Review: Nils Frahm at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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Captivating

Nils Frahm’s Southampton debut proves to be as captivating and varied as his music; uplifting, intimate and sombre all in the same evening.

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The O2 Guildhall is a big room to be filled by one man alone but if any man could, it would be Nils Frahm. With his abundance of various keyed instruments, ranging from a grand piano with several microphones protruding through its open top to a toy piano sat above seemingly one of many analogue synths laid about the stage. Indeed, Frahm’s latest album All Melody seems to be an expansive album to be performed live and solo with layers of synths, drums and other various instruments. How he managed to recreate these songs so organically and seemingly exactly as recorded on the album is beyond me.

Frahm opened with a short piece of music most prominently featuring the tiny toy piano before heading into one of the ~10 minute set pieces on his newest album, Sunson. After the minimal intro, it was this song that set the tone for the rest of the evening to come, introducing us to more beat heavy songs from his latest album and the frenetic movement of Frahm onstage that somehow manages to conjure up complete recreations of his songs. He seems to add layer upon layer of sound into his live compositions by just dancing, with frantic arm movements pressing various keys, knobs and dials all around the stage as intricately layered beats build up. He reaches a crescendo in the show –the closest thing to a drop that a modern classical producer may ever create – and the crowd cheers; a deeper, bassy beat cutting through the crowd.

After this two song opening covering most of what can be expected throughout the rest of the show, we got our first words from the man himself. Picking up a microphone from the front of the stage he cracked a smile and bowed to the applause of the crowd. He mentioned that he had an empty guestlist and that the room wasn’t packed, however this seemed to be something he liked, as if looking forward to the more intimate night we had in store for us.

The remainder of his set continued, with ‘My Friend the Forest’ standing out as my personal favourite amongst his quieter songs. The excellent ‘All Melody’ again demonstrated Frahm’s ability to transition from solo piano pieces to bass driven, almost dance-y tracks with ease, all the while charming the crowd with his humble bows and thanks between songs.

Towards to end of his set, Frahm told us about his distaste for the act that is the encore at the end of live shows, with him jokingly insisting that it’s still part of his contract. To get around this, he told us he would leave the stage for just two seconds and get right back on with the music. Indeed, he did as he promised, returning with a glass of white wine and a wry smile before continuing with some of his older tracks.

These final tracks seemed to blend into one continuous piece of music, with Frahm not stopping for applause between any of them. They included the sombre, atmospheric ‘Our Own Roof’ and the more experimental ‘Toilet Brushes’ which involved playing around the inside of his grand piano with – you guessed it – a pair of toilet brushes. This progression acted as quieter from the more intense ‘#2’ that featured towards the end of the show, and brought the whole evening to a close perfectly, fostering the intimate atmosphere that Frahm was looking for with his friendly banter and solo presence on stage.

Nils Frahm has now finished the brief European leg of his All Melody tour and his inevitable return to the UK can’t come quick enough.

Listen to ‘My Friend the Forest’ below.

 

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