Sturm und Drang

Ian MacDonald

NME, Nov 1973

This same concert was also reviewed by Steve Peacock

"I never expected anything like this," exclaimed a small enthusiastic person who occupied the seat next to mine in Plymouth's famous Guildhall on May 19 last. The occasion was Faust's first British gig ever, their fourth appearance on a live stage of any kind and by far the most exciting musical event I personally have witnessed for the past three years.

But I can tell you one thing. I was worried. I was warned about the person on my right (not the enthusiastic one but another one on the other side) and the band. I had heard all about German bands. They were, I fondly believed, the type of people who put pictures of ketchup-covered ears fin the sleeves of their albums or appeared on stage in jackboots and gold laderhosen. Furthermore (yet more of my fond belief) they were very 'eavy and had no sense of humour. These qualities, along with the boots, I felt sure they shared with the person sitting next to me I was worried about, a very greasy-haired individual wearing a vilely studded leather jacket. As soon as I sat down and took in my surroundings, there grew within me the conviction that I was in for an evening of very boring excruciating pain.

Even in retrospect, it is difficult to decide where my chief surprise lay. To my intense delight, Faust's music on that guilded evening established them beyond any question as the doyen of the German bands. Their protracted, electronic, often entirely a-rhythmic, music was never ponderous, never over-weighty. It was, on the contrary, light, delicately conceived and often humorous. I was amazed and I continued in that state (rare indeed for a sceptic such as I) for two hours, when the music stopped and I received my second great surpnse.

The audience was pretty well sharply divided into small enthusiastic people (all from good homes) and surly artisans with leather jackets. I myself was stateless. But, after the performance, not an artisan moved a muscle. Gentlemanly young hippies though were everywhere, rushing into the aisles to perform their wild licentious dances during the rapturously received encore. My companion would have done so too had not an astonishing blow from the man on my right felled him where he sat.

The audience I shall never understand. But prompted by the concert, I listened to Faust on record. They are magificent.

Ian MacDonald, "Sturm und Drang", NME 1973, © New Musical Express