An eclectic selection of support acts tonight began with Leech Woman [photo left] who used to be an old school metal bashing industrial outfit but here were reconfigured into three metal guitarists and a backing track. Much of their appeal from a decade back was either lost in borderline comical head-banging and ROCK guitar posturing or had been replaced with more predictable and familiar rock/metal/industrial crossover stuff. Supposedly their last live appearance (heard that one before), but the end of their set they clearly kept their options open. Just not sure there are so many these days still interested. If, like me you prefer the good ol' days, then the once similar Hydra are still banging 'em out the best way.
AlterRed [photo right] I'd scoped out via their MySpace page a few days before the event and given their careful attention to the visual presentation of their alt.electro rock I was sceptical if they'd lavished as much attention on their music. To my surprise, and interest, they had. Online the strength and detail of main man AlterRed's songwriting was readily apparent.
Live there was a full, slightly Goths dressing up, stage show that meant if you didn't want to try and focus your eyes on the frantically running around AlterRed, then you could instead either gaze at the cute female synth player Vix or the life-sized wind-up girly doll who stood at the back of the stage for most of the set. If your more EMO oriented then the pantomime psycho patient on the loose being chased by his orderly should have kept you enthralled. In spite of all these distractions, AlterRed proved to be worthy of closer attention, almost knocking on IAMX's style door.
I think Trauma Pet is a rubbish name for a band. The band themselves, built around three guitar-wielding rock chicks, weren't quite as bad as I expected but I did find them bland and unengaging despite their attempts to grab you with their knicker flashing (nice but not a substitute for a good tune) and very skinny, very tall, very blonde lead female vocalist not wearing a great deal. The two fellers in the band rocked away too and everyone on stage seemed to be enjoying themselves if not quite everyone in the audience.
Originally out of Hamburg, Germany then relocated initially to Chicago in the States, and finally settling in Seattle, Washington, Sascha Konietzko's industrial rock collective KMFDM have been producing their 'ultra heavy beat' brand of music for a quarter of a decade. That's impressive by any measure. The line up of the band has constantly evolved over those years as has their sound. KMFDM are also one of the most hard-working bands with a release averaging one every 12-18 months and frequent tours packing in many dates (their Sturm&Drang tour of the US in 2002 took in 31 shows in less than five weeks). Many consider the early line-up of Konietzko, Raymond (Pig) Watts and En Esch to be the definitive one, but despite falling outs, including a temporary suspension of activities during 1999-2001, band members coming, going and, occasionally, coming back again, the dedication to quality through hard work has never wavered.
Since Konietzko has probably played between 500-1000 gigs down those 25 years, you might suspect that today he'd be tempted to fall back on his reputation, rest on his laurels or, quite simply, lack the enthusiasm for playing their numerous hits for the umpteenth time before flying to another country the next night, and the night after that, and so on, doing the same thing in different surroundings. If tonight's sell-out show in London (their only UK appearance on their impressive "25th Anniversary Tour") is a reasonable yard stick then not only is there absolutely no hint of complacency, but this is a band currently at the top of their game, generating energy and excitement in equal measure and turning out some stomping versions of classic industrial tunes. There's a valid reason why KMFDM sit comfortably alongside other genre heavyweights like Front 242 and Ministry who have managed to cross over into wider audiences. Like those two others they've been driven by a relentless commitment.
The present make up of the band may not have the resonance (or names) of years passed, but based on their latest album Blitz and their live capability on display tonight, then no fans need concern themselves with such irrelevancies when the results are as good as they are right here, right now. Live instrumentation focuses understandably on the two guitars of Steve White and Jules Hodgson and drummer Andy Selway who must have one of the hardest jobs in one of he hardest working acts around. These three form a rock solid backbone to the entire proceedings.
Lucia Cifarelli (who joined the reformed KMFDM for the 2002 return album Attak) shares vocal and electronics duties with Kapt'n K. Tonight they work together in perfect harmony, well-drilled but never to the point where the drive or spontaneity is compromised. The evening takes in each of the band's major eras down those 25 years and even with tracks from their latest album still sounds like a wall-to-wall greatest hits tour. I'm deliberately not going to single out any one song as one thing KMFDM have so expertly managed to do during two and a half decades of blood, sweat, tears and tunes is produce a uniquely distinctive sound and a consistently high standard. Like those two others name-checked above, there are some bands that are absolutely must-sees when they play live. Few have earned or truly deserve to be on such a shortlist but KMFDM are most-certainly deserving of that honour. I hope they continue to live long, prosper and play live. 8/10