Monday, 19 August 2013

Live: M'era Luna 2013 : Day 2

Hildesheim Flugplatz 
Day 2 : Sunday 11th August 2013 

It has to be said that Day one hit some heights, it really did. The mainstage programme was mouth-watering (especially the back to back of Mesh/Saltatio Mortis/Cruxshadows/Mono Inc.) and even HIM delivered the goods.

Assorted bands on Day two could have gone either way – which 69 Eyes would turn up? What sort of set would Apoptygma Berzerk churn out? Could Zeromancer fill the void left by IAMX’s withdrawal? Well, these are amongst the questions we set to find out on our picks for day two.

Coppelius : we're not steampunk we're 1920's reenactors
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Coppelius were third on the mainstage and the first to develop any sort of crowd.  Quite a large crowd for lunchtime – had it not been that most of the following bands had similar crowds then they’d have a big argument for a higher bill position.   They’d fit in very well within the Steampunk scene, clothing and attire is akin to 1920’s Berlin (so it says in their bio) as they set out with courteous gentlemen and their Butler. Even their stage crew are in appropriate dress! They come armed with Cello, Double Bass and clarinets – but – boy – do they rock with them! They are really on the ball with the aesthetics and presentation and no wonder they got such a big response.

The 69 Eyes : yeah, we're Vampires.... honest...
Photo by Christoph Eisenmenger
Next up, sponsored by Just for Men, is Dad-Rock assemble The 69 Eyes. They’re today’s embarrassment. As per their last appearance here, they drop most of their recent output and instead take most of their set from the ‘Blessed Be’ album, which is now thirteen years old. So, it’s all ‘Gothic Girl’, ‘Brandon Lee’ and ‘The Chair’ kinda Gawth set. They’re really getting a bit too old to still be doing the whole “Helsinki Vampires” bullshit, sorry guys – vampires don’t age: you do!  You even now dance round the stage like a Dad dancing at a wedding. It’s just not graceful, it’s not even disgraceful in a rock n roll way. With the drummer dropping his sticks constantly and more cliché’s than Spinal Tap – all we’re missing is a mini Stonehenge with Dwarves dancing round it (oh wait, that was Ost+Front yesterday). They were MUCH better last time, but this is just cringe worthy.

Another band having issues with new material is Clan of Xymox – it’s not going down very well. Surprising, ‘Emily’ is a cracking tune – it’s got that core hint of what CoX have always been about, with some fresher sounding synths to keep them relevant! A lacklustre response to the early part of the set does little to lift glum Goth faces, but it does become a set of two halves, they can barely get a clap going in the first half, but when they peddle out ‘Louise’ and ‘Jasmine and Rose’ it’s full on Gothic Party Time. Their cover of ‘Venus’ rounds off the set emphatically, a far cry from their tough start. 

Apoptygma Berzerk : Back to the Future(Pop)
Photo by Bernd Zahn
It’s fairly interesting if you follow the history of Apoptygma Berzerk – arguably, at their peak, one of the biggest bands on the scene. Hell, they played places like the main room in Nottingham Rock City back in the day – they headlined Infest… while last year lost out to a slot at Infest on a band poll won by XP8. Obviously XP8 are a great band – but it shows how APB have lost some stock over the years. Their secret has always been a clever one, rather than being completely innovative off their own backs, they’ve looked to what is popular and successful and just done it better. So they’ve swung from darkwave into future-pop into indie-synth territory.  It hasn’t always worked though, each swing has cost them fans as well as made them new ones – so when they swung into future-pop with ‘Welcome to Earth’ they picked up more fans than they lost – but however great ‘You and Me Against The World’ or ‘Rocket Science’ actually were, they swung away from their fanbase and didn’t really do enough to make new fans. Today, they’re suffering a form of amnesia as they’ve forgotten anything from the last two albums and have gone back to the future-pop – ‘Eclipse’, ‘Starsign’ and ‘Until the End of the World’ are all pure party anthems.   The band has seen a few line-up changes since the last album, Angel left the band but is now back on guitar is a temporary measure whilst the absence of Gier on keyboards is filled with Stephan’s brother Jonas. Jonas is very lively on stage and is good as working the crowd as Stephan, good job he’s got his own band else Stephan would be under threat!  
The show is carried out with minimal production, no screens or OTT light shows of days gone by – the focus solely on the songs and the partying. Although the last two albums were disregarded, there is one nod of new material as the band played their new single, ‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’ – a cover of the Peter Schilling track. It’s another uplifting track to bounce along to, the song was a big hit in Germany and the crowd gobbles up Apop’s version.

