Rammstein – Cardiff Principality Stadium – June 30th 2022
Armed with only an iPhone and an unerring talent for being in the wrong place at the right time Mark Bestford went in search of the hottest show in town. It’s raining fire and water, with more ticker tape than an Independence Day Parade. It’s not every day you get to witness more flames than an episode of London’s Burning in the aptly named Feuerzone at Rammstein’s own headlining show.
There are two things that have to be said about Rammstein’s show at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. It’s not a festival show, and it’s not a festival show. Rammstein is a band that hundreds of thousands of people have watched headlining festivals worldwide, but as good as their festival shows are they pale in comparison to the sheer scale of their own shows. Cardiff’s Principality Stadium is not a small venue by any standard, it holds 74,000 people, but it seems dwarfed by the sheer size of Rammstein’s stage setup. There’s no way the roof is going to be closed in the event of inclement weather as the central tower of Rammstein stage reaches into the sky like a black Eye of Sauron. The giant towers at the back of the stadium seem crammed in as well, unable to be moved any further back due to the seated stands at the back. It almost feels claustrophobic as though the band simply cannot be contained by the constraints of the stadium. The second noticeable difference is the setlist, which is more about the songs that aren’t played, than the ones that are. When this tour was first announced the band had just released their eponymous album, Rammstein. Since then they have released another album, Zeit, and with two albums to promote it’s inevitable that some songs can’t make it into the setlist. They still have crowd favourites Sonne and Links 2-3-4, but gone are Feuer frei!, Ich to dir weh, and most surprisingly the iconic Engel, along with Till Lindemann’s flame throwing angel wings.
It’s very possible the stage is simply too dangerous for any other band to perform on it, so after a warmup of Rammstein songs being performed on piano by Duo Abélard, on a small stage set out in the crowd, the main stage is set for Rammstein to the tune of Music for the Royal Fireworks, by George Frideric Handel. It’s an appropriate choice given Rammstein penchant for flames and acts as the cue for the evening’s events. Armee der Tristen works really well as an opening track and is from the new album Zeit, with the show starting with a bang, quite literally as Christoph Schneider sets of a huge explosion of fireworks on the first hit of his drums. If you’re not aware of how modern stage shows are timed this acts as the mechanism for synchronising the whole show as the first drumbeat kicks off the backing tracks and the timers for the pyrotechnics. If there are problems here the entire show can devolve into a farce. Rammstein though pride themselves on their highly technical and dramatic show and everything starts perfectly. Next up is another new track, Zick Zack. There’s no surprise here as it’s one of a handful of songs picked as singles from the album. Third track up is Links 2-3-4 and the centre of the appropriately named Feuerzone opens up for the mosh pit. It’s not as large as it would be at a festival due to the limited numbers in what has become a regular premium feature at Rammstein’s shows, but it’s every bit as energetic as you would expect and will continue for the rest of the show. Shortly afterwards and the Feuerzone earns it’s name, as the flames reach to escape from the Stadium and a wall of heat blasts over the crowd during Sehnsucht.
It’s often been said that Heavy Metal is a religion, and if so then Zeig Diche is Rammstein’s hymn as the stadium is turned into a cathedral to Metal as the Rammstein logo is turned into a giant cross and more flames explode into the sky. It’s soon followed by Mein Herz brennt, where Till jokingly tries to cover his head with his hand as it starts to rain. Thankfully it’s just a light shower and actually feels refreshing given the heat from all the flames on stage. A giant pram is then wheeled out for Puppe, with Till wearing a video camera projecting everything he sees onto the screen behind him before the pram bursts into flames.
Heirate mich plays out its disturbing tale of necrophilia, with the highpoint an explosion of black confetti that fills the Stadium from front to back and from floor to roof, like a swarm of millions of bats escaping their roost at dusk. There’s a switch from flames to jets of air for Zeit before a brief interlude as a DJ booth rises into the sky and the remix of Deutschland is played before the band returns to play the song in its original format. Next up is Radio, taken from the same album.
