Immersed in soundscapes, echoes and many buttons

Nils Frahm – Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; June 8th, 2019

On a nice June day I was back at Elbphilharmonie – this time to see Nils Frahm. Ever since I’d heard about him playing there the previous year I had hoped he’d return and bought a ticket as soon as they were available. Last time I’d seen him was a few years ago and I didn’t really remember much about his music, but I knew I found it fascinating to watch him perform and was looking forward to it. He gave us over two hours of great entertainment that left nothing more to wish for.

The concert was part of the “Reflektor” series – three days made up of concerts, movies and exhibitions. One of those was a photo exhibition by Nils’ father Klaus Frahm that I saw in the afternoon and quite liked. Originally I had planned to see one of the movies too, but decided against it and rather enjoyed the nice weather. In the evening I walked to the venue and once more admired the beautiful architecture of the building. Had a second row seat this time so I was right up at the stage. Unfortunately I had a tall guy in front of me and the view was partly blocked. I learned then that it is better to sit a few rows back where te seats are raised. This was not going to spoil my enjoyment though.

There were two “sets of keys” with three pianos/ organs / keyboards in a half circle and lots of effects and mixing equipment each. I really have no idea how to properly name any of this other than saying there were a great number of knobs and buttons. It looked fascinating even before the concert started. While I looked at the pianos and wondered how much Nils would switch between them I also realized that I was going to see a lot of Nils’ back and thought it must also be interesting to sit behind the stage and have the view for the other side, despite not being to able to see much of the mixing desk from here.

Right on time Nils jogged out (yes, he did not walk ;)) and was greeted with loud cheers. He looked happy and told us how much he liked it that they were letting him do what he wanted for three days, organizing the whole Reflektor series and seeing great concerts. But before doing that he’d play one of his own. Next he sat down and did just that, making beautiful melodies come alive. The first song already seemed to last forever and it took a little time for me to get into it, but when it ended I was smiling. This was exactly what I had come for. 🙂

“I hope I set all these buttons right,” he joked “because there are so many of them”. Everyone laughed and if they had not realized it before there were indeed many. He pressed a button here, turned a know there, ran over to the other set of pianos, doing the same, saying he was pretending this was exciting for us too. 😀 We learned that he hat cut himself and bled all over the piano last time he’d played here, but “I have healed since.” I did not remember that he was funny and enjoyed the banter as much as the music. From the second song I was really into it and loved what I heard. Not that I remembered or recognized any of the music, but it had a good flow to it and all the songs were long so it was easy to fall right into them. 🙂

It was all beautiful and all the effects were used wisely, creating soundscapes that surrounded me with music seemingly coming from everywhere, soft echoes here, amplified notes there. I felt immersed in the music, no matter how softly it was played and enjoyed the variety f the different pieces. I must admit though that either I got too lost in the songs to count them or didn’t fully realize when one turned into another, because I thought he played seven up to the encores and according to the setlist he played nine. They all felt very different to me though. Maybe I just lost count. 😉

There were lots of speakers hanging from the ceiling, but I forgot about them as soon as the concert started. As far as lights go there was no special lighting that I remember so I spent the entire time on watching Nils move between instruments and mixing desks while he played. For a brief moment I envied the photographer in the house. I would have loved to capture all this with my camera. Right after, I was happy I did not have to, because it allowed me to fully immerse in the music without worrying about pictures. 🙂

Most songs started without an extra introduction, but after close to two hours of playing he told us that the next song ‘Says’ was our favorite, i.e. his most-played song, adding that in an age of total digital surveillance he could safely make such a claim. He went on to let us know that this was an easy song: “I just pressed two buttons, then played three notes and it was more or less done.” 😀 Well, I guess trick lies in pressing the right buttons and playing the right notes. 😉 It sure is a great piece of music and just because it was easy for him does not mean it was simple.

He had already told us he was going to play the encore right away and just symbolically step to the side of the stage, because really who needed this act of leaving and coming back when there was not much to do backstage anyway. 😉 He did run back there very briefly to get a beer, but other than that he was back in a flash as we cheered him on. One more song ‘For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More’ followed. It immediately made me think of something my friend I. had said “and then he gets out his toilet brushes”. Until I saw them I had thought of it as a joke, but yes, here they were, used to hammer the strings of the grand piano. Little did I know and I wasn’t aware a song with that title existed either… 😉 The concerts could not have ended any better and for a while after he had jogged off the stage, people still stood there clapping, not wanting it to be over just yet. Eventually we realized that this was it and left, still feeling the echoes of the songs.

I tried the after party at MS Stubnitz for a while  and enjoyed being back on the boat. The music wasn’t for me though and sleep seemed a lot more appealing so I left after about one hour. Next time Nils Frahm comes around I will sure be looking for tickets again. 🙂

Setlist

The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched
Sunson
My Friend The Forest – The Dane – Familiar
Fundamental Values
Human Range – Forever Changeless
All Melody
#2 – Momentum
Hammers
Says

Encore:
For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More

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