Review: Nils Frahm – Spaces Tour

In front of a packed house, multi-instrumentalist Nils Frahm put on one of the most rousing performances by a new artist in the history of a low-key West Village venue.  Doubling as the official release show for his stellar, new live compilation album Spaces, Frahm exasperated a packed house with an emotionally, exhilarating thrill ride.

Outside of the rowdy opening and closing numbers of “Says” and “For-Peter-Toliet-Brushes-More”  mix respectively, Frahm’s setlist surprisingly maintains a mellow, somewhat melodic flow for the vast body of the program.  True to the style of the Spaces‘ atmospheric selections, Frahm’s concert is meant not to run as perfectly as planned.  Intermingled throughout his flailing arms and tapping of the keys were sounds of his bench clanking and the soft snickering of the piano keys, compounded with fuzzing speaker feedback. Any other performer would cringe at even the remote possibilities of such subtle nuances chiming into their earspace, but Frahm not only welcomes it, but gladly improvises them into his performance, especially on the more soft-tone numbers.

If there is any reason to watch Nils Frahm, its also simply for the fact that his show is equally as stunning to watch as it is to hear.  Dividing his time between three sets of boards and a daunting electronic setup, there are various moments of awe when seeing Frahm stretched between two boards, fidgeting at every second for the next sudden jump. For the majority of the performance, the audience was left with only the option of watching Frahm from behind, but the intense focus of eyes and hands to the keys clearly resonates with the watcher. It will be quite a sight to catch Nils at future performances, specifically at SXSW 2014, that with such an elaborate setup, you’d be hard-pressed to turn down the opportunity to see him live in fear that he may potentially never be able to tour extensively given the equipment requirements.

While the placid and rising melodies specifically of “Said and Done,” “Went Missing,” and “Familiar” will surely capture attendees in reflective trances, the meat and highlight of Frahm’s performance remain the strong opener and closing pieces. On “Says,” Frahm moves with brilliance for a sheer ten minutes of sonic ecstasy, switching back and forth on stage between boards, that the audience was left nearly gasping for a breather at its conclusion. Equally as aggressive with radiating energy, Frahm gets downright maniacal on the keys for the “For-Peter-Toliet-Brushes-More” mix hitting with such force and frantic velocity, its almost a wonder on how he is able to play with accuracy and melody.

What Frahm’s performance brings to the table is the definitive answer as to what electronic and contemporary classical can do together in the live space. Frahm welcomes the uncertainty that both brings and yet takes even the flaws such a merging of styles presents and creates an entrancing experience that truly encapsulate the mind.

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