Ich Will Feuer: Rammstein at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA 9/9/2022 (Live Report + Photo Essay)
Earlier this month, I received very unexpected news as a newcomer in the world of concert photography: approval to photograph Rammstein at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. With hands trembling and my head in the clouds, I began to prepare for the biggest gig I've ever had the honor to photograph as well as one of the biggest concerts in the world.
Dressed special for the night in an almost mint condition Sehnsucht shirt from 1998, I arrived with plenty of time to get to the barrier at the feuerzone, the closest I could get to experiencing Rammstein live after being a fan for more than half of my life. Scheduled to photograph the last three songs, I was able to fully immerse myself in the first hour of the performance. To open the show on stage B, Duo Abélard entered the arena adorned in shimmering dresses and sat at their respective pianos ready to impress unfamiliar onlookers. I did not expect a rendition of some of Rammstein’s greatest hits like "Sonne" and "Mein Herz Brennt" performed with the mellow and sweet reverberations of the keys without accompanying vocals, to which the audience could reply with passion with what lyrics they knew by heart. Foxborough was their final show on the North American tour and had left a noticeable mark on the crowd and myself by the time they gave their closing speech of gratification to Rammstein for inviting them as touring partners. I personally found the pianists to be a good match: a duality of beautifully soothing instrumental covers before Rammstein delivered the originals with full fledged pyrotechnics, a towering stage, incredible lighting dynamics, unique props, costumes, and of course the creators themselves boldly showcasing their well known masterpieces in front of tens of thousands of people from all over the world. This tour is the rescheduled dates from 2020 when the Pandemic hit the global population, so the return of Rammstein in the US was highly anticipated by many generations across the country.
Prior to Rammstein entering the stage, my mind raced through highlighted memories: my introduction to their first EP Herzeleid at the age of 12, highlighted by the legendary track "Rammstein" that defined the band’s moniker. To follow was a rabbit hole of experiencing their discography from that very first exposure to Rammstein’s raw, tongue-in-cheek compositions about Germanic life, culture, and history as well as expressions on sexuality, to the release of the critical album Liebe ist Für Alle Da when I was 15. The latter quickly became part of my daily rotation and most distinct musical memory of my teen years. This was a time when I looked at their music more along the lines as catchy and entertaining rather than having a deeper societal meaning underlying it. From then on, each release spoke to me on a more complex level as I pursued interpretive literature and psychology in my schooling, as well as a revealing essay assignment on the works of Gottfried Helwein, an extremely prominent Austrian painter who had experienced the aftereffects of World War 2 firsthand, much like the members of Rammstein. His work is referenced in the album art/band portraits for Sehnsucht, noting some stylized torture methods to represent humanity’s suffering throughout the ages. Until today, I had yet to make the connections of a few of the stage presentations correlating to the meaning of each song.
Fog spewed across the stage as the members arose from a platform at the rear, most notably with vocalist Till Lindemann approaching center stage in a black and gold military general outfit, rhythm guitarist Paul Landers in a stylized camo outfit, and lead guitarist Richard Kruspe wearing an exquisite black trenchcoat for the introductory track “Armee der Tristen”– fitting for a song that directly translates to “Army of the Sad”. The set continued with “Zick Zack”, a fascinating single from their most recent album Zeit about the extreme reality of artificial beauty standards to prevent aging/imperfection. However this meaning isn't presented on stage directly. Instead, the contemplative themes of time, the flaws of humanity's past and modern life, suffering, mortality, and rebirth that tie together each track on the album can be found throughout the entire show itself. “Links 2-3-4” began immediately after, a song about the nature and manipulation of the most pure and emotional organ, our hearts, presented with a marching stance “controlling” the beat of the heart. The distinctive “Sehnsucht” followed, a song about unmet sexual desires and disappointment spoken with metaphors to Earth/bodily geography.
The performance took on a greater intensity at the introduction of “Zeig Dich”, where the stage went pitch black with red cloaked figures on the screen overhead and a godly choir. It's a song considered to be about revealing the wrongdoings and effects of religious manipulation on politics and society. Accordingly, during the chorus, translating to “show yourself”, Till summons fire to rise from all areas of the stage. For the performance of “Mein Herz Brennt”, one of their most beautifully disturbing and elaborately read songs, the stage took on an intense red aura and concluded with Till wearing a flaring torch over his heart, a direct translation of the song's chorus. Superficially, it's about the coming of the sandman and the burning in his heart as he brings nightmares to children when they sleep, but on a deeper level the song is considered to be about the torture and fear experienced by children and the innocent by the Third Reich during World War 2.For the delivery of “Puppe,” or doll, a metal baby stroller came out on stage with imagery of band members and a mutilated baby crying on the screen above via a camera attached to Till’s forehead, concluding with the stroller erupting into flames and a spew of black confetti into the crowd. This song is a first person harrowing account of a young child whose sister works as a prostitute in the room next door, and the child’s decent into madness as they overhear their sister’s screams each night and her eventual murder. In contrast, the stage fills with a ghostly shade of midnight blue as Till, in a state of madness, bangs his head upon a stage prop in the introduction of “Heirate Mich”, a song about a man who loses his sense of life over the death of his lover. Quite fittingly, the track “Zeit” or time follows, a song that pivots on messages of death and rebirth.
