Enveloped in late autumn fog, the East Village’s Webster Hall hosted Berlin techno luminary Paul Kalkbrenner on Thursday, December 5th. This night- as well as this debut North American tour- was long overdue as Kalkbrenner has been crafting techno for a dozen years that has managed to be gritty yet melodically rich, frenetic yet uncluttered and driving yet unhurried.
Bathed in blues and reds, Kalkbrenner got things off the ground by playing his eerie unreleased remix of Depeche Mode’s “Should Be Higher” before gracefully easing in to the chugging “Dockyards,” the first appearance of material from his 2004 Self album. To be clear, the German is not a DJ. A Kalkbrenner gig is a dizzying, captivating performance as the man is constantly in motion- warping elements and shifting levels on the knobs of his analog mixer. Nodding all the while, the man is joyously immersed in his craft.
Violin flourishes accented the jubilant march of “Kleines Bubu” before the set sharply ramped up with a thunderous rework of Moby’s “Wait for Me.” Every single kick drum could be felt in the ribcage while Kalkbrenner took great pleasure in adding extra wonky echoes to the swirling female vocals. One of the most inspired moments of the set occurred when the delicate, clicky “Since 77” was placed among the jazzy “Schmokelung” and the blitzkrieg raid, “Trummerung.” Daring indeed but wildly successful.
It was a foregone conclusion that the set would end with “Sky and Sand” which became a fixture in the German Top 100 singles chart for over 127 weeks. How could it not? With cell phones aloft, the crowd sang along with every word of younger brother Fritz Kalkbrenner’s vocals. The crowd begged for an encore and Paul obliged in the form of the strummy, stirring “Das Gezabel De Luxe.”
Two dates remain on Paul Kalkbrenner’s all too brief North American tour:
Friday, Dec 13 – Los Angeles – Henry Fondahttp://www.fondatheatre.com/events/detail/245299
Sunday, Dec 15 – San Francisco – Mezzaninehttp://www.ticketmaster.com/event/1C004B3AA95C6B23