Atlanta, GA, The Masquerade 12/13/2011
After a month of journeying around the nation, electronic music legends VNV Nation and German electro/dance duo Straftanz brought the first leg of their American tour to the capital of the South – Atlanta, GA – at the renowned Masquerade. Both VNV and Straftanz had new albums to contribute, which meant plenty of new content for the audience to enjoy, and the bands certainly weren’t going to keep everyone waiting for it.
Straftanz led off the night with high energy music and seriously engaging the crowd. The music was pounding, the vocals were shouting, and the flat-top haircut was refreshingly retro. While they could have done with a slightly more developed stage show, Straftanz kept the audience entertained as they pranced and pounded around the stage, belting out their lyrics to new tracks such as “Die Neu F-Klasse” and “Du Stirbst Aus” and old favorites like the eponymous “Straftanz” and the ever classic “Tanz Kaputt, Was Euch Kaputt Macht!”
The catwalk of the Masquerade’s upstairs stage is directly between the stage and the audience, positioned just slightly below the stage level. This gives the photographers an upward angle for pictures, which inherently gives all photo subjects a larger-than-life feel. When VNV Nation took the stage, that feeling transformed into a full-on godlike quality. Between the charisma and force of Ronan Harris, the power and stature of Mark Jackson, the sweeping grace of the music, and the magnificent L.E.D light show (which it sadly seems only a few artists can get just right), VNV Nation launched a night of epic proportions. The band gave a range of songs for the audience, from brand new gems like “Control” and “Space & Time,” to recent hits like “Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Chrome,” and “Illusion,” to old pleasers like “Darkangel,” “Standing,” and “Epicentre.”
In between songs, Harris engaged the crowd with tales of previous shows, educating newcomers on how to act at a VNV show (“dance, cheer, sing”) and entertaining everyone with strange stories, such as the balloon animal maker who crafted a color-coded strand of DNA per Harris’ request. The audience remained enraptured through every minute. VNV Nation has by far the most obliging and obedient fans in the genre, willing to engage on cue and perfectly synchronized to the commands that Ronan doles out.
The band departed the stage only to be summoned back for an encore of “Legion,” “Streamline” (which had never before been performed live, thus requiring Harris to check the lyrics via his smart phone), and “Honour.” It’s worth noting that (for now) this show is the closest VNV has gotten to their “January 2012” line becoming reality. But one encore wasn’t enough, and the crowd demanded more until they returned to the stage for Round 2… but not until live keyboardist Mike Wimer proposed to his girlfriend to the cheers of the crowd. Following her most ecstatic agreement, VNV Nation aptly launched into “Beloved,” followed by their new track “Nova” and ending with their trademarked ending of “Perpetual,” during which Harris filmed the ending via a camera from the audience and led the whole crowd in an a cappella wrap up of the “never ending light” refrain. With his voice full of emotion, Harris thanked the crowd for a most memorable performance to wrap up the tour.
Zak Vaudo (Chaostar)