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Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld - Howard Assembly Room, Leeds September 26 2014 (Live Review)

Thursday, 02 October 2014 Written by Ben Bland

Photos (Main/Inset): Danny Payne/Opera North

Some artists deserve their reputations, while others are labelled incorrectly their whole careers. Blixa Bargeld, former Bad Seed and frontman of German avant-garde industrial legends Einstürzende Neubauten, is generally seen as a serious character, no doubt thanks to the abrasive character of much of his musical output over the years.

Tonight, though, Leeds sees a rather different Blixa Bargeld to the forbidding presence that many in the audience perhaps expect. Dapper as ever and dressed all in black, Bargeld opens the evening by referring to the previous time he was in the city, with Einstürzende Neubauten in 1983. When an audience member shouts out to demonstrate his attendance that time around, Bargeld goes to shake him by the hand.

It’s a gesture that sums up an intimate evening of music. Teho Teardo, the Italian composer with whom Bargeld is currently collaborating, is on guitar and samples for the night, with cellist Martina Bertoni providing textural depth.

It has to be said that the sound of tracks from last year’s debut ‘Still Smiling’ and this year’s ‘Spring’ EP is replicated perfectly in the room with the finest sound in Leeds.

Bargeld’s vocals, delivered in English, German and Italian, sit atop a bed of melodic yet uneasy music. His delivery is largely restrained, but occasionally he breaks cover and unleashes an inhuman shriek (Axolotl) or transports his seemingly innocent words into sinister territory with hoarse snarls (Still Smiling).

Cello plucks and scrapes flicker around the auditorium, immersing the audience in the compositions, while Teardo’s impressive soundscapes hold the pieces together. When a string quartet clambers on stage two-thirds of the way through the set, the effect is only amplified.

The atmosphere is relaxed throughout, and Bargeld is clearly in a buoyant mood. He talks easily between songs and is often uproariously funny. He’s always had a light side but, without the more imposing backdrop of Neubauten, he seems far more human than his legendary status usually allows. Teardo is clearly a great musical foil for him but there’s a warmth to their shared glances and words on stage that also suggests that at the heart of this project is a very genuine friendship, which no doubt helps both to enjoy their performances to this extent.

The encore ends with album closer Defenestrazioni, in which an ‘interviewer’ interjects into proceedings. “Will you return to play with Nick?” the voice asks. Bargeld ignores it. “Since F. M. Einheit left I think your music has softened a lot,” the voice continues. “Is that a question?” Bargeld responds drily.

The song fades out with the sound of cheers and with Bargeld intoning final words of triumph. It’s stirring stuff and proves beyond any remaining doubt that both Teardo and Bargeld have more than a streak of genius in them. It’s an honour to be in their presence.


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