The Volksbuehne is an impressive place. Even without the history, just walking across the large open ground before the place with its five storey high pillars demands a feeling of, if not awe, certainly respect. The fact that Lonski and Classen chose here to put on their record release party seemed to be a statement. To put things up a notch.
The doors opened at seven. Unusual to say the least for a band concert. We got there spot on time and of course there was no one around. We went for a drink elsewhere and came back for eight. This was more like it. People hanging out in the unseasonably warm weather outside. We went through the doors and lo and behold, more people. The name Lonski and Classen was postered reassuringly on the walls. After a quick drink a bell pinged and we were ushered into the theatre itself. Plush seating rising up in an amphitheatre, a large stage with a drumkit and two keyboards, guitars, a couple of amps.
The show opened up with the support act, Miranda. Miranda is Scandinavian, short, and sings wonderfully. First with a string quartet backing her up, then by herself, and then out trot Lonski and Classen – to applause – who play unshowingly behind her. This is typical Lonski and Classen – there aren’t many acts who, when playing at their own record release party in a big and impressive theatre space, would abandon their own egos so unregardingly to trot out before their go on stage to play backing for their own support act. And then to trot off again after the two or three songs that they backed Miranda up on, without making any show of it.
After Miranda played capably, there was a brief pause, and then Lonski and Classen came out again – to rapturous applause – together with a keyboardist, and launched into the first of what would be a series of songs that showcased their versatility, their inventive playfulness, and their lack of egotism. Which showcased also the warmth of regard in which their public hold them. Because Lonski and Classen are one of those bands that you’ve known for ages, and who you’ve always wanted the best for. They’re those kind of people. Everyone in the sizable crowd seemed to be – or to feel themselves to be – their friend, and of course they were. Lonski and Classen played at times by themselves, at times with the male keyboardist, at times with Miranda singing backup, and a little with the string quartet there. There was a man who joined them for one extended song jam, playing some strange sort of electronic instrument which seemed not to create its own sounds but to take sounds that had been there before and to warp and re-energise them. If anyone knows what this man was playing, please tell me….
And there was of course the ever-present Lonski and Classen humour. At the beginning of one song they start off playing and of Lukas misses the cue. They go on for a few bars, then Classen waves his hand and stops playing. Whispered discussion. “Just follow me, it’s easy,” announces Felix to Lukas. They get it right.
Having known Lonski and Classen for over a decade now, I can hark back to when they first landed in Berlin and when they first started playing small Berlin gigs. In fact I had the pleasure of sharing a rehearsal room with them when they first started properly concentrating on pursuing their musical vision. Not that they had never played before – they had known each other since childhood – but now they were in Berlin, and after a couple of years of concentrating on a project to bring Berlin’s street music scene to the masses (which is how I met them in the first place) they had decided to start playing properly. I got to jam with them a few times too, but they were such a tight duo with such a high level of instinctive communication between them that it was obvious that that was what they were going to be – a duo.
I can’t say that I’ve been at every one of their gigs through the years, but they were one of the few bands who were always absolutely true to themselves. They have always been inventive, relentlessly exploring their own muse, utterly sure of where they were going, unique, 100 percent themselves.
Now after more than a decade and three albums, a world tour in support of Yann Tiersen, and a steadily evolving and shifting sound, Lonski and Classen seem to have truly arrived. All Tomorrow is Illusion, the album that they showcased on Sunday night, finds them more mature, still sounding like no one else except themselves, still on their relentless musical journey.
All Tomorrow is Illusion is out everywhere you can think of on the 14th March.