Photos by Johannes Leszinski
It’s hard to know what to expect of a Laibach show, even halfway through a Laibach show. Despite over 30 years as a band, they are a group whose reputation has surpassed their work and music, who are synonymous with fascist satire and singer Milan Fras’s strange headwear. Their performance at DR Koncerthuset was more minimalist than expected, and grandiose because of the pageantry managed with such a barebones set up.
The focus of the drama is obviously Fras and his voice that sounds more than anything akin to Tuvan throat singing, especially when contrasted so extremely with Mina Špiler’s soprano. It’s in their movements: standing stock still when not singing, holding out their arms when they are singing like church choir directors, or the drummer crashing cymbals together with huge flourishes.
The first half is sweeping, slightly spacey ambient electronic, splintered by the vocal pairing. It’s unexpected when it’s interrupted by a fifteen-minute intermission that leads to, in the words of their pre-recorded voice over, something completely different. Let’s hand this over to John Oliver for a moment:
And he did.
It was an overstatement to bill the night as “Laibach play The Sound of Music,” as the posters did, when this was limited to four songs. And it was a little predictable that they were all arranged as Špiler accompanied by a piano before synth, drums, and Fras joining in (with the exception of “My Favorite Things,” which Fras sang alone while the items he describes in the song flashed on the screen behind him in the most consumerist manner possible).
But then things shift back from this strange diversion — as it really can only be thought of, whether or not it was what was advertised — to Laibach’s own work. Though a song like “the Whistleblowers” could fit in just as easily as a weird showtune (in the context of what we’ve just seen), there’s still the feeling that we’ve shifted to somewhere else yet again. Not ambient, not militaristic, not overtly satirical, and the most fascinating part is, if this kept going all evening, surely the tone would continue to change.
After the encore, and before people can quite get through the studio doors, the John Oliver clip flashes up on the screen. It’s intercut with the band presumably in North Korea, and the suggestion that maybe their trip didn’t go especially well. But we’ll find out soon; the documentary will be out later this year.