Saturday, August 26, 2023

Wir will: Rammstein at Parc Jean-Drapeau

Glory is often confounded, sad to say, and nothing drives this lesson home harder than Rammstein’s abortive 2020 world tour. Hot on the heels of their inferno-engendering untitled album’s release, the pandemic strikes and shutters international travel and mass events. Two years and rescheduled summers later, the date first approaches, then arrives: finally, Parc Jean-Drapeau beckons.

Mixed reviews about our lodgings have me ill at ease before heading out, but Bev, the new chariot, is loaded in short and luxurious order. Davindra rides shotgun while the missus lounges in the backseat as the straight six devours the highway, a hot knife dividing butter as Davindra DJs en route, the forecast grey as thunderstorms fast approach. We make such good time that we’re too early to check in to our room, and so walk to a nearby pub for some short-term sedation and snacks. As we quaff the first pint, the skies open and unload the hot and sodden weather they’ve been harbouring all day. A second pint’s ordered then quaffed before braving the street again, and we’re quickly caught in a fresh downpour. Squelching back to the hotel, we change into something drier, and leaving the missus and Davindra to rest before the show, I head downstairs to hop back in the car: Pascale, an old friend living near Laval awaits. 

Brave the slick autoroutes and miraculously find a parking spot just out front of her place, and head in, unfortunately watching the clock as the time to Rammstein gets ever closer. Share the latest of the recent Eurotrip and concomitant disease—hear of her ongoing systemic tribulations. Sip San Pellegrino, nibble almonds, peel a tangerine—feel myself infused with that familiar energy and refreshment that always accompanies seeing her. Check my watch and realize it’s already time to go—smile and apologize. Grab my keys and blast back down the autoroutes to the hotel.

The evening threatens further rain yet, and so myself and the missus grab ziplocs for the mandatory e-ticket-bearing cellphones. Downing several mouthfuls of pisco I slip into a sleeveless tee while texting both Davindra and my other friend Egor to tell them the missus and I will meet them there.

The temperature’s fortuitously dropped outside in the aftermath of the successive downshowers; the foot traffic quickly picks up at Berri-UQAM, black-clad metalheads conspicuously aggregating as we switch to the second metro, and by the time we arrive at Jean-Drapeau, there are no illusions around the event at hand. A sea of black billows out of the station and towards security; a quick frisk and out-turning of pockets ushers us into the other side of three years of delays. 

Davindra and our former photographer materialize after a quick call, and following a brief piss break and queue for drinks, we double fist our way to the hill, where Egor and his better half stand with their friends in proper panoramic positioning. I embrace him and raise one of the drinks to toast to our lost lad, beloved Alex, and in this moment of brotherly carousing, feel his absence fresher still. Nudge Davindra to light a lance—down the first drink. Take in the vast, furling industrial stage and its oilfield-style PA stacks. Let the serotonin spill over, suffocate my mind. 

 The set starts with a blooming of lights and thundering across the PA or in the sky—I can’t tell which: the first song of the night “Armee der Tristen”, something off of Zeit but unfortunately unfamiliar compared to the cover-to-cover bombast of the live-neglected 2019 album. Dig into drink number two—procure lance number two from Davindra. The second song I initially mistake for “Dicke Titten” is actually “Zick Zack”, the new Zeit material understandably at the forefront of the set, but fortunately the throwback songs are quickly at hand: the sound of boots heralds “Links 2-3-4”, with the adhan-led “Sehnsucht” before bouncing back into 2019’s “Zeig dich”.

Somewhere around here we decide it’s time to see how close to the stage we can get, our diminutive former photographer leading the charge as we circle around to stage left and attempt a diagonal invasion. The crowd thickens palpably the closer we get, and the night sky now fully twilit, the opening strings of “Mein Herz Brennt” warble gently from the PA. A raucous cheer erupts from the crowd, this being, of course, a fan favourite. We take the opportunity to blade ourselves through the masses until we hit a tightly knotted wall of concertgoers and do our best to carve out a small niche for the four of us as the guitar drops and the strings trill, the entire crowd screaming in concert MEIN HERZ BRENNT in their very best attempt at Deutsch, the pyro massive and menacing. The band segues into a familiar clean guitar lick, Kruspe and Landers complementing one another: the beginning of “Puppe”, the song I’ve most wanted to see live since I first heard it in 2019. Till appears pushing a giant metal pram, his all but a cappella delivery impeccable, the climax of the song culminating in even more pyro as the baby therein is first incinerated, then belches plaguelike black confetti across us and the rest of the crowd.

