Can you do a gig that packs out a spacious venue and comes across as intimate? Mike Featherstone saw Lambchop with their cake – but he’s not sure they ate it.
Lambchop’s new album Flotus was a whatever-the-weather highlight of a tempestuous 2016. Their first Berlin show at Heimathafen was a sell-out, so they added another date. But they shook it up: by the next evening, the Neukolln venue was packed out with over four hundred chairs.
The setlist itself comprised of tracks mostly from last year’s vocoder infused release Flotus. At first glance the album appears to be heavy on politics with tracks Jfk and The Hustle. When you actually listen, it feels like a more personal experience, with soothing vocals from Kurt Wagner’s featuring his trademark lyrical wit.
So presumably the seating arrangements were put in place to bring out this intimacy – quite a challenge in the signature soaring vaults of Heimathafen. A sweet idea, but its execution was unfortunately not all there. Taking away the audience’s use of their legs inevitably loses some energy, and that was a loss which was never made up for.
The first weakness in the live act was actually all down to the strength of the album. More specifically, Flotus‘ excellent post-production proved too difficult to render on stage, and the result was a loss of momentum. This was painfully obvious in the 10+ minute tracks The Hustle and In Care of 8675309, which were crying out for some sort of dynamics that never came.
For me, my love of Lambchop was what kept me engaged. But the same couldn’t be said for the punters sitting near the bar, who had a tendency to chatter. And you couldn’t really blame them, because they could hardly hear a thing at the back. The music was too timidly amplified for such a bold venue choice and such a crowd.
Tentatively, Kurt made an announcement in between songs, with a wry laugh on his lips: “You can stand up and dance if you like, for the upbeat numbers.” It needed a firm delivery to get the comfortable crowd on their feet. But it was a touch too blasé. So nobody stood up to dance.
Kurt’s wonderful honesty and humour prevailed, and it was a truly charming Lambchop show in many ways. But a few unfortunate practical details got in the way, easily correctable things. I loved it; I just feel it could have been much more.