Sunday, 8 September 2013

MG live at the Oval Space, London 2013

It's that time of the year again when I say Happy Birthday, Mr. Manuel Gottsching. Have a great day!

I now hand over to two friends, both of whom had the great pleasure of attending Manuel's live show at the Oval Space in London last Thursday night (5th September 2013). The review below was written by Robert Forsyth and all of the photographs in this post appear courtesy of Stephen Iliffe. Thank you both, for generously allowing me to post your fine work here...
One of the warmest nights of the year heralded Manuel Gottsching's return to London and what a triumphant return it was!

I have been a devotee of Gottsching's music since being introduced to Blackouts by my old friend, Tony Bell, back in 1978, who, happily, joined me for the Oval show. New Age of Earth followed and I was hooked. But, having missed the Ash Ra Tempel performance in London in 2000 (for which I remain bitterly disappointed), it was not until going to Scotland in the starkly different climate of December 2010 that I finally had the opportunity to see the man play in the intimate, subterranean atmosphere of the Stereo bar in Glasgow. For Tony, London was his first such occasion: 'I've waited 30 years for this...' he remarked, smiling, as we left the bar and headed towards the 'Space'.
London was to be different, but equally impressive. First opening in April 2012, the Oval Space, on the eastern fringes of the capital, offers a much larger venue and defines itself as an 'evolving multi-use arts and events space in the heart of Bethnal Green'.

Following an impressive and inventive deep house set by fellow Germans, Henrik Schwarz and Frank Wiedemann, a little after ten p.m., the lights darkened and the 'Space' filled with around 400 music fans. Up front, very close to the stage and looking around me at the faces in the red glow of the lights, one could detect an air of excitement and anticipation. It was evident that some knew what to expect and some didn't.

Manuel Gottsching stepped up to the stage, unannounced, and the place erupted. Gottsching bowed and took his seat, leaned over his laptop and went to work. His area of the stage was spartan: aside from his 'desk', there was a Novation X-Station 49 keyboard and a Gibson SG. The 'Space' was slowly consumed with the pulsing, almost forbidding opening beats of 'Big Birds' - a piece he first played in Berlin in 1979 and which I had not previously heard. For me, it was wonderful to hear MG-ART music that did I not have in my collection and it made the evening even more stimulating. I sensed the audience too, perhaps many for the first time, found it spell-binding. 
Up next, a smiling, but perhaps slightly overwhelmed Gottsching introduced 'Shuttlecock', and judging by the reaction, it was clearly a favourite with many of the Italian fans who happened to be present. It was a superb rendition - vibrant and fresh, with a rich and contemporary edge to it that really pleased the crowd. Then, for me the highlight of the evening came, with a truly memorable and extended performance of 'Midnight on Mars' in which Gottsching played the guitar exquisitely. By this stage, many of the club scene audience in attendance were dancing and soaking up something that was truly special and sublime.
Gottsching then offered his thanks and added how good it was to be back in London, a place that he did not visit perhaps as much as he should, but which, he commented, had nevertheless played an important part in his career. Tonight was about looking back on that career and playing some 'old pieces and some new pieces'.

Then it was 'Trunky Groove' - a rumbling, mesmerising 'groove' that just seemed 'right' for the majority of the audience. This is Gottsching's key. Invention, adaptability, re-invention, timelessness. Loud applause. Finally his 90-minute set ended with a new synthesiser/guitar piece, whose title escaped me in the noise of the crowd, but which I truly hope may appear on a future recording.
Manuel Gottsching bowed, smiled, waved and left the stage. I caught him above the heads of the crowd being whisked off through a side door. He left with a backward glance, another smile and another wave. Gone, but hopefully he'll be back a'fore long.

'Wow...', breathed Tony. Thirty years and it was worth every minute.'

I'll second that.

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