home pageROTHER, CURTIS & KLINGHOFFER @ The Bowery Ballroom, NYC, USA, 4th March 2006

Last night’s performance sustained the intimacy of a band toying around in their rehearsal space, when the chemistry among its members is purest, within long procedural evolutions of songs, and when the priceless “eureka!” moments occur. The members of the band faced each other but never made eye contact during songs. And they certainly never looked at the audience while playing. But had Michael Rother glanced up, even just for a moment to gauge the audience’s reaction, he would have seen the awestruck faces of perhaps the most earnest and reverent audiences one could possibly be a part of.

Rother played with Benjamin Curtis (of The Secret Machines) and Josh Klinghoffer (who has played before with Beck, John Frusciante, and PJ Harvey) who should not go without note. Their show was tightly knit, synergetic and evocative. The three’s appearance reflected the audience’s: unkempt people of vast age differences but with at least one similar interest.

Fascinatingly, Rother had the shortest hair and the cleanest dress. In fact, his entire mise-en-stage presentation was the most calculated of the group, somehow knowing how to operate the most arcane acts of circuitry ever occasioned, which littered a table in front of him.

While he manipulated with his array of psychotic electronic devices and an electric guitar, Curtis and Klinghoffer breathed life into Rother’s inspiration. Curtis was a subtle but exceptional talent on the guitar. Klinghoffer was not afraid to wear his forte on his sleeve, making inventive use of a relatively small kit and playing with huge, unflagging intensity. In fact, he broke a stick near the end of the last song but continued playing with his hand and dropping to the floor immediately after the show.

The combo proved a modern testament to an age-old krautrock principle that texture is as important as melody. Single chords and simple repeating chord structures dominated the set. But each song, no matter how simple, unfolded into a strongly affecting narrative of tones, naturally exchanging mellifluous riffs, infectious rhythms, and cacophonous discord in equal parts for a sehr kosmisch experience. Though perhaps earmarked by a few less successful experiments in the middle, the overall performance was strong, the crowd was more than pleased, and the band seemed very pleased, too.

The set was well rounded, incorporating the tones and spirit of Rother’s entire career. Spanning 30 some odd years of kosmiche in a little under 2 hours, there remained an extraordinary continuity in the performance. The logic of his work became tangible. The flow between club dance numbers and kosmiche freakouts was seamless. The crowd was engaged with the warm familiarity of a classic artist and yet there was something still incredibly fresh about it, something that affected you in a brand new way for several minutes before realizing… this is Hallogallo! In fact, the group closed with an extended, retailored version of that song, much to the adoration of the crowd.

They left the stage thereafter to a riot of applause and cheers, people screaming in anticipation of an encore. Sadly, there was none, although the venue managed to torment its patrons for a long 5-minute stretch by leaving the house lights off. When the lights came on and the fun was ruined, the small crowd of maybe 100 people was only slightly disappointed. The band had played, after all, for nearly 2 hours, without ever tiring themselves or audience. The audience left privileged.

Review by Ted Lattis

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