When we were shushed by the musician we were about to spend two hours watching (oh, the lower back pain!) I sort of knew this wasn’t going to be my kind of thing. I’m sure the shushing was in jest – in the same way he joked about how he uses his concerts to practice for his album. But the troubling thing was that I became unsure of whether he really was joking.
I’m talking about Nils Frahm at the Roundhouse on Friday. As he began with his moody, slow piano intro, a friend turned to me and said she felt like she was in a Sigur Rós video because of all the background whispering from the crowd. Said whispering continued to be a problem for most of those in our vicinity and was met with many an English hard stare or in worse cases, a tut! Some turned their heads dramatically to draw attention to their mild irritation. It was an odd atmosphere to say the least, and I spent most of it feeling like I was desperately trying to stifle my giggles so as not to let out a mighty guffaw at the weirdness of the situation. It was like being back in assembly.
And as much as everyone around us seemed determined to enjoy it, the most even they could muster was a steady head nod or a bit of a vague shoulder-sway. This was just not a standing gig, so well done to those of you who booked seated tickets. We were probably also to blame for having spent so long at the pub and then faffing around at the cloakroom that we were condemned to barely being able to see A THING for the duration, only made worse when an extremely tall man wearing a t-shirt with barbed wire printed all over it (hint?) came and stood right in front of me. I think if we had been close enough to see what Frahm was actually doing on stage (there is no question of his incredible technical and musical ability – I do have a heart) it would have been more affecting, but as it was, this was a bit lost on us too. Shame really, because is music is so, so beautiful. Especially when you’re sitting on a chair.
But I was reluctant to write it off as quickly as some other people clearly had. In fact, as we left for a little sit down the people even further back than us – i.e. at the bar – were having conversations more or less at full volume. So after a break I was determined to pay more attention to the music and was struck by how powerful Frahm’s music is when it really gets going. As the bass grumbled and rattled my ribcage, I did feel something (awe?) but I was quickly distracted by how ridiculously over-excited the front section of the crowd were becoming. I just felt like I was missing something.
The build up was always too long for me. Maybe I have a poor attention span, but I like a build up to deliver results fairly swiftly – thanksverymuch – and not after half an hour of intro. But this isn’t what Frahm’s music is about. And that’s okay! Just not for me at a standing gig. Next time, I’ll take a bean bag along and I’m sure I’ll love it.
Photos (taken in somewhat adverse circumstances) courtesy of the lovely Vivianne Picard, check out her work here: