Laibach returned to the UK for a rare show performing in totality their ‘Love is Still Alive’ EP, released earlier this year. Following the word “Postapocalypse” being displayed on the screen behind them, the group began on the opening track of their end of-the-world space trip, ‘Love is Still Alive I (Moon, Euphoria)’, featuring the marching strums of acoustic guitar played by Marina Martensson (backing vocals) and singing synths. They went on the next part of their cosmic journey with ‘Love is Still Alive II (Venus, Libidine)’ and its whooshing and bubbling synth effects that pushed beyond the recorded track and harkened back to the ’80s retro video gaming seen in the band’s live artwork visuals.

Frontman and band founder Milan Fras, wearing a cowboy hat, sung the lyrics of the first track before leaving the stage to allow for what is fundamentally an instrumental release to play out in planetary order, with the exception of robotised voice encoder vocals provided by Luka Jamnik (backing vocals, synthesiser). The tempo increased with ‘Love is Still Alive (Mercury, Dopamine)’ with its curling blues guitar and the crashing high-speed ‘Love is Still Alive (Neptune, Oxytocin)’, lifting off from the 2D recorded version. They moved onto ‘Love is Still Alive V (Uranus, Prolactin)’, which had flavours of Tangerine Dream and marked a more experimental, industrial sound crash in the set. Fras returned to the stage for ‘Love is Still Alive VII (Mars, Dysphoria)’ to finish singing on the final destination of the journey at Mars.

On the flip side and after an interval which they humourously advertised with a cowboy and Indians video, they played a second set entitled ‘War’ with a more varied selection of their past material, beginning on their last soundtrack album ‘Wir sind das Volk: Ein Musical aus Deutschland’ and onto 2017 album ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, with the ghostly rush of Carpenteresque ‘Das Nachtlied I’; Vitja Balzalorksy (guitar, electronics) playing a violin bow on electric guitar, which he continued to do during the stripped down drum bashings of the hammering ‘Glück Auf!’ and its fellow track ‘Lepo – Krasno’, from ‘Sketches of the Red Districts’, which was released at the start of the year.

Laibach then manifested their grand, totalitarian parody call in the synthscapes and military drumbeats of ‘Krvava gruda – plodna zemlja’ from their 1986 second studio album, ‘Nova Akropla’. The military march continued in ‘Ti, ki izzivaš’, with a Killing Joke-like bass driven rhythm, taken from early compilation ‘Rekapitulacija 1980-1984’, and with visuals featuring previous group member Mina Špiler. The band returned for two covers, Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Future’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for The Devil’ – the latter with a chaotic guitar solo – and did two more tracks with juxtaposing but synchronistic duets between Martensson and Fras, including the band’s latest single, ‘The Engine of Survival’.

08/11/23: Laibach @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London.

Photos © Anna Marchesani/Nocturna Photography.

© Ayisha Khan.