“Forty Bloody Years” was how it read on the ad for Nitzer Ebb’s forty-year retrospective tour. How time flies. I still remember seeing the video for Control, I’m Here for the first time on MTV’s 120 Minutes and thinking that I have seen the future. Well, the future has come and gone and here we are, four decades later.
The Music Box itself is a somewhat upscale venue; with two balconies overlooking the main dance floor and stage. Video monitors on each level allow for ease of viewing the onstage activity, which is helpful in a space where it’s easy to find yourself too far from the railing to see much of anything.
There were interesting goings-on all around upon entering the venue. For starters, there were the fetish-themed go-go dancers in cages right on the dance floor, as well as the BDSM cosplay performances throughout the night.
The first musical act of the night was NYC’s Normal Bias. This duo offered a tasty buffet of catchy and danceable electronic tunes and was well-received by the crowd. And while they were a palatable opening act, my own impression from the set tells me that the best work of Normal Bias is still ahead of them.
San Diego’s own MATTE BLVCK was next, with an energetic set that was also the only performance of the night to include any non-keyboard based instruments. Members would switch off from electronics, guitar, bass and percussion throughout the set. I personally liked the slower jams that got my foot tapping and were swaying the crowd into dance mode.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for… Nitzer Ebb hit the ground running, opening the show with their iconic Control, I’m Here. But something was different this time. Not just because the lineup was simplified to just Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy, as opposed to the three or four person lineup of shows past. What also made the show unique was the change of arrangement of recognizable classics. The whole performance was a power medley of remixes; an interesting way to breathe fresh life into old favorites and keep the energy level consistent throughout the show; although I felt the energy level was diminished for not having a live drummer this time around.
Douglas McCarthy stalked the stage as he belting out crowd favorites. He seemed to move gingerly about the stage as one banger after another flowed without break or interruption. Bon Harris kept the crowd fired up as he played a little bit of everything from percussion to vocals.
I moved around a few times, trying to find the best vantage point to watch the show. I eventually ended up on the second balcony. And while I still couldn’t see the stage, the video monitors were doing their job. Besides, the second balcony had its own vibe. Since hardly anyone else could see the stage either, most folks on the balcony just rolled with it and the balcony became a separate dance party of its own.
With a one-song encoré, Nitzer Ebb was done. Everyone was appropriately sweaty and danced out by this point, but the party vibe continued out to the street as folks filtered out of the venue.
It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been forty years. But Nitzer Ebb has worn it well and, in my opinion, remain one of the most relevant EBM bands on the scene and continue to lead the charge.