Review and Photos by Mike Bax
Rammstein kehrt in Quebec in glorreiche Art und Weise!!
It’s been 6 years since Rammstein performed the Québec Festival D’été. They returned this year in a much similar fashion to their 2010 appearance, performing the final night of the 2016 festival with Gojira opening the evening this time around.
Established in 1968 as showcase for the artistic tourist potential of the Quebec region, the Québec Festival D’été typically runs for eleven days starting in early July, and has grown into THE definitive Canadian music festival. After two decades of being primarily Francophone and world music, organizers reached for higher visibility by expanding into a marquee festival with a diversity of headlining musicians. Now, year by year, the festival cherry-picks some of the best bands around the world regardless of musical genre, and plops them onto an assortment of stages in their downtown region, most of them within easy walking distance of each other. This year, like every other year for the past decade, you’ll find an assortment of rock, alternative, punk, metal, hip-hop, classical, francophone, EDM and world music.
For the sixth year in a row, Festival d’été de Québec has sold out it’s tickets – an estimated 128,000 passes sold – attracting almost 1.5 million festival-goers every year. The Scène Bell main stage (the largest of its kind in North America) is located on the historic Plaines d’Abraham boasting a site capacity of over 100,000 viewers. This year Scène Bell stage offered two giant 30 X 40 foot screens on either side for more visual impact. The Scène Loto-Québec stage and the Scène Hydro-Québec stages both offer wonderful live experiences on a smaller scale. Both of these stages can accommodate approximately 8 to 10 thousand viewers. The Scène Fibe stage, located at the Cœur du FEQ (Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale) offers an up close and personal experience with up and coming talent from around the world. The Place de la famille le Lait offers a free daily family schedule with concessions, entertainment and crafts for children of all ages. Some of the bars and entertainment venues in Quebec offer up additional shows in an indoor setting that accentuate the festival experience.
This year the Festival D’été de Québec brought in a vast assortment of musicians; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting & Peter Gabriel, Rammstein, Selena Gomez, Duran Duran, Flo Rida, Half Moon Run, The Cult, The Decembrists, X Ambassadors, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Strumbellas, Yukon Blonde, Steel Panther, The Tallest Man on Earth, Keys and Krates, Hatebreed and more.
The Plaines d’Abraham filled up early with Rammstein fans spending the majority of the afternoon in the relentless heat, determined to wait it out to see the German six-piece band up close. They were treated to an hour long 7:30pm performance by French metal band Gojira, who are just getting their most ambitious tour to date started on their recently released sixth album, Magma. Brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier along with Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie levied a relentless set of music upon the audience, addressing them (in French, naturally) a few times with words of amazement and gratitude. My French is a little rusty, but I could totally make out Joe Duplantier’s exclamation of wonder that their last two times in Québec had been to open for both Metallica and Rammstein. Gojira blasted their way through material like ’Toxic Garbage Island’, ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’, ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’, ‘Silvera’, ‘Stranded’ and ‘Flying W’ with a savagery that has become their signature over years of touring and refining their live presence. A wonderful drum solo by Mario Duplantier rounded out Gojira’s performance, with Joe Duplantier addressing the audience to say that Rammstein was set to take the stage in about an hour.
The front of the massive stage was blanketed with black curtains as the stage crew set about getting the Rammstein stage ready for action. Where most big touring acts offer a live set rife with wardrobe changes, Rammstein tend to deliver different levels of pyrotechnics and concussion blasts as their live set progresses.
The curtains finally dropped from the front of the stage at about 9:25, after a minute-long countdown began on the large LED screens that had previously been flashing the Rammstein logo and a message suggesting that the audience spend less time filming the show and more time watching it. The six longtime original members of Rammstein, Till Lindemann, Richard Z. Kruspe, Paul H. Landers, Oliver “Ollie” Riedel, Christian “Flake” Lorenz and Christoph “Doom” Schneider took to the stage in a tiered fashion. Drummer and keyboardist Christoph Schneider and Christian Lorenz on stage first, then Oliver Riedel, Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers were spotlighted and they were lowered on dual sections of rectangular lighting, lowering them to either side of the stage, with Oliver Riedel adorned in a white cloak with white face make-up, staying back by Schneider and Lorenz under a bright spotlight. Vocalist Till Lindemann meandered on stage from left to center adorned in white with his hair characteristically slicked back as the band launched into their new song ‘Ramm 4’.
