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LaibachChristuskirche, Bochum, Germany
23rd March 2019
Laibach - “The Sound of Music” Tour

So many weeks we have been feverishly looking forward to this date. We discussed, listened, discussed again and watched the first and second part of ‘Iron Sky’, and yet we could not say exactly what to expect. But we knew it would be great. And it became even more than that.

At first it only seemed like a good joke: LAIBACH, whose ironic game of totalitarian iconography was already a bit dated, had announced concerts in the last totalitarian country in the world. Then it slowly became clear: that was meant very seriously. And when the Slovenian band actually travelled to North Korea in August 2015, they were a bit worried that the cultural officials would not realize at the latest that LAIBACH did not take the attitude of wearing uniforms or Martial marching rhythms as seriously as the regime in Pyongyang.

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Well, it all went smoothly and differently than expected. An instructive documentary about the excursion into the realm of evil tells the whole story. ‘Liberation Day’ was released last year. And now LAIBACH deliver their overdue North Korea album. It’s called ‘The Sound Of Music’, much like the kitsch movie shot in 1965, which tells the story of the arch-Catholic family Trapp, who make a splash in America with their children’s choir. While the film adaptation with the songs of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein is almost unknown to us, in America it is one of the most successful musical films ever. And in North Korea, too, they love ‘The Sound Of Music’.

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That’s why LAIBACH mainly played pieces from that album, such as the alpine song ‘Edelweiss’ or the catalogue song ‘Favorite Things’. But it is enough when singer Milan Fras, like an old-fashioned pervert, talk to the adolescent girl on ‘Sixteen, Going On Seventeen’, to expose the sexist character of the piece. The songs on ‘The Sound of Music’ will not be fully recognizable in their ideological-critical potential until they are played live by LAIBACH. For then the grandiose visuals show the amazing equality between the alpine home kitsch of the Hollywood film and the hypocritical propaganda images of the North Korean regime. LAIBACH proves that bad taste is obviously universal.

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Once again they cleverly reveal the totalitarian back side of Pop culture. When the political smear comedians at the head of North Korea and the US meet next time, they should also invite LAIBACH. With a newly conceived show concept for ‘The Sound Of Music’ and with the support of Marina Martensson and Boris Benko as guest singers, LAIBACH return to the German-speaking world to make other cities happy with their sound of music. But it is said that also selected other material including pieces from ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, ‘Spectre’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, ‘WAT’, ‘Kapital’, ‘Volk’, ‘Laibach Revisited’ is on the program. http://www.laibach.org / https://www.facebook.com/Laibach

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Music & Performance
The whole time from doors opening until the band entered the stage, you hear several animal noises from a farm, but also cries of cows and pigs which makes you think of THE SMITHS and creates pictures in your head that make you shudder. At 8:30 the light goes out and the concert finally started. A string intro begins and successively the musicians enter the stage and start to play, after which the singer Marina Mårtensson appears, who has taken over the vocal part on the album ‘The Sound of Music’ (not Mina Špiler), at the end finally LAIBACH singer Milan Fras in his typical hood and with a white robe took his place.

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In the first half of the concert, only pieces from the new album ‘The Sound of Music’ are played. Even though the final track, ‘Arirang’, is not a ‘The Sound of Music’ song but a Korean traditional, it is contained on the album and therefore played in the context. The pieces based on the musical of the same name which was first performed in North Korea four years ago. While this may be seen as a PR coup, the intriguing nature of the action was much more likely to be the fact that the North Korean rulers were obviously unaware of the actual backdrop of LAIBACH’s seemingly affirmative display of totalitarianism, uniformity, and militarism truth has. But even if LAIBACH’s version of ‘The Sound of Music’ is quite interesting and the idea of implementing Pop-cultural motifs in totalitarian contexts is in a long LAIBACH tradition, it can be said that the work is quite difficult from an aesthetic point of view.

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Although the original pieces were subjected to a musical radical treatment, LAIBACH’s version is full of kitsch and pathos at every turn. Nevertheless, the work unfolds its effect in many moments, for example, when singer Fras occurs in ‘Sixteen, going on Seventeen’ as unpleasant lustful man who agrees to an innocent girl’s voice: “You are sixteen going on seventeen, Baby, it’s time to think! You need someone older and wiser, telling you what to do!” The evoked disgust is not least the result of the successful interpretation of Fras and Mårtensson. In the background run nature photography, as well as typical pictures of Korea including a performance of the local people’s army. The cuckoo clock beats and after “Edelweiss”, “Noodels” and “Apfelstrudel” are sung, the Korean folk song adaption ‘Arirang’, in which Boris Benko, the second album guest vocalist, can be seen in the background, finishes the first part of the show. This is followed by a 20-minute break.

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After the break you feel like you have another band in front of you. Singer Mårtensson has stayed behind the stage for the rest of the main set. Now, in the spirit of polarization and contrasting, LAIBACH mainly offers pieces from the very early phase of the band. A true storm breaks over the audience, noise and violence now determine the stage. This will satisfy all those who may have had some problems with the performance in the first half of the show. LAIBACH make a trip to the time when they made totalitarian Industrial sound the medium of their messages. Here, the visualization follows the horror of war and tyranny. In ‘Vier Personen’, philosophers and state leaders emerge among the apocalyptic riders. After these impressive concert chapters, LAIBACH is left with a classic for the end.

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For the ROLLING STONES cover ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, in which the Russian President is reprimanded on behalf of all the possessed, Marina Mårtensson appears again during the encores. She performs in the best 50s style ‘The Coming Race’ of the ‘Iron Sky’ soundtrack, before ‘Surfing Through The Galaxy’ concludes with a cowboy hat over Milan Fras’ black hood. “Make Earth Great Again” Fras spoke with Trump gesture towards the end. This concert will be remembered. For sure! The end is a Hollywood typical credits with country music. LAIBACH show what they are famous for. Whether new or old, whether Industrial or harmonious rural, everything is possible and carries more message than other bands in their entire creative phase could accomplish.

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Setlist
-the string intro-
01. The sound of music
02. Climb ev’ry mountain
03. DO-RE-MI
04. Edelweiss
05. My favourite things
06. The lonely goatherd
07. Sixteen going on seventeen
08. So long, Farewell
09. Maria / Korea
10. Arirang
--- Intermission ---
11. Mi kujemo bodocnost
12. Smrt za smrt
13. Nova Akropola
14. Vier Personen
15. Krvava gruda - plodna zemlja
16. Ti ki Izzivas
---
17. Sympathy for the devil
18. The coming race
19. Surfing through the galaxy

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 9
Sound: 8
Light: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)
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