The Ebb and Flow of Nitzer Ebb

Shot in 1989, this video captures the industrial techno pioneers live in concert.

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Sep 24 2013, 9:14pm

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As innovators of aggressive electronic beats and sporting an incomprehensible Teutonic name, many were suprised to learn that Nitzer Ebb was not a German band. Hailing from Essex, UK, vocalist Douglas J. McCarthy and percussionist Vaugh 'Bon' Harris founded Nitzer Ebb in 1982, focusing their sound around impassioned techno rage. With irresistible, athletic rhythms and chanted lyrics brimming with righteous fury, the band quickly solidified its reputation as a leader in the burgeoning Electronic Body Music scene. Nitzer Ebb owe their launch to worldwide fame to Depeche Mode, longtime friends and label mates on Mute Records who invited Nitzer Ebb to open for the European leg of their hugely successful Music For The Masses Tour in 1987.

This video provides a glimpse into the high energy live show that captured the attention of audiences across Europe and America. Shot in 1989, it was the year their second album Belief was released. Their set features all of their early hits and you can see the sold-out crowd is going absolutely mental the entire set. As the band launches into "Warsaw Ghetto" at 4:02 the camera pans over the crowd for the first time, revealing a sea of mop-headed bodies jammed right up to the walls. When the first beats of "Violent Playground" hits at 8:09 the entire floor erupts into a swirling, churning mosh pit. You can see the security guards can barely keep things under control. For the impatient, "Join In The Chant" is played at 35:00, and the security guards have formed a human chain to keep enthusiastic fans from storming the stage. "Shame" comes in at 43:40 as the crowd shouts out favorites they still want to hear, followed by their 1987 smash hit "Let Your Body Learn" and more raucous slam dancing ensues—don't miss the shirtless fanboy flailing in the front row! He's the same one that ripped his top off onstage during the second song. The crowd insists on two encores and it seems as if nothing will assuage them.

The vital energy that Nitzer Ebb perfected went on to become one of the leading forces in alternative electronic music into the 90s and beyond. When the band reunited in 2006 after a 10-year hiatus, the flurry of massive international gigs that followed confirmed their iconic status. In the same year Mute released their anthologies Body of Work and Body Rework, a collection of remixes by some of the biggest names in modern techno and industrial. In 2010 I was lucky to see Nitzer Ebb play in Boston, New York City, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. All three shows were absolutely electrifying. Douglas J. McCarthy's inexhaustible attitude and style continues to lead the pack on the modern electronic stage.

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