Live-report - St. Petersburg
Kommersant St. Petersburg 06/06

Romanticism changed shades – Deine Lakaien performed in the philharmonic concert hall

Deine Lakaien, a band from Berlin, performed in Saint Petersburg for the first time. The organizers of the concert had the “dark Romantics” of the German electronic music play in the small philharmonic hall. And to the surprise of Wladimir Rannev they did not miscalculate.

Some West European philharmonic concert halls have the habit to “aerate” their premises from time to time with unprofitable concerts of pop bands or even with orchestras playing pop-classic. Usually, the former as the latter share true problems of taste and have thus a vulnerable reputation. Thus, the unprofitable, rented concerts in the two halls of the Sankt Petersburg philharmonics cause embarrassment: Such a significant, symbolic room of Sankt Petersburg’s music culture, and suddenly absolute poverty in the limits of the room.

At the beginning, this concert evoked distrust with regard to the choice of the organizers, but for different reasons. The band Deine Lakaien creates very serious music since twenty years, and whatever their style might be; this quality opens doors to most prominent concert halls like for instance the Berlin Philharmonie. The band has taste, quality and, if they want, talent.

In this case, the musicians match the standards of the hall. However, their multimedia equipment with its hard sound and incredible light effects might appear as „GUM* in the telephone booth“, as the inhabitants of Moscow say. It is of high risk to put this stage-design machine into the baroque interior of the small chamber hall.

The apprehension was unfounded. On stage, a minimum of technical equipment (two small notebooks and few compact light projectors), a pianist, a violinist, a cellist, and a guitar player. This is a special assembly of the “big show” band.

Sometimes they perform with an even more concise version: a grand piano, the electronics and a singer.

The lightshow played very skillfully and expressively with the baroque ornaments of the hall. The singer Alexander Veljanov moved in his black suit in a modest plastic way and bestowed a demonic aura on the performance. The rather radical visual concept of the concert reminded of the aesthetics Peter Greenaway’s movies, in particular “The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover”, beautiful and malicious at the same time.

Deine Lakaien are often named in a row with Nick Cave and Einstürzende Neubauten, and after a carrier of twenty years they are called “Band for eternity”. In 1985, the pianist and conductor Ernst Horn placed an ad in the newspaper: “Looking for a singer, not afraid to experiment.” A Macedonian, Alexander Veljanov, student at the theater college in Munich, answered the ad. Both had their great moment in 1991 after the premier of the album “Dark Star”. In these days, the characteristic style of the band was formed, placed between Techno, Folk and Gothic. It does not matter, which ingredients are included in this list, the music of Deine Lakaien reveals academic-musical and dramatic competence of its creators and the ability to think accordingly: The melodic song orientation fits into the context of the sonorous or rehearsal-like minimalistic instrumental ornaments.

Apparently, the musicians were influenced in their time by electronic sounds of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the orchestral pathos of Philip Glass. The magnificence of this sound construction is put together very strong and rational and above all hovers the dark, magnetic voice of Alexander Veljanov.

After she heard “Where you are”, a musicologist said after the concert: “The times change and the music as well, but everything in culture is strongly interconnected. It is the “Erlkönig” from Schubert, don’t you think?” And really, the ballade – the genre popular with the “dark romantics” as the press calls them – relates them unexpectedly with the “light romantic” Schubert. In two centuries only the shade has changed.

Kommersant St. Petersburg, 06 / 2006
(from the German translation of the Russian original)

* GUM = Gosudarstvenij Universalnij Magasin (shopping mall)