Nils Frahm at Hammersmith Apollo, 4 December 2018

On Tuesday this week Jon G and I went to Hammersmith Apollo for a much anticipated concert: Nils Frahm. The German pianist, composer and all-round electronics whizz. I’d seen him before: Latitude in 2014, where he was amazing in the Sunday lunchtime slot at the Sunrise Arena (at that time the i-Arena) and then in 2015 at the Roundhouse. The album being showcased then was “Spaces”; in 2018 we have a new album, “All Melody”. It’s an intriguing and, as ever, entrancing piece of work. Mary Anne Hobbs on 6 Music, one of Nils’ greatest champions, has just made it her album of the year, and I can see why.

So there was a lot to look forward to, other than going to the Apollo, which is one of my least favourite venues, apart from the fact that it is easy to get home afterwards. We had seats in the balcony at least, so settled down for what turned out to be two and a quarter hours of engrossing musical adventure. There were ten songs stretched over that time. Each one a meticulous composition. Usually with periods of light and shade, looped refrains and punching beats one moment, mellifluous piano sections the next. Two banks of keyboards, with Nils moving from one to the other as the moment required. Electronic music can sometimes be rather impersonal – it’s made by a machine as much as the human operator after all, but the cadences of Nils’ music, the moments of soothing beauty, the soaring climaxes, can be quite moving. You are sucked in, at one with the music. It’s good on record, but it’s the live arena where Nils’ music has its power, its humanity.

It’s hard to pick out highlights, as I’m not so familiar with his music that I can instantly identify out many of the pieces. But “Says” from 2015, which came near the end, stood out; while “All Melody” (the track) was a thing of reflective beauty. Nils had a nice, self-deprecating patter, and talked about the simplicity of “Says”, with its repetitive shapes and journey through the chords from C to A to F minor (I think).  Simple yes, but hypnotic and greeted enthusiastically by the crowd.

So, yes, a truly captivating performance. The two and a quarter hours flashed by. A Nils Frahm concert is an immersive experience, a real joy. Catch him if you can.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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3 Responses to Nils Frahm at Hammersmith Apollo, 4 December 2018

  1. Dc says:

    Is songs the right word when there’s no singing?

  2. Dood says:

    Last week was such a crazy one that I’m only now strolling back into West Five.

    As you know, I saw the following night’s Frahm concert, and I thought it was just magnificent. A big, big step up from the Roundhouse show we saw, in terms of musical range, physical energy, and overall presentation. But you also capture another particular quality in your blog – that sense of oneness with the music, which I thought was an astonishingly powerful factor in this show.

    Frahm is, let’s be honest, a bit of a genius. Indeed, Mary Anne Hobbes has called him the most important musician at work in the world today – no pressure there, then – and regards SAYS as her favourite track of all time. To me, it’s not just his virtuosity, but the way in which he can take on so many difficult musical forms – classical, jazz, ambient, funk, electronic – and mould them into something truly original and masterful.

    There’s also something deeply engaging about the guy, with that rather endearing German self-consciousness and self-irony. He seems to be genuinely loved by his audience, and he had us eating out of his hand within seconds. (The crowd was interesting, too, with fans from their twenties to their forties – in broadly equal measure?) I was one of the oldest there, but then again, I always am.

    It ended with an exuberant and unending standing ovation. I for one found it an intensely exciting evening, and would see him again like a shot. All of a sudden, Frahm is a massive favourite.

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