Upon the closing of “Zeit”, I was brought back into awareness of time: my cue to leave the stadium and revisit the parking lot to grab my equipment to photograph the end of the show. Re-entering the venue with supplies in hand I joined 9 other photographers of whom had far more experience in the field than I had but of whom were extremely welcoming to my presence. After the signing of waivers and a discussion of rules, we all received our photo pass stickers and went back into the venue to await the timing of our shoot. During this time, almost an hour of the performance had already passed but I already knew what I had missed from videos I've seen prior. As we awaited at the top of the stadium, the entire venue entered darkness. Almost everyone in attendance raised their phones with flashlights gleaming as the band took stage B for the piano rendition of “Engel” along with Duo Abélard. I never expected to see anything like the overwhelming beauty of what looked like a cosmic proportion of glimmering white stars dancing slowly in unison to each flourish on the keys. Upon the final notes, the band took sail on several inflatable rafts and surfed across waves of the audience’s hands bringing them back to the main stage.
They continued without hesitation into “Aüslander”, a song defined by miscellaneous voices over the speakers responding to Till’s well recognized baritone vibrato as he tells a foreigner's cheeky fast paced globe trotting lifestyle with hints to everything from the history of colonialism to modern casual relations and one night stands with exotic women he just met. Quite possibly a subtle reference to touring life as well. Till then opens “Du Riechst so Gut” with a twirl of the massive flare gun sending sparks flying in all directions as he sings a tale of intense desire. As we headed towards stage B, Rammstein presented their most well known stage performance: “Pussy”, culminating in Till mounting a giant penis shaped cannon that began spraying white foam into the crowd while white confetti blasted from various locations in the venue. Despite the playful nature of this sexually charged song, it also satirically jaunts at sexual tourism and prostitution in Germany.
Upon the closing notes we were signaled to climb onto Stage B to start photographing “Rammstein”. Heart pounding, I focused on Till as flames shot from his back in all directions like the flaring tail feathers of a phoenix. Paul and Richard followed with spews of fire from flamethrowers hooked up to their guitars. The otherworldly bravery of each member spoke volumes of their years of experience with handling fire. Not only is the song a reference to the band name but also to the fiery airshow disaster at the Ramstein Air Base in 1988. The phoenix-like appearance could seem to signify the destruction and rebirth of Ramstein. Within moments they moved into “Ich Will” where I focused mainly on individual expressions. Beautiful blue and purple light drenched the stage as they played a multilayered meta presentation of wanting the audience to notice and trust them for their performance but also a reflection on the public and media’s obsessions with a riveting story and the immortality of doing something the world will remember. The close of the song sent fireworks out of the main stage. For the final minutes of photographing Rammstein put all of their energy into “Adieu”. A giant display of fire shot from all corners of the stage at its finale, and I panicked as I noticed my telephoto lens was far too long to capture the entire stage. I captured a little glimpse of the fire around the massive screen displaying the bassist Oliver. The members then took their place in front stage and took a kneeling bow as the audience rejoiced; Tom gave us photographers the cue to pack up for the night. Still filled with a flood of emotions, I went home and reflected on the evening.
All things considered, this seems to be an acceptable attempt at my first stadium gig. Admittedly, there was a steep learning curve: first show shot from a distance of 150 feet from main stage, first time photographing fire so the flames were unfortunately overexposed, normative movements like breathing paired with my nerves made shooting long distance without a tripod more difficult, and most importantly the lack of shot varieties due to only having this one camera setup. I regret not planning around bringing multiple cameras, however the experience set me into getting another camera so I can shoot full frames and close ups at future shows. I have, however, added a few stage shots taken from the feuerzone with my phone for anyone who has never seen how remarkable their stage is. I hope someday I could have the opportunity to photograph Rammstein again to apply the many things I have learned. But most importantly, I hope maybe someday I have the honor to meet the band and get to express my appreciation for all that they have contributed to the world of music and how much they have influenced me as a fan and as a potential artist in training.
Rammstein will perform their final US shows in Los Angeles, CA on September 23rd and 24th with Duo Jatetok, then head to Mexico for 3 dates at the start of October before heading back home. For 2023 the band will be on their full European tour. If you didn't catch them this year, keep your eyes peeled for the next US run.
Keep scrolling for photos from the show.