It was a slower build to some of the fireworks and flames, but once they came they were delivered in spades. It wasn’t until the fourth song, ‘Zerstören’ that had Lindemann remove a large overcoat, revealing a mock waistband of explosives that randomly blasted off fireworks and sparklers as Lindemann fell to the floor in darkness as the song ended. From this point onwards, Rammstein’s show became a series of flames and fireworks, each song building upon itself for sheer visual spectacle. ‘Feuer Frei!’ brought out the signature head grille’s that had Till Lindemann, Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers blasting thirty foot lengths of flames originating mere inches from their faces – Kruspe and Landers at either side of the stage and Lindemann standing in front of the drum kit. They managed to make their flames all intersect in a ball of charming heat at the center of the stage, about fifteen feet off its floor.
The stage was flooded with so much smoke during ‘Seemann’ it was literally flowing off the floor and into the crowd. As the smoke dissipated, spotlights were cast upon Christian “Flake” Lorenz at the beginning of ‘Ich tu Dir Weh’ revealing him wearing an S&M head mask and collar as he performed with his keyboard facing out towards the crowd. Midway through ‘Ich tu Dir Weh’, Lindemann walked over to the keyboard as Lorenz mocked hiding behind it – Lindemann eventually strapping a leash onto Lorenz at the back of his collar, and walking him to center stage like a dog. Lorenz was then stuffed into a large colander – something that would house molten metals at a steel factory, as Lindemann was raised up over this colander via the same lighting platform that lowered Paul H. Landers to the stage 45 minutes earlier, to ‘pour’ a steady stream of molten metal over top of him (visually brought to life with a clever mix of sparklers and smoke). After Lindemann pronounced Lorenz dead and walked off the stage, Lorenz slowly raised himself out of the colander adorned in a silver sparkly suit that radiated bright glittering lights as he was illuminated with white stage lighting. Nobody but Rammstein could pull off a stage show like this.
By the time this evening’s show reached its apex, during ‘Links 2-3-4’ and ‘Du Hast’, with the band blowing off towering pillars of flames behind their drum kit, at the front of the stage from both the floor and the awning above, from two towers at either side of the stage, and two towers on either side of the sound mixing board, it was obvious that they had pulled out all of the stops to deliver the biggest live concert spectacle possible. During ‘Du Hast’, there was a moment where the audience carried the chorus of the song with their hands in their air. From the very front of the stage area to the utmost outer rim of the Plaines d’Abraham, people were waving their hands and chanting the chorus of the song in unison. It was positively amazing to behold.
Rammstein closed off their main set with their stellar cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Stripped’, Lindemann crawling to the front of the stage and spilling water from his mouth over a pin-hole camera positioned on the floor at center stage. People were crowd surfing, passing out, waving inflatable toys and holding individual crutches up in the air like badges of honour as the front of house lights illuminated the entire field for their band to behold. As if that wasn’t an amazing enough experience, Rammstein came back out for ‘Sonne’, ‘Amerika’ and ‘Engel’, bathing the audience in more pyro, lights and decibels for another 15 minutes before large wings were slowly raised behind Lindemann. He stepped backwards into them, adjusted the shoulder rests and a belt around his waist and was raised up above the stage until he was angled 45 degrees over top of the rest of his band, and then large streams of flames shot out of the tips of the wings, bathing the audience in another mind-blowing display of fire and sheer visual spectacle.
It’s amazing that a band that performs only in Germany can come across the pond and both draw a crowd this large AND engage them on a level that will have them talking about what they’ve seen for months after the show is over. Rammstein may not be a household name like some of the other bands that headlined Festival D’été, but they likely will be the band EVERYONE mentions now that it’s over.
Ich tu Dir Weh
Du Riechst so Gut
Mein Herz Brennt
Stripped (Depeche Mode cover)