Mar 2012 14

Washington, DC, The 9:30 Club 12/06/2011


The 9:30 Club stands as the Washington Metropolitan area’s longest standing and more diverse venues. Bands and artists from virtually every genre across the board have performed here, attracting crowds from all scenes and walks of life. As regular guests and champions of the underground electro scene, VNV Nation stood poised to unleash another tour de force performance on the Automatic Tour with relative newcomers Straftanz. To look at the audience, it was a decisively mixed bag full of longtime fans, newbie hipsters, and curiosity seekers, all awaiting what promised to be a powerful helping of electronic melody and energy.


Alas, this writer missed the pleasure of Straftanz’s opening performance, relegating this article to simply expound on the word of those in attendance. Hailing from Germany, Straftanz joins in the ranks of the new electronic scene, incorporating the harsher elements of industrial with danceable EBM. Unlike the headlining act, the duo of Kai Schwenkler and Jörg Lütkemeir focus more on aggressive delivery of driving rhythms and guttural vocals akin to the likes of Suicide Commando, Soman, or [:SITD:]. Focusing their live show on the interplay between Schwenkler on vocals and the audience, with Lütkemeir wielding his arsenal of synthesized attacks and occasionally joining in some shouting to keep the crowd revved up. One could smell the adrenaline in the air after Straftanz’s performance, marking their appearance on this tour a ready success that will surely see the band making waves on future tours.


In the course of almost two decades, VNV Nation has risen from the depths of underground obscurity to skating the edge of mainstream success. Evolving from the murky production of their early EBM days to creating the style of melodic electro now known as futurepop, the duo of Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson have fashioned themselves into perhaps the biggest electronic act in the world. If you’ve seen a VNV performance before, then you know you’re in for an entertaining show indeed. For the Automatic Tour, the band pulled all the stops and then some, beginning with the powerful “Chrome.” The cheers of the crowd threatened to overpower the music, but VNV kept the energy on high throughout. Bearing the same stage setup as the previous tour, the L.E.D. light display flashing the lyrics and the band’s logo for all to enjoy and adding a rallying quality akin to – in this writer’s mind – a Laibach show, though less militaristic in nature. Keyboardists Mike Wimer and Gabriel Shaw also return, flanking Jackson who stood tall front and center with his ever reliable percussive barrage. And of course, the always lively Ronan Harris commanded the crowd as vigorously as ever, pacing and dancing across the stage, enticing people to join in the celebration of music and hopes for a better world.


It wouldn’t be the Automatic Tour without a few selections from that album, and while its more polished and poppy atmosphere may only add to the dismay of purists who insist on stagnating in the glory of the band’s harsher past, this crowd embraced new songs like “Space & Time” and “Control” as wholeheartedly as classics like “Honour” and “Standing.” With fists pumping and boots stomping, it seemed that nobody was left unsatisfied, reveling in the pulsating beats and sequences of such pleasers as “Epicentre,” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” and “Darkangel.” Harris’ bravado and magnetism onstage remains as fervent as ever, speaking to the crowd between songs and always involving the fans in the proceedings, proving that VNV Nation are as appreciative of the audience as the audience is of the band.


Unfortunately, the night had to come to an early close for this writer (it was a rather cold Tuesday night), but if the cheers of the crowd and past VNV shows are any indication, the encores beheld even more enjoyment, with “Perpetual” being the almost assured closer as it has been since the song was first unveiled in 2004. In many regards, Harris and Jackson with their cohorts are running on a formula that is tried and true, riding out their continuing fortunes for every second they are worth and giving the fans the most bang for their bucks. The Automatic Tour may not yield any great changes for VNV Nation, but it is a testament to the band’s consistency and reliability as purveyors of melodic electro. In a word: Bravo!


Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by Katherine Gaines (AmbientEye)
Courtesy of AmbientEye Photography –

VNV Nation


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