Review by Charlie Tennant, Photography by Robert Barrett
Nils Frahm is sparking a movement which challenges the conventions of music today.
Without little introduction, no support act and a packed room, Nils Frahm graced a captive O2 Academy with his first ever Birmingