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Culture Reviews
By Ellis Evans
Slovenian experimental-industrial band Laibach has recently shown that they can be contemplative as well as strident. In their Saturday, September 22 appearance at Ikra, the first half of their concert was devoted to the performance of cuts off their new album “Volk,” which uses the national anthems of several countries as points of departure for ruminations on the place of each respective country in history and the world. In a recent interview, band spokesman Ivan Nowak referred to “Volk” as “the soil of the earth.”

The band accompanied the anticipation for their emergence onstage with some marches that sounded like German military marches except for the lyrics being sung in what sounded like Slovenian. Before, during and after the marches, some of the younger, more demanding fans intermittently chanted “Laibach, Laibach.” There were about four marches, with the lights being flashed and the obligatory chubby roadie appearing onstage during the last march to check something to the cheers of the audience before the band emerged form the darkness and coconut smoke right after a Laibach intro medley and the Russian national anthem.

The tall and lanky frame of Milan Fras, the band’s bass-voiced frontman, was nowhere to be seen at first. Instead, the obviously younger, shaven-headed Boris Benko took the stage, coming into position behind some keyboards. Benko is one of the two members of Silence, a Slovenian electronic band that collaborated with Laibach on “Volk.” He immediately caught the audience’s attention with his sonorous dulcet voice, which sang the solemn strains of “Germania,” the first in the series of national-anthem inspired numbers. Fras then took the stage and for the first time I took note of the band’s attire – it was mostly plain black clothes. No fascist-inspired uniforms or vaguely futuristic bondage wear, just black shirts with epaulets and Fras in a dark pale green suitcoat but with his characteristic and vaguely religious black headdress with the shoulder-length drapes, which he never seems to take off. The get-ups were as subdued as most of the performance. The gig had a mostly mellow, meditative flavour that stood in stark contrast to other more forceful appearances I had seen, prompting me to think of the title of this review.

Behind the band there were two video projection screens which featured graphics that matched the musical numbers. For “Zhōnghuá” and “Nippon,” songs respectively about China and Japan, they featured Asian characters floating around the screen. For “Italia,” they featured a juxtaposition of the opening credits to Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.” When “Rossiya” came on, the cheering got noticeably louder as Fras extolled the virtues of Russia from the stage and the canned chorus from the Russian national anthem could be heard every now and then as images of tsarist ornaments and gilded churches flashed on the screen. The band proceeded to play almost the entire “Volk” album, with the songs in the order that they appear on the record. They left out one track, “Vaticanae,” which presumably is the one track off the album on which Silence did not work.

After a short offstage break, the band came back on and played German-language numbers from their album “WAT” for the rest of the show, with the exception of “Alle Gegen Alle,” which is from their record “NATO.” This part of the performance was a bit more vigorous and resembled appearances on their previous tour, the “Anthems” tour. The crowd was mixed with bespectacled intellectuals raising their fists along with camouflage-capped salt-of-the-earth types. Thankfully, there was no unfurling of the Nazi flag by some naïve kids like there was at Laibach’s previous appearance in Moscow on September 11, 2005 at the Tochka club.

Laibach cemented the whole “cinematic” aspect of the appearance by including detailed rolling credits at the end of the show, including full personnel credits to the show and the set list. According to Ikra’s press attaché, Nikolai Oleinikov, Laibach later commented that Ikra’s stage was the smallest on which the band had ever performed.

Set list:
Tanz Mit Laibach
Alle Gegen Alle
Du Bist Unser
Hell Symmetry
Das Spiel Ist Aus

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