In tackling the full-on, devastating intensity of experiencing Die Toten Hosen in live concert, I’d like to maintain some objectivity. Therefore, I will start by providing a considered, nuanced list of pros and cons.
Things I don’t like about Die Toten Hosen in live concert:
-Campino’s penchant for lobbing open beer cans from the stage. Seriously, who wants beer thrown on them? I hate beer, but even the most ardent lover of canned beer bought by cheap promoters isn’t going to get more than a drop or two out of the air before the rest soaks their clothing, adding a pungent, sour note to the fragrant stench of moshpit sweat.
Things I do like about Die Toten Hosen in live concert:
There, objectivity is now flying out the window. Last night’s concert in Berlin’s Max-Schmeling-Halle was shatteringly euphoric, bruisingly cathartic, just really fucking great.
It’s been over two years since I last saw the Hosen, in a smallish city in Poland. That adventure turned out to defy just about every expectation a reasonable person might have for a concert experience. It began with an overzealous, overnight campout in front of the venue, and ended with my spending the day in the club, meeting the band, watching soundcheck, rocking out to a crazy show and riding back to Berlin in the crew tourbus. The full account is on my previous blog, Midnight Monsoon. Anyway, after the massive thrill of that little exploit, I honestly had doubts about seeing them again in concert—how could it ever live up to the first, utterly perfect time?
These worries turned out to be complete nonsense, of course. Last night was incredible. I passed the time waiting in line with sociable DTH fans, got to chat with one of the crew friends who made my 2010 adventure possible, and had a prime first-row position for getting blasted in the face with punk perfection. Broilers laid down an excellent opening set, and then the Hosen took the stage to truly blow our minds.
The band played a 32-song set, making the time absolutely fly with a frenzied tour through classic and current hits. Campino and Breiti bravely ventured into the midst of the crowd to play a couple of my favorite songs, “Alles wird vorübergehen” and “Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist,” supported on the shoulders of the moshpit—pretty much showing up any band who does the same mid-crowd switch-up on a catwalk or raised platform.
Aside from old faves like “Alles was war,” “Freunde” and “Paradies,” DTH really hit home for me with a number of tracks off the latest album, Ballast der Republik. “Altes Fieber,” “Das ist der Moment,” and of course, “Tage wie diese” all delivered plenty of those chilling, delicious moments when you’re screaming along to a beloved song, the lungs and brains and hands that made it are right in front of your face, and thousands upon thousands of people are at your back, waving flags and surging and singing in unison. That’s my church of choice, my own personal “Paradies.”
The fans were so awesome and engaged—that makes the second concert in a row I’ve seen, where vast tracts of the moshpit knelt down at choreographed times in order to spring up at a particularly intense point in the music, as in “Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist” and “Tage wie diese.”
The Hosen also bring their own security people along, and it really makes a difference in atmosphere. When you’re accustomed to bored security guards staring blankly at the crowd, utterly indifferent to whether a rap or electropop artist is onstage behind them, it’s refreshing to see these grizzled yet lovable road veterans smiling and mouthing along to the lyrics, nodding their heads even to the opening band, clearly in a positive zone and appreciating the music. They also demonstrated remarkable care and concern for the wellbeing of the fans, as well as giving the thumbs-up to fans helping each other, enthused crowdsurfers and other fellow appreciators.
The band were just as cautious regarding fan safety, at one point completely stopping while Campino ascertained whether a fan was on the ground, and making sure she was brought out safely. Such care is completely understandable, in light of the tragic history of the band’s thousandth concert, where a young female fan, Rieke Lax, died in the moshpit. At one point, the guard in front of me squinted into the crowd with alarm, as a girl vanished amidst a mass of tall, muscular male fans—only to beam with approval as she reappeared, hoisted on their shoulders for a better view. Truly great vibes and feelings of community all around.
The band are playing a second concert tonight in the same venue, likewise sold out, and then it’ll be time for them to take a break and catch their breath after a successful tour. Good times—I’ll be looking forward to the next one!
Photos (copyright to Caitlin Hardee):