 “Heirate mich” from their debut album is next, columns of flame jetting and belching into the sky amidst piercing blue lights; the swaying if anticlimactic ballad, “Zeit” follows before a brief Kruspe remix-respite of “Deustchland” ensues, Tron-like dancers lit up as stroboscopic stick figures dance across the stage—the band? backup dancers?—before the band returns and launches into the real version, Kruspe’s tapped arpeggio clean and legato atop Flake’s ever-groovy sequencer doubling it note for note, ascending pulses of light fittingly emulating the music video’s recurring space lasers. The untitled album assault continues with “Radio”, the energy electric and a reminder of my crushing disappointment at not being able to see the band fresh off the album’s release, with no trundling Zeit numbers to slow the roll—this is where the magic is.

A grinding witch house beat begins to throb from Flake’s rig, the maniac suited up in a gold flake leisure suit as he plods in place atop his treadmill like some kind of 80s serial killer, shrill string scrapes and trills reverberating across the crowd: “Mein Teil”, from Reise, Reise. Till emerges in a blood-smeared smock and chef’s hat, his butcher-mic clasped in a fireproof glove; the song culminates in Flake entering a giant cauldron with Till projecting massive pyroclastic streams from an artillery-sized flamethrower at the fortunately flameproof Flake ducking down into his cauldron, the song ending with the same growling synth looping over and over. 

Following this powerhouse number is the ever-loved—if overplayed—“Du hast”, and for a moment, the entire field of Canadians—with the odd American invader—are belting out their very best German like it’s 1997; I figure this is likely to be among the higher energy songs for the crowd and hop into a nearby pit, Davindra joining for good measure. “Sonne” follows, Till’s vocals operatic and soaring as the pit continues to thrash away and massive columns of fire jet up and across the stage, floodlights pooling down into the crowd as the entire stage is lit up like the Nuremburg spectacle they're so keen to both ape and simultaneously take the piss out of.

A pause for a piano version of “Engel” gives us a chance to catch our breath, and so we exit the pit to return to the photographer and the missus. It’s not long before the band returns to the stage, Flake’s acid-synth keys leading into “Ausländer”, bouncing and grinding away; “Du riechst so gut” continues the sizzling synth trend, stage bathed in a matrix of pulsing green lights, then the unforgettable and ever-comical “Pussy” from the somewhat forgettable Liebe ist für alle da, a giant metallic, phallic cannon rolling out to centre stage that Till mounts and subsequently spews white confetti across those lucky enough to be close enough to catch it, the rest of the the stage and towers joining in the raucous ejaculations to cover the entire crowd. 

A second respite ensues, the setlist just dripping down our collective chins at this point: “Rammstein” from their debut album chugs with sludgy abandon, and this being another song Davindra’s been dying to hear results in us hopping back into the nearby pit for some penultimate moshing and pyroclasm, Till wearing his nova-producing rig, a fallen angel wreathed in flames. The bombastic “Ich will” follows, and then, to fittingly round out the night, “Adieu”, a blitz of white strobe lights and flames terminating in a prerecorded piano version of “Sonne”, the band gathering on a sort of elevator platform that scales up the massive central insignia-bearing column of the stage, waving and bowing as they’re digitally subsumed into the screen, the song playing out as the tour credits roll across the screen.

Grinning from ear to ear, the surge of endorphins an absolute fucking river of bodily and cerebral pleasure, we turn to meander back to the metro station, but in the process of detouring to the washrooms, inadvertently take the long way around. By the time we pass the swamped parking lot and reach the corridor heading to the metro, the entire crowd has pooled there and is filing in at a snail’s pace, more zombies than humans at this point. 

Almost a full hour later we manage to board the metro, the zombie slog unimaginably slow. We get off at Berri-UQAM and elect to track down some food; the photographer leads us to a shawarma joint where we shortly inhale some life-giving manna before parting ways for the evening. Back at the hotel, sleep fails to descend readily after the endless cascade of adrenaline that the day’s provided, but eventually comes to conclude the day.

The next morning Davindra meets up with us for a power brunch before hitting the road; the first pick sadly isn’t open when we get there, and so we sojourn down the road to another spot and make short work of a carafe of coffee and plates of eggs, bacon, and toast before heading back to the hotel to hop in the chariot. The sun fiercely shining, I hit the gas and we hop on the highway, the city soon melting into the rearview mirror behind us.

A sense of having witnessed something truly spectacular suffusing the drive, we collectively bask in the afterglow of it all, the protracted pleasure all the grander for having finally transpired in the wake of global calamity—the flower emerging in the wake of a flood, more miraculous than we might have ever imagined.