Nils Frahm – Colston Hall, Bristol

Sunday 25th February

Nils Frahm is yet another artist I discovered thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs’ Recommends Show on 6 Music (Wednesdays midnight for an hour, or iplayer radio). He’s a genius, pure and simple. Pairing electronic wizardry with piano to make the most beautiful and sublime music that makes you glad to be alive. This gig was announced last summer and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. There was a lot of anticipation and expectation with this one. I knew it had potential to be among the most emotional and moving of all the gigs I would see this year.

With no support act and a packed hall I was nervous with excitement. Would Nils be as good as everyone said he would? Would I need the extra tissues I packed, just in case? Yes and yes. He surprised me, he delighted me, he moved me and he astounded me. In 2 hours he played some of the most wonderful music I’ve ever heard. He had an array of keyboards, pianos, gizmos, gadgets, sound boards and buttons. There was even what looked like an antique apothecary cabinet (perhaps he collects sounds in there) with draws and all sorts of things that an instrument nerd would get very excited about I expect. Whatever he touched, gorgeous sounds came out. I hadn’t expected it to be so dancey, at times I wanted to be raving in a German warehouse as if it was 1989, or for Nils to be so charming and funny. He looked like he was wrestling the machines, beating the noises out of them until he had his creation, in the ilk of a mad scientist. The passion and energy he bought to the stage was extraordinary. Being close enough to see his face, the effort, the concentration, the emotion (his eyes closed when he played piano) was thrilling. The quieter, more reflective, piano heavy songs had tears running and rolling down my cheeks. The sheer beauty of his music. I closed my eyes and felt peace and calm wash over me, lifting me higher and higher with the melody as my cloud.

The way he layers sounds over each other, on top, sliding to the sides, in and out of the tune is just magical. Building, ebbing, edging to the peak before falling and climbing again. Time and space disappeared, we were transported. The encore was stunning, he “bashed the shit out of the Steinway” with toilet brushes and his hands, before playing a duet with himself with one hand on the piano, the other on a keyboard. It was breathtaking. I’m not usually one for standing ovations, but I couldn’t have stopped myself from getting to my feet if I had tried. It was a spontaneous response to the amazing and brilliant music. I felt transformed.

On the way out I realised Nils was signing albums, an opportunity too good to miss. Now in my possession are a signed copy of All Melody and signed gig ticket. Items to be treasured. Along with the memory of Nils holding my hands in his. Those talented and amazing hands, that play piano better than anyone I’ve ever heard, that create the most incredible sounds. The memory of that moment, shared between artist and fan. Thank you Nils.

I have seen Nils Frahm live and I don’t think my life will ever be the same again. I feel about this gig the way I did after seeing El Greco’s paintings for the first time. Perspectives have shifted, the world isn’t the same again after you experience that kind of artist ecstasy.


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