REAL GONE GOES OUT: KMFDM – Islington Academy, London 20/04/13

‘Kunst’, the eighteenth studio release from KMFDM, is one of the best of their long career.  On 20th April Real Gone had the opportunity to catch the band during their UK visit to see how well the new material fit in with their live set, when the cult industrialists headlined a four band bill.

First up, a UK based industrial trio named Spawn of Pyschosis.  Being the first band on stage is tough, especially when you know most people aren’t that interested. However, in front of a small gathering of between twelve and thirty people, these guys remained enthusiastic and professional, tackling their material with gusto, bantering with each other and the sparse audience, clearly having a great time.   Although their sound mix was a little too loud and their programmed drums appeared a little thin, in about twenty five minutes they were strong enough to hold the attention.  Given what almost immediately followed, it’s a great pity they weren’t allowed a longer slot.

The rank outsiders (being the only non-industrial act of the evening), Explode The TV were simply awful.  Their music, largely consisting of some dirgy indie-rock (circa 1991), was made far worse due to an appalling sound mix largely consisting of an absurdly loud bass sound and a vocal microphone turned far too low.  In front of the wall of sound, a middle aged man sporting an ill-judged ponytail preened around the stage in an outfit which may have looked okay on him a decade previously, but now it barely disguised his paunch.  Halfway through their set, their sound man tweaked something, and finally, things became more audible…and with that, it also became apparent that besides looking rather ridiculous, Bentley Browning – the ponytailed frontman – is incapable of singing anything in tune.  This set rivalled Cud’s support slot with Carter USM in November 2012 for embarrassment factor.  Despite their own claim that they play music “to get you through the end times with a message of hope and salvation”, Explode The TV may just be one of the worst live acts working the clubs in 2013.

With the crowd rapidly swelling in size, it was time for Sheep On Drugs to cram as much entertainment as possible into a forty minute slot.  Some of you may have memories of this electro-punk/industrial duo from the 1990s… Forget them.  The 21st century incarnation of SOD is a whole new animal.  With Lee Fraser’s new creative vision, the band is now a male/female duo, where he’s partnered with Johnny Boden, a thin, flame haired performance artist.  Outlandish costumes, fire tricks, nudity and a huge amount of energy made up the core of their set on this particular occasion. While they were a little slow to start, the duo were on fire approaching the end of their set, with a supercharged trashing of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting For The Man’ providing a particular high point.  SOD worked their arses off to entertain and this seems to be the norm, so in short, try and catch the rejuvenated Sheep On Drugs live experience whenever you can.

By the time KMFDM appeared on stage, parts of the audience still appeared unmoved.  Perhaps they were still in recovery following Escape The TV, but it is more likely those present were just slightly older and more reserved. With the downstairs section of the Academy now nearing full, Sascha K and his band of industrialists tore through a selection of numbers from 2013’s excellent offering ‘Kunst’ (playing half of the new record), interspersed with key moments from their back catalogue.  With K hardly ever indulging in stage banter and never taking off his sunglasses, you may think the band’s performance would feel stand offish – like a case of “us vs. them” – but nothing could be further from the truth.  Allowing the music to stand and speak for itself created an atmosphere of its own…and from the opening bars of ‘D.I.Y.’ right through to ‘Megalomaniac’- including fantastic performances of ‘Krank’, ‘Son of a Gun’, ‘D.I.Y.’ and a heavy-as-hell take on ‘WWIII’ as part of a sixteen song set – the band barely put a foot wrong.

Nearing the end of the evening, small pockets of the crowd had started to become more enthusiastic; a few people lurched around at the front – one man looking as if he were tackling some pretty energised aerobics – while a small gathering of hardcore fans stage right cat-called for ‘Sucks’.  Even so, this had remained a very subdued audience for a Saturday night.  Not that it mattered too much since the band were on top form, leaving the impression that Sascha K would apply the same amount of power and energy if he were playing to an empty room or a crowd in a festival tent, such is his devotion to the band’s music…  KMFDM – “Say no to mediocre entertainment!”

April 2013