Kukuun, Hamburg, Germany
20th April 2019
Goethes Erben - Kammerkonzerte 2019
GOETHES ERBEN are sure one of the classics of the gothic scene. Founded 1989, they were important pioneers of Neue Deutsche Todeskunst with their unique style blending music, voice and theatrical elements. In 2007 GOETHES ERBEN played two last shows before a long break. Luckily, Oswald Henke revived the project for their 25th anniversary in 2013 and after that they became more and more active again, even though this time without Mindy Kumbalek who had been a core member of the band for most of the time. Nonetheless, there was a whole music theatre called ‘Menschenstille’ in 2015 and in 2018 GOETHES ERBEN published a new album called ‘Am Abgrund’. So, GOETHES ERBEN are far from just being a dusty classic. Instead, they are a band which is very alive and actively exploring new musical paths.
One of those new paths was a short tour in 2018 that they called ‘Klavier & Stimme’ (piano and voice) and did indeed present GOETHES ERBEN songs with nothing but the piano played by Sebastian Boettcher and the voice of Oswald Henke. The perfect opportunity for all fans to discover completely new aspects in the presented songs in an unusually personal setting. After those wonderful shows, I was more than happy when they announced that they were to continue this approach this Easter. Similar to last year, but not the same, as this time they went on tour as a trio. Benni Cellini, best known as cello player of LETZTE INSTANZ, joined Oswald Henke and Sebastian Boettcher for another three evenings. Of course, I had to be there when they finally played Good Friday at Kukuun in Hamburg.
Music & Performance
After the first song, ‘Schwarzes Wesen’, Oswald Henke welcomed the audience and provided a programmatic structure by telling us - with a wide grin - that the first part might seem quite romantic but that this appearance is deceptive and it might change soon. He also asked us to not take any pictures or record the gig with our phone. He explained that he wanted the concert to exist for us here right now when it is happening and afterwards to be a part of our personal memories. The ban of any photography was also valid for any press photographer, as Oswald personally told us. Well, even though I would have loved to show you some pictures to share with you this wonderful ambience, I agreed with him. Especially in such a personal and fragile setting like this acoustic show, having screens of smartphones in front of you would have ruined the pleasure of the moment.
The second song was ‘Wir alle suchen blind’, one of the three new songs that found their way into the setlist and will most likely be on the next album. Oswald Henke first recited the words alone and then repeated them accompanied by music. It was very interesting to see how differently the text felt in both parts as his expression changed completely, at first being tranquil and solemn, then getting more and more vigorous, almost furious. It is one of the aspects that I always liked about the GOETHES ERBEN shows, the intense performance by Oswald Henke which - no matter how often you have seen it - always offered just slightly different nuances and emotions to discover.
After this, it got very dreamy and indeed romantic. Especially ‘Vermisster Traum’ never fails to send shivers down my spine. It was followed by another new song named ‘Aushalten’ that despite describing moments of despair felt very hopeful to me with its prospect of better times to come. And finally there was ‘Tage des Wassers’, one of the most beautiful ballads I know which is as melancholic as it is comforting and full of hope. After that, Oswald Henke changed the focus to “more serious” topics. Even though ‘Keine Farben’ was published in 1997 its message feels so very relevant today. And so, just like last year, Oswald Henke used this song to speak about how the world is getting smaller and smaller, about how constructive discussions between opposing views get less and everyone who does not have the exact same opinion nowadays seems to be categorized as “against me”.
Finally he got back to the chess metaphor by pointing out how the king never gets beaten but is only set checkmate and then starts a new game… The block was concluded by the more extreme songs. Oswald Henke seemed to have a lot of fun acting out the insanity of the characters in the songs ‘Iphigenie’, ‘5 Jahre’ and ‘Der Weg’. From time to time he left the stage to walk through the audience, shouting the lyrics or seemingly searching for Iphigenie. With this bang, we were left to enjoy a short break of about twenty minutes.
The second block got back to the more romantic part of the set, starting with ‘Abseits des Lichtes’. The music was perfect form ones imagination of the old house in the lyrics, of the dream emerging from the night there with music that felt almost like a new song, and finally the abrupt ending of the dream and the return to the old house. Later, the topic got more serious again, this time with ‘Musenkuss’. This song is from the music theatre ‘Menschenstille’ that dealt with different aspects of suicide and the value of life after Oswald Henke himself lost a friend to suicide. During the song, Oswald Henke ripped the blossom off of a rose and spread more and more petals on the stage. Yet, in the last part he started collecting the petals again as well as the stem and it looked like he was trying to stick the petals back on. He finished with a few words, reminding us how we only have one life which cannot be restored while he finally let the petals drop to the ground once more.
In contrast, ‘Flüstern’ was one of the more insane songs. And while ‘das Flüstern’ (the whisper) in the head of the main character got louder and louder, Oswald was running frantically through the audience and finally jumped to Sebastian Boettcher to ‘help him’ play the piano. Indeed, he was pounding crazily on the keys over the whole piano, producing nothing but loud and shrill noises and almost shoving Sebastian Boettcher away. After that, Oswald Henke went backstage and Sebastian Boettcher started playing the characteristic tune of ‘Begrüßende Worte’. Oswald Henke soon made his way back on stage with a bowl and some spoons sticking out. The fans that visited the shows last year, already knew what was coming. With the repetition of the word ‘Gier’ (greed), Oswald Henke went back to the audience and fed different people with spoons of jelly.
When all spoons where distributed, he got back to the stage, continued the songs and at some point tucked his hand into the jelly and ate it directly from its hand, spreading some of the jelly over his face looking - indeed - very greedy. After that, it got quiet again with ‘Ganz still’ and then ‘Zwischenzeit’, which he told us was the last song that Mindy Kumbalek wrote for GOETHES ERBEN before their break. The set was concluded by ‘Medea’ which is from the project ‘HENKE’. I liked this version very much as Benni Cellini started using his Cello as well as the decorative chandelier as rhythm instrument. This is just the perfect type of concert for quiet accents like this. At normal rock shows they would have been drowned out, but here they really stood out and filled the room.
Before this magical evening came to an end, Oswald Henke had a good news for us. He announced, that they were already discussing another ‘Kammerkonzert’ with the location ‘Kukuun’ and they were probably to return to Hamburg in March 2020. If you do not want to wait that long, you will also have the chance to see the trio at Wave Gotik Treffen 2019. In addition, they will play November 13th in Leipzig, Moritzbastei and three more dates for November are to be announced. I promise you, each of those shows is a very unique and personal experience, most intense with a lot of laughter, a good portion of insanity, beautiful melancholy and a lot of space to just dream yourself away and enjoy all those details of these magical compositions of music and voice.
01. Das schwarze Wesen
02. Wir alle suchen blind
05. Vermisster Traum
06. Tage des Wassers
07. Keine Farben
09. 5 Jahre
10. Der Weg
11. Abseits des Lichtes
12. Ich habe mir die Liebe abgewöhnt
13. Kaltes Licht
16. Begrüßende Worte
17. Ganz Still
Total: 10 / 10
Live Review: Goethes Erben - Hamburg 2019
- Written by: Eva Lhum
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