Nils Frahm – Hammersmith Apollo, London

Wednesday December 5th, 2018

As if the viral illness I had a few weeks ago hadn’t been enough, this week I came down with a rotten cold. Which isn’t a lot of fun for an asthmatic. For pretty much anyone else I would have cancelled going. Not Nils. No, not Nils.

After seeing him give such a stunning performance in Bristol in February I’ll admit that I was nervous about buying tickets to see him again. When someone has been spellbinding and magical to see live once there is the fear that they won’t be so again. This was also London and usually London gigs aren’t my favourites. But. But Nils.

The Eventim Apollo to give it its current name is another of London’s iconic venues. If you are anyone you’ve played there, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Dizzy Gillespie and and and. I’ve only been there once before, for Starsailor in December of 2004 which was a brilliant night, but I was young and excitable and at the front of the standing stalls then. Tonight, much older I was seated in the balcony above. Which gave a great view of Nils in full flow, as well as the endless stream of blokes heading to the gents. The odd exception aside who may have an actual bladder or bowel issue, I’ve never seen so many men unable to sit in their seats. It was ridiculous. Either drink less, lads, or train your bladders. It’s disruptive and rude to the rest of the audience. If Ken Dodd’s very elderly audiences could sit for hours during his shows, you can manage a 90 minute gig in future alright? And as for the bloke behind me giving a running commentary for the last half hour, no-one gives a fuck what you think during the show, shut up.

Right, negatives out of the way. Nils was amazing. How could he not be? Even when ‘the little drum machine I wanted to play for you’ went wrong, nothing was spoiled as Nils played a beautiful and sublime solo piano piece while the technicians fixed whatever the problem was. Everything was handled with grace and humour from Nils, what an absolute sweetheart he is. From the balcony vantage point I could appreciate more the physicality of his playing, as if he was wrestling the sounds out of the various instruments or bringing to life his magnificent creation. Samples, keyboards, drum loops, harmonising voices without words, piano, synths and whatever other amazing sound creation devices he had up there on the stage were mixed together with an alchemy only  genius can muster. Buttons were pressed, levers switched, knobs pulled and keys caressed to build melody and pour beauty into our ears.

Time simultaneously stood still and flew as I was transported and transfixed by the beauty I was hearing. After what could have been either 10 minutes or 2 hours it was all over and time to come down to Earth from whichever celestial plane we had been floating on.

I wasn’t well. The interruptions and general atmosphere weren’t the hushed reverence Nils deserved, but his music is such perfection that it almost didn’t matter. There is no way it could have been as special as the first time I saw him had been, but Nils Frahm live is always going to be a special prospect.

I had to be up and on a 6.45am train the next morning to get back to Bristol in time for work. To do that when I wasn’t well. Nils was worth it. Nils would always be worth it. Now who wants to buy me a ticket for his tour next year? I promise you Nils Frahm live is going to be worth showing up for.



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