Germany’s Rammstein brings 2016 Festival d’été de Québec to a fiery close

Germany’s Rammstein brings 2016 Festival d’été de Québec to a fiery close

Rammstein, Festival d’été de Québec, 17 juillet 2016, Scène Bell des plaines d’Abraham. Crédit photo: Renaud Philippe.

By Michael Bourguignon

The 2016 edition of the Festival d’été de Québec wrapped up with a very loud bang on Sunday courtesy of the musical and visual juggernaut known as Rammstein.

The German industrial metal band was the much-vaunted closing headliner on this year’s Bell stage on the Plains of Abraham, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the band was literally on fire.

A 60-second countdown projected onto the giant screens gave the crowd time to mentally and physically prepare itself for what was to be a spectacle in the true sense of the word.

Anyone who knows Rammstein, or saw them when they last came to Québec City in 2010, would have known to expect a hot night of driving, grunting guitar runs and the mercurial voice of frontman Till Lindemann, but also that much of the heat would be generated by the band’s signature use of over-the-top pyrotechnics.

Just in case some were not in the loop, festival organizers corralled photographers before allowing them into the media pit for a serious debriefing. Precise details were not openly shared, but the conversation might have gone something like this: “OK, so during the sixth song, the band members are going to shoot 30-foot flames from their faces over the crowd. We need you to sign this waiver.”

Rammstein. Festival d'été de Québec. 17 juillet 2016. Scène Bell des plaines d'Abraham. Crédit photo: Renaud Philippe.

Rammstein, Festival d’été de Québec.
17 juillet 2016, Scène Bell des plaines d’Abraham.
Crédit photo: Renaud Philippe.

From their faces.

In fact, the written set list reads like a public security alert, with each song title followed by a listing of the exact nature of the pyrotechnics to be used: cannon simulations, concussion blasts, flames upstage/downstage, guitar-mounted flamethrowers, flashpods in suicide vest …

Yes, suicide vest.

Now, shooting flames out of a contraption strapped to your head might cause even the most ardent defenders of Jackass-style stunts to shudder and say, “Dude, that’s just, like, stupid!” but setting off a mock suicide vest in front of a crowd the size of a small city, at this particular time in our troubled history, is just, like, in poor taste.

But Lindemann and his crew of shock rockers are not about good taste, nor kowtowing to tender sensibilities or concerns for “public safety.” No, you can save that stuff for the afternoon kiddie shows. These guys are about performing on their own terms, unleashing as much power, anger and flames as can be crammed into 90 minutes, and setting the whole thing to music.

So what about the music? To the unconverted, Rammstein’s particular brand of machine-like rhythmic rumbling, animalistic growling and musical gnashing of teeth is like the soundtrack to a foreign snuff film in which unspeakably horrible things happen.

Except you can dance to it.

“Dance” might be too dainty a word, but those not inclined to pump their fists or bang their heads might still catch themselves tapping their toes to some of the band’s catchier anthems, such as Ramm 4 and Reise Reise, and Lindemann really does have a melodic, operatic voice when he chooses to use it.

Because almost all of the lyrics are in German, most fans wouldn’t necessarily know that he is operatically singing about violence, incest and sodomy, but no matter – depending on what costume he’s wearing at any given time or how he’s done his makeup, Lindemann’s smiling, demented clown persona somehow belies the likelihood of any genuine ill-will.

In fact, Rammstein is well known for donning outlandish costumes, and on this night, each member had his own look that conveyed a different character. With his various costume changes, Lindemann morphed from futuristic mad scientist, to Heath Ledger’s Joker in bondage gear, to disturbingly dotty grandpa in a suicide vest, to fiery fallen angel.

The rest of the band collectively looked like an alternate nightmare universe where Hellraiser meets Mad Max, with the notable exception of keyboardist Christian Lorenz, whose inherent quirkiness (he occasionally speed-walked on a treadmill while playing), goofy antics and colourful jumpsuits and headgear made him appear lost in his own Devo-esque dream.

Charismatic lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, with his Hitler Youth armband and vaguely sinister gaze, was the least disconcertingly sinister-looking, balancing out the extremes personified by the skulking, glaring white-faced Oliver Riedel on bass and the just plain scary Paul Landers on rhythm guitar. Add to the mix drummer Christoph Schneider, and you have something most quick-witted folks would cross the street to avoid even in broad daylight on a crowded street.

Though exact numbers were not in at press time, an estimated crowd of 100,000 or more did exactly the opposite, packing the Plains of Abraham to see, hear and experience the spectacle in the flesh.

More than a dozen of those brave souls were removed from the front rows and escorted off the premises for being intoxicated, overly enthused or, in some cases, overcome by the heat of the flames or the excitement of the experience.

Rammstein kept the theatrical hammer coming down right up to the end, showering the stage and audience with red, white and blue confetti for the tune Amerika before bringing it all to a head with Engel.

What would be the last song of the night saw Lindemann hoisted above the stage on a pair of Steampunk angel’s wings, which, naturally, shot flames from their tips.

If Rammstein wait another six years before returning to Québec City, it won’t be long enough for this performance to be forgotten.

Talk about going out with a bang.

……………………………………………….

300 SHOWS – 10 STAGES – 11 DAYS OF MUSIC
July 7 to 17, 2016

For the complete festival schedule, visit www.infofestival.com

Categories: Arts & Culture

About Author

Michael Bourguignon

Michael Bourguignon is a language instructor, writer, editor, translator, narrator, and amateur stage actor. He is available for children's parties.

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