Zeromancer : we're not IAMX, but we can rock...
Photo by Jesko Doering
Poor Chris Corner has had prolonged ill-health and sadly this has meant IAMX have had to cancel a few shows, including M’era Luna. This has meant that Zeromancer have stepped in, at under a week’s notice. Eek! However, the end response is they are genuinely humbled by the response. “We’re sorry we’re not IAMX” greeted with a heckle of “We forgive you!” and it is wall to wall people in the Hangar. Of course, this is helped that Zeromancer bring their A-Game.  They knew they’d have to work harder and that is exactly what they do, they pour themselves into the hour long performance. They also do this whilst avoiding just doing a ‘hits’ or ‘early years’ set – so yeah, everyone knows ‘God Bless the Models’ and ‘Clone Your Lover’ – but the likes of ‘The Hate Alphabet’, ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Boy’ and ‘Sinners International’ are well received. Perhaps these albums have been better promoted in Germany than they have in the UK… there’s a bit of range to their industrial-metal stylings, sure there are heavier and upbeat moments like the classic ‘Dr Online’, but they pull off the more calm and melodic ‘Cupula’ and ‘The Tortured Artist’ with a sleak perfection. They probably didn’t envision such a good response to their set, but with the effort they put into it, it was certainly deserved.

A quick passing note on Front 242. They don’t work in broad daylight.

Nightwish : Bye, bye beautiful?!
Photo by Bernd Zahn
The final band of M’era Luna 2013 was Nightwish – it’s also the last date on their Imaginaerum world tour and subsequently billed as Floor Jansen’s last date fronting the band. For those not following the story, Annette left the band on mutual agreement prior to the Imaginaerum tour and Floor stood in as a temporary measure (well, temporary being the year and a half the tour needed!). There is, however, something missing in the emotion tonight. It’s either not that big a deal she’s departing, or maybe they’ve already discussed her staying on longer – it certainly didn’t have an emotional farewell feel about it. Vocally, she would be a great addition to the band – her range from high to low is much wider than Annette’s and her renditions of tracks like ‘Ghost Love Score’ and ‘Dark Chest of Wonders’ are simply mouth-watering. Not even the rain, the only real downpour  of the weekend, dampens the spirits of the thousands who’ve come to watch them. It seems now that Floor has become a “fans choice” for new frontwoman, as she wins over the crowd with such ease and generates such a good reception for each number. Sometimes bands can look tired at the end of long tours, but Nightwish generally look on the ball. Marco’s booming vocals explode on ‘I Wish I Had an Angel’ and the band hit top form as they power through many of their bigger numbers. It’s an impressive spectacle to end the weekend, not just is there the power of the music, but the video screens take you (literally) through their rollercoaster ride. 
The set finishes with ‘Last Ride of the Day’ – certainly an apt song to finish a set with, although is it more apt because it’s Floor’s last show? It’s supposed to be – but the farewell speech seemed to be lacking something, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if she stays on as a vocalist for sure.

So, M’era Luna 2013. Sold out, 25,000 people. Some utterly excellent performances over the weekend.  Not bad for a dying scene. Of course this year they had unlocked some bands that were overdue a return rather than relying on the same old names. 2014 will be their 15th Anniversary, the first twelve names have been announced: I wonder what else will be announced to keep up this momentum?

Kevin Morris

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