Neubauten at The Cat Club in NYC, 1986, via Seele Brennt
Everyone and her uncle should seize the opportunity to see Einstürzende Neubauten play. Both of the shows I’ve seen were spellbinding. When it comes to jamming on air conditioners, those “cats” can really “blow,” and theirs is a singular beauty; it’s not like you can just go see the tribute band at the county fair instead.
While there are many historic Neubauten shows I would give a tooth to have attended, their November 19, 1983 gig in Oslo, Norway is not one of them. At that particular fun hootenanny, member Andrew (“N.U.”) Unruh threw Molotov cocktails into the crowd, like as in directly aimed them at human beings in the audience (“with a tight safety margin,” Blixa is careful to add). Here are Blixa Bargeld and FM Einheit’s memories of that show from the now scarce band-sanctioned oral history, No Beauty without Danger:
FM EINHEIT In Oslo, Norway, we played a gallery and chased people with Molotov cocktails. They also defended themselves: for instance, by trying to attack us with the ship turbine, which was actually one of our instruments. It was a pretty good riot in Oslo. That was fun.
BLIXA BARGELD For this show Andrew had prepared 20 Molotov cocktails. And Andrew actually made the audience run by throwing Molotov cocktails aimed right at them. They kept trying to escape but he followed them around the hall and, with a tight safety margin, threw burning gasoline bottles at them. That was great. One of the reasons I got kicked out of school was because I had started a fire. My expulsion had already been decided upon anyway, so I didn’t have anything to lose. But I was still the student body president, and tried to enforce my pseudo-democratic rights by decorating a “Schülermitverwaltungsversammlung”, a kind of student council assembly, with a fire bombing - in which no one was hurt - because I was no longer allowed to take part in the assembly. Fire is a medium of transformation. Fire, as an element of our lyrics and as part of the Einstürzende Neubauten stage show, accompanied us for quite a while. It was mainly Andrew who lit fires on stage. And then at some point we had to stop, because we realized that our audience practically expected this incendiarism from us. That’s when it started to get dull. But it was good, as long as we didn’t control it and so long as it wasn’t expected from us. It was normally Andrew’s job to set fires, and it began on his initiative.
Icelandic TV broadcast a couple minutes of that night’s performance of “Sehnsucht.” You can’t see any Molotov cocktails, but the show sure does look like it’s heading in that direction.
Einstürzende Neubauten’s most recent album is 2014’s Lament.