Gig/Concert: Nitzer Ebb ‘Industrial Complex’ tour, with local support from Opopo
Venue: The Mod Club, College Street, Toronto
Date: 1 December 2009
Headliners: Nitzer Ebb
In one word: Lacklustre
Honestly, the less said about this one the better.
I turned up to this gig ignoring the fact that Nitzer Ebb were very much the headliners and that local support Toronto dance/club electo-rock band Opopo were very much not. I was here to see Opopo and meanwhile had very little interest in the electro thumpery of those Essex boys Nitzer Ebb.
Clearly I was in the minority tonight by showing up for the support band, with The Mod Club filled-up by a lot of white people clad in black, here in support of Nitzer Ebb. The crowd stood stoney-faced and unmoved as Opopo opened their set with some of their earliest material, starting with “Computer Menace” and then “Wired”. Opopo continued their set with a far from cohesive performance, stumbling through some new material to little more than polite applause and a couple of sarcastic heckles of encouragement.
This was a very different experience to my first encounter with Opopo back at Virgin Festival Toronto in 2008 – back then Opopo had kept an enthused audience with a great showing and stage presence but tonight it was all force. Tonight it just didn’t work and the new material didn’t seem gig ready – the on-stage quip of “Can you tell that was a new song?” following “Casino Shakedown” was answered by brutal apathy and silence from the crowd. Write this one off as a misfiring performance.
And what of Nitzer Ebb? I knew little of this 80’s industrial band and to be honest I was genuinely taken aback by how many people had turned out to seem them, with a particularly large number of middle-aged and balding people in the audience – I overheard one lady say “I feel like I’m sixteen again”.
I discovered that this faux-German band have more than just a German-sounding name – they had a certain German campiness in the way they appeared on stage, maybe partly due to the fact that two of three band members had their trousers held up with braces. Of course, Nitzer Ebb’s music is rich in German influences too, with the base of their sound being modeled from the ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ (German New Wave) of which Kraftwerk were the most notable and pioneering. To me Nitzer Ebb are more about imitation than innovation, the real deal in terms of fake-German British bands was Bauhaus, who were another influence to Nizter Ebb in terms of the gothic-tinged gloomy broodiness of their music. Incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nitzer Ebb got the idea from Bauhaus for creating a German-sounding name.
The audience lapped up everything that Nitzer Ebb threw at them but I wasn’t buying any of it. Vocalist Douglas McCarthy has a bold and rather cocky stage presence. He bonded well with the crowd who sung back the words at him, as he paraded around the stage with lively showmanship, all from behind the safety of his mirror-coated aviator’s. However, at more than one moment during the set McCarthy had thrown up his right-arm in what looked like the nazi salute position – if this was intentional then that’s really a goose-step too far and more than just bad taste.
Aside from a couple of moments, I stood bored and uninspired for the duration of Nitzer Ebb’s set, finding it all as monotonous as the repetitive beats behind it all.
I don’t mind a bit of industrial now and then, but I was left totally uninspired to seek out more of Nitzer Ebb’s music in the aftermath of this show. Rather, I found myself listening to copious amounts of The Prodigy – that’s as good as electronic music gets, and far more intense, creative and dangerous than Nitzer Ebb could ever be, and after a few hours of steady listening I’d managed to erase my memory of this debacle.
© Brian Banks