Without warning or introduction, two young women marched onto the stage and took their positions behind the two standing drums, dressed in semi-military garb. Their faces frozen expressionless, and their movements robotically coordinated, they martially pounded out the rhythm behind Tanz Mit Laibach, a song made famous a few years back by a hilarious Shockwave animation featuring dancing kittens dressed as Red Square guards. Middle-aged bohemians and teenage punks alike stood agape, completely enthralled by the Aryan war goddesses, probably less out of lust than fear.
This was the high point for Laibach, the band that once mocked not only Balkan communism but Father Tito himself two decades ago by making a few minor changes to an old Nazi Youth poster, submitting it to a Youth Day poster contest held on Tito’s birthday, and winning.
Laibach might employ a great many of the aesthetic qualities of fascism in their costumes, stage shows, and composition styles, but even the most cursory glance at the activities of this band and NSK make it fairly clear that this is high satire.
So high, in fact, that it seemed to pass over the heads of many of the younger crowd, some of whom showed up for the concert in vintage German army helmets, Soviet officer’s caps and brought with them more than a couple who felt compelled to give the band the Nazi salute throughout the show. Whether they were taking the joke too far or didn’t get it altogether, they did little to dampen what proved to be an amazing performance.
Laibach is well-known for doing thoroughly reconstructed cover versions – including the entirety of the Beatle’s Let It Be album, with the exception of the title song – and the first cover they performed on this occasion was Pink Floyd’s Dogs of War, which sounded as entertaining as Floyd’s version was flaccid. And whereas most bands who’ve been continuously touring and recording for over 20 years are sloshing through wincingly pathetic performances, Laibach had a confident, commanding stage presence.