KMFDM, doin’ it again…well, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? They may be a one-trick pony, but if the trick has been good enough to sustain leadman Sascha K and his ever-changing cohorts for 25 years, they must be doing something right (their website describes this as “over two and a half decades of conceptual continuity”). Despite the pessimism inherent in their distrust of politics and the fascist aesthetics they toy with, there’s always been an underlying positivity to KMFDM’s music and message, that somehow transcends their humorously ironic lyrics. Their incessant sloganeering opens them up to their audience, making the whole concept something their fans can embrace and feel a part of, even if it’s just by shouting their own name back at them.
On record, KMFDM can occasionally sound like a typical metal band with synths and beats added as almost an afterthought or concession to their reputation as an industrial band. Live, however, the synths and electronics are front and centre, more than holding their own against the twin guitar assault and piledriving drumming. Sascha and his right-hand-woman Lucia Cifarelli wring deep grooves and a glorious din from their synthboxes, while transmitting a palpable passion and energy despite being tied to their machines for most of the gig. Sascha remains as cool as ever, with his ever-present sunglasses and army cap, while his voice has somehow grown more convinvcing as it becomes weathered with age; the distortion usually applied to it on record is unnecessary given how thrillingly rough and ragged it now naturally sounds. Lucia offers an effective foil with her tough but sultry singing style and a willingness to stalk the stage and dance along, encouraging the initially reluctant audience to do the same.
There is no live bassist, but this only adds to the emphasis on the electronic basslines, which make the music more danceable and distinguish the band’s sound from traditional setups. Despite the musical repetition they’re sometimes criticised for, the band are a dynamic force onstage, both tight as a unit and loose in their individual performances. The basic template for each song may be the same – shouts and diva vocals over crunchy guitar, pulsing synths and crisp beats – but the band combine and flit effortlessly between chugging metal, breakneck thrash, hardcore punk elements and house, techno and industrial rhythms.
Album title tracks ‘Hau Ruck’, ‘Attak’ and ‘WWIII’ are obvious anthemic highlights, the band’s recent material defiantly resisting modern trends but still standing head and shoulders above the more recent efforts of industrial upstarts like Rammstein. ‘D.I.Y.’ is also an early set standout, representing the 2002 turning point for the band, when Lucia joined and galvanised Sascha to reclaim his former glory (“KMFDM will never stop!”). The band may have been somewhat groundbreaking in their heyday, but their records began to tread water about 15 years ago; it is therefore refreshing and reassuring to see and hear that their unfashionable refusal to change their style has not prevented them from sounding re-energized on the many albums that have followed their brief split between 1999 and 2002.
The biggest cheers of the night were saved, predictably enough, for some of the band’s older classics. ‘Light’ is instantly recognisable and starts the first few ripples of real movement in an unusually restrained crowd. As tempos climb in the middle of the evening, some good-natured pitting ensues and people start to get more into the music. By the end of the gig, an early starter due to the clubnight scheduled afterwards, the demand for an encore (via the now-traditional Glasgow chant of “One more tune!”) is deafening, and the band seem only too happy to oblige. They played a packed set of nearly two hours worth of material, which inevitably couldn’t satisfy everyone (favouring new songs over the likes of ‘Sucks’ and ‘Juke Joint Jezebel’ is admirable and understandable but perhaps disappointing), but the band have been effortlessly entertaining and impressive.
The Classic Grand has been an ideal stage for them, both intimate and offering all of its substantial audience unobstructed viewing , while the sound has been sensitively handled and maximised the dynamic of the group, something which can’t always be said of other Glasgow venues. This has been christened the ‘summer of stomp’ [genius! – Ed] due to the other bands lined-up to play soon; Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy and Combichrist are all scheduled to make rare Scottish appearances over the next month. KMFDM were a fitting act to kick it all off, and anyone who may have lost interest in the band and their many albums over the years would do well to give them another chance; it is good to know that the lyric “KMFDM sucks!” is no longer doubly ironic.
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