At last back at Tanzbrunnen and the 14th edition of the Cologne based festival. Awakenings can be good or bad – or terrible. After Friday’s pre-party we discovered that our apartment didn’t have air condition and after a really hot day with temperatures reaching +35º C it was a fact that there wouldn’t be much sleep the first night – and it wasn’t. Most people going to the Amphi festival is used to hot weather, and we usually love to spend those days at Tanzbrunnen in the sun, but these days were going to be a challenge, especially for people defying the fashion of wearing any kind of shorts in the summer. And black’s the fashion, ey?
This first day of the festival was about drinking gallons of water, being introduced to, probably, the best Swedish post-punk act we’ve seen in years and meeting up with legendary Midge Ure for an interview about his overall career. Since the night hardly offered any sleep but massive dehydration, it wasn’t in particularly difficult to get up really early and take the bus to the other side of the Rhine River to pick up our wristbands and then quickly go back to where we started.
Just like last year the summer heat caused too low water levels in the Rhine River to allow the Orbit Stage onboard MS RheinEnergie to harbor next to the Beach Bar at Tanzbrunnen. Instead people had to catch a shuttle bus going every tenth minute between the festival ground and Orbit which, in our case, led to fewer visits since the major bands played at Tanzbrunnen. However, the first day of the festival started out on MS RheinEnergie and a very interesting band on the post-punk scene.
Stockholm based A Projection were formed in 2013 and shortly after discovered by Hamburg based label Tapete Records. In 2015 they released their debut album “Exit” and last year saw the arrival of the second album “Framework”. If you happen to be a fan of Joy Division, A Projection is certainly something to watch out for and not only in terms of their sound; singer Rikard Tengvall both sounds and moves like Ian Curtis.
And it’s a furious show. Although MS RheinEnergie offers some shelter and protection from the heat outside, the crowd turns up the heat a few degrees as the show gets more intense. “Hands” and “Dark City”, two personal favourites, bring back memories of Joy Division at their best however with much better production and song structures. Later the same day we had an interview with the band and they revealed that they’re working on the third album. For fans of old school post-punk you’re in for a treat and are really not allowed to miss the next A Projection gig, you won’t be disappointed – not at all.
After the show we made a quick run to the shuttle bus to Tanzbrunnen to see Aesthetic Perfection. This is also the moment when you realise that you have to chose between Tanzbrunnen and the Orbit Stage. Interviews at Tanzbrunnen combined with shows by Aesthetic Perfection, Funker Vogt, OMD and Midge Ure compete with Soviet Soviet, Lebanon Hanover and She Past Way at Orbit, a great post-punk day, but we stayed at Tanzbrunnen the rest of the day. Hopefully there is a solution to the locational problem and the water level in Rhine next year.
There’s no reason to question the popularity of Aesthetic Perfection. Thirty minutes before the show people are already waiting and I can’t really understand why they always play a daytime slot every time I see them at Amphi. If you also consider Daniel Graves’ and Elliot Berlin’s amazing live shows I find it even more strange that they won’t get a prime time slot. Sure, they can’t compete with OMD and Midge Ure but bands as Suicide Commando, Mono Inc. and ASP aren’t really something mind-blowing on record or on stage. Maybe Amphi just wanted people to get out of their pre-party coma and start to dance?
At this point the temperature had reached +35º C in the shadow and every movement of your limbs caused excessive sweating. I still wonder how those two dudes in their black latex dresses made it through the day. I already had salt lines on my jeans but I’m quite sure that those guys had a few more degrees inside their dresses. Poor choice lads.
I need to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of AE’s records, at most I like a few songs such as “Spilling Blood”, “Never Enough” and “Antibody”, the more poppier side of their music. AE on stage is something completely different though. Few bands can embody their music in the way they do it. While Daniel run around on stage causing loads of frustration as our photographer can’t shoot him (at least that’s what he said), Elliot more than often stands on the keyboards. Pure performative art that fits perfectly with their music, and the crowd loves it.
Unfortunately I had to leave after eight songs because of an interview with A Projection but at this point it was enough considering the heat. A beer later and we were on the way to meet up with Rikard, Linus, Jesper, Gustav and, to this show, session musician Robin (see interview).
One of the major reasons for visiting the 14th edition of Amphi was to finally see OMD. I grew up with OMD and already had “Architecture & Morality” in my record collection at a very early age and bought “Sugar Tax” during my teenage years. And what an entry they made!
If your start off with the major hit you’ve had as a band nothing can go wrong. “Enola Gay” blasts from the speakers and people remembering their teenage years (yes, the average age is above 45+) start to sing-a-long. This is also the point when the manager of Midge Ure (see interview) calls me to change the time for the interview, thus forcing me away from the stage after four songs, but I made it back to see the encore, entailing “Sailing On the Seven Seas” and “Electricity”.
Although there wasn’t time enough to attend the full concert one thing was clear. Compared to many old bands that’ve started to get quite tired on stage making mediocre performances, OMD are quite the opposite. Andy McCluskey runs around the stage with his bass just like it was the 1980s and it’s quite refreshing to see and something for many other bands to be inspired of. Some people never get tired to be on stage, that’s for sure.
Although the hectic schedule didn’t allow for much breaks, the thirty minutes between the OMD and the beginning of Midge Ure at the Theater Stage was enough to finally catch a drink in the Beach Bar and a few minutes of relaxation before the final “must see” of the day.
Midge Ure’s career is at a different level than all other bands together at this year’s festival. Starting punk/new wave act Rich Kids with Sex Pistol’s Glen Matlock in 1977, hooking up with Steve Strange and Rusty Egan to start Visage in 1979 and then offered the position as the singer in Ultravox after John Foxx left the band for his solo project. And then we haven’t considered his role in Band Aid as the songwriter of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, one of the major Christmas songs ever in the UK. Ultravox also happen to be one of my own childhood hero bands and the interview with Ure earlier in the evening is a memory that will stay for a while.
Although Midge Ure has a long solo career and a huge back catalogue to chose from, most songs were Ultravox songs. Already the beginning of the show sees his biggest solo project songs “Call of the Wild” and “If I Was” – both huge in Germany; the rest of the night was a walk down memory lane. “Fade To Grey”, “Vienna”, “The Voice”, “Hymn”, “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and many more of those songs that bring back memories of your childhood years in the ’80s blasting out of the amps, and it’s impossible to not sing-a-long.
The first day of the festival is however not over. Although there’s nothing interesting left on stage we soon found ourselves on the shuttle bus to the afterparty at the Orbit Stage, and even if the DJ’s tried their best to destroy the dance experience – why on earth do they start to play Avicii’s “Levels” in the middle of “Temple of Love”? – nothing could change the fact that I met Midge Ure (and he even signed my Roskilde Festival flag) and that the nice dude who bought me a few too many drinks made it a perfect ending of the first day at the Amphi Festival 2018.
Photographer: ©Henric Karlsson