Tocotronic played in Berlin: Journey through the late 90s

Tocotronic played at About Blank in Berlin. A journey through time without nostalgia, but full of rocking melancholy and a touch of coquetry.

The rock band Tocotronic on Wednesday at About Blank.  The four musicians stand on the stage and play their songs.

"We won't see each other again that young" is the motto of the very last encore Photo: Ruth Fuentes

It's getting colder and darker in Berlin. But in the inner courtyard of About Blank you hardly notice anything of it on this Wednesday evening. It flares up brightly on stage again and again. And warm riffs pound through the speakers. Tocotronic is at the start. And how they are! They want to go back to the roots, to the first Tocotronic years, with the audience today. And this one is so ready.

"This concert is the catch-up program of a catch-up program," explains Dirk von Lowtzow. Because of Corona and such. Evil tongues would claim it was a reparation to the fans. For "Nie wieder Krieg", which was not so well received by some fans, their last album, which will not be played today. Or is it a touch of midlife crisis?

In any case, it doesn't get nostalgic, although the band only plays "The Hamburg Years" - all only songs from 1995 to 2002. In chronological order. But the reason for it doesn't matter anyway. Because: "The first three songs are about hate, friendship and love." At the latest when lead singer and guitarist Dirk whispers into the microphone and turns up the distortion, nobody asks why anymore. It's just "Let there be rock."

Cold, but you don't feel it

Tocotronic is playing in the courtyard of the Blank, it's cold, but you don't feel it. "I don't know why I hate you so much," sings Dirk about Freiburg, his hometown, and has everyone under his spell.

The Hamburg Years are a long time ago for the four band members. Dirk, Arne and Jan still have their bangs hanging diagonally over their foreheads. There's also Rick McPhail, who wasn't even there at the time. He tears out one solo after the other to Dirk's right, works on the tremolo and then at some point even brings out his blues harm.

The band is not lacking in humor and healthy narcissism even today: "Now comes our first song ever played and our best, I would say... also in general, as far as the music canon is concerned, it's actually the best, yeah," Dirk flirts with conviction. So are the fans. "The idea is good, but the world isn't ready yet," they sing along almost louder than the musicians on stage.

The silver-grey strands

"Thank you Berlin, About Blank!" Dirk forms a heart with his hands and means it. In this “dance shed”, as he calls the blank, we are back in the nineties – youth memories for most of the people here in the audience. "We've known each other for a while," he said. But Tocotronic is happy to introduce itself again.

The concert does not feel wistfully nostalgic. Not even when Dirk brushes the silver-grey strands from his forehead and plays the chords of "I want to be the time of a youth movement". And knows that he can rely on his fans. Time, this construct that resonates subliminally, is also inevitably ticking for Tocotronic.

They stay cool anyway. They play their songs, leave the stage, let the audience fidget and then sing about what it was like last summer, for example. Then they stand casually behind the stage again, smoking cigarettes, considering whether to go upstairs again. Of course they choose to.

The roar persists

Finally voices for a third time, hanging the guitar, hitting the bass strings, setting the beat with the sticks. "We won't get together that young, we won't see each other that young anymore, and I think it's nice, but I don't know exactly, will we get along?" Who knows. That doesn't seem to matter to most people here in front of the stage in the filled courtyard of the Blank for the moment.

In the end, Dirk simply leaves his distorted guitar leaning against the Roland amplifier. The roar of feedback lingers for a long time with the enthusiastic fans who today got Tocotronic the way they like it most: rocky, angry-melancholic, poetic.

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