Just in case anyone is feeling a bit cold in the early Welsh evening Till wheels out a giant cooking pot for Mein Teil. With Christian Lorenz in the pot Till proceeds to blast it with jet after jet from his flamethrower. Not content with the flames Till then upgrades to a giant flamethrower and launches the flames at the pot from across the stage. The flames are sent back upwards and the Feuerzone is awash with heat for Du Hast as Till launches rockets into the sky triggering a chain reaction that lights the rear flame towers before returning to light up the main stage with an explosion of pyrotechnics. In case that wasn’t enough Sonne ups the flame quota again before the band disappears from the stage.
On the giant screen on the main stage a sign signals for the crowd to raise their phones and turn on their lights. From the middle of the stadium, from a second stage under one of the four large flame towers, the song Engel starts playing. There’s no metal angel wings though, this is a piano version that serves to draw the attention of the crowd as the band reappears on the second stage inviting the crowd to sing along with them. They’re soon on the move though as they board life rafts that surf over the crowd back to the main stage, to be welcomed by a stagehand bearing a sign saying “Willkommen”. Given the current refugee crisis in Ukraine the support for refugees that the band has shown for years seems more poignant, up until the moment the sign is spun round after the last band member has disembarked to show “in der dunkelheit”, welcome to the dark indeed. Back on stage the band goes into Ausl?nder with Till spinning what looks like a bow and arrow around him showering sparks like a human Catherine Wheel before the band goes into Du riechst so gut with the band members themselves lighting themselves on fire with roman candles.
It’s not Rammstein without a foam party and Pussy has become a staple of the band’s repertoire for over a decade. As the song plays Till climbs onto the giant phallus that is his foam cannon and starts to spray the crowd before it moves across the stage ensuring the entire Feuerzone gets covered in foam before the confetti cannons fire up again, this time with white confetti. As penis substitutes go it’s pretty impressive, and thankfully only shooting regular foam. Once finished the band leave once again leaving the crowd damp, covered in foam, and wanting more.
The second encore interval shows that even the band’s film crew are up for some fun as the crowd pick a random person to cheer whenever he appears on the screen. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the video editor tries to catch the crowd out as they boo every other person apart from the one person that they’ll cheer for. It makes for some light-hearted fun before the finale. For those of you wondering what Till could ever replace the angel wings from Engel with, the band are now about to show you. The song Rammstein now takes centre stage as Till walks out with arguably the most impressive pyrotechnic display the band has ever put on, a peacock fan of nine flamethrowers strapped to his back that shoot flames twenty feet in an arc around him as every fireball the stadium has is launched into the air at the same time. As impressive as his flame gauntlets were in previous years when playing this song they simply cannot compete with the new stage show. For those at the front it’s enough to draw sweat as the heat is almost unbearable. For spectacle it cannot be beaten. Where Rammstein was all about the flames Ich Will is all about the lights as the stadium is lit up by the lighting rig onstage and punctuated by explosions of sparks. Rather appropriately the last song of the set is Adieu, which while not in itself a heavy song doesn’t stop the band going out in style as every light is used to light up the crowd and the flames rise up to the sky to set the twin spires on the central tower alight. After saying their goodbyes the band get into the tower lift before being taken up until they disappear behind the screen and as they reach the top of the tower there’s one final explosion to signal that the concert is over.
As concerts go this was without doubt one of the biggest spectacles witnessed. A stage setup that is gargantuan in proportion, with lighting on an equally massive scale. But even the staging and lights pale in comparison to the sheer scale of Till Lindeman’s pyromania, with flames visible high above the stadium for miles around. The band has always innovated and tried to improve their show from year on year, but short of actually firing flames over the crowd it’s going to take something particularly amazing to better their current show. Forget going to see them at a festival, book your ticket for the Feuerzone and brush up on your German, Rammstein are the hottest band on the planet right now.
Words and photos: Mark Bestford