almost anywhere on the floor.
So in came Angelspit, the first "band" of the night. During their set, I had one of my "what the hell am I looking at?" moments, as nothing on stage seemed to make sense. The group consists of two Australians, one of whom dresses up like a lusty robot. Meanwhile, the gentleman has plastic extensions in his hair that make him look like Sonic the Hedgehog, wears a shirt with slits cut in the back a la Hulk Hogan, and appears to wear a leather trash bag for pants. It's like a leather hoop skirt, but without the metal framework. You can imagine my confusion. Their "act" consists entirely of mixed techno/electronic beats, shouted lyrics with little rhythm, and would-be Sonic conjuring up more noises out of what looks like derelict pieces of a "Steel Battalion" controller for his XBox. There's nothing especially interesting here. Angelspit is one of those artists who inject their lyrics with frequent vulgarity out of a lack of any real pertinent message. I think for the first time in my life, I might have encountered the textbook definition of "trying too hard."
Having now seen KMFDM three times, and having seen Bile, DJ Acucrack and Angelspit as their openers, I am now convinced that KMFDM brings along a horrible opening band to see who their true fans are that can sit through the crap to see them.
After 25 years and more than a dozen current or former band members, KMFDM has embarked for another tour of the "ultra-heavy beat." Now a five piece band composed largely of former members of Ray Watts' PIG, the basic idea of KMFDM has never changed. The three newest members have all been in the band since at least 2003 for the "WWIII" tour, and the band has toured together as a single unit since.
If I ever have a band of any consequence, KMFDM is the live show I would most want to emulate. If there is something that exists on the line between confidence and arrogance, KMFDM bleeds it. They have a no-frills, no-nonsense live show that talks little and plays a lot. Unlike so many other bands in their genre, KMFDM does not wear garish costumes, makes no attempt to steal the show from their own music, and delivers on an unspoken promise to provide non-stop, high quality industrial metal.
The band is naturally fronted by Sascha, who is one of the most comfortable, cool and collected stage musicians I have ever seen. He has the visible countenance of a man who trusts his ability, enjoys his music and has absolute confidence in his band. Next to him is Lucia, who even at 39 is one of the most attractive women in heavy metal, and pulls it off without having to show it off.
Steve White and Jules Hodgson are the consummate understated guitar players, shredding out their craft while not needing to resort to overblown theatrics or stealing the light from the group as a whole. That's one of the single best facets of watching KMFDM on stage; no single piece is bigger than the whole. The band is even spaced out in such a way that all the members are visible at all times.
Within five minutes, my neck simply became a hinge for my head to rock on. The beat just never stops, whether it's a classic like "Son of a Gun," or a new fan favorite like "Hau Rock." With a setlist that included "WWIII," "Attak/Reload," "Tohuvabohu," and a double encore with "Godlike," the songs were punishing and relentless. After a quarter century the combination of professional drive, musical identity and an infusion of new talent, KMFDM has not lost the sheer power of their on-stage performance. The pounding percussion layered with the dual guitars (which have a tone that I personally love,) create a theatre of sound that's hard for a lot of groups to match.
The only two knocks on the night were small ones: first, as the "Kein Merheit" tour is supposed to be a 25th anniversary occasion, I could've used even more old classics. Second, as expected, KMFDM name-drops themselves in their songs like a third-rate rapper.
See this tour. See it. There's plenty of time, and tickets are probably still available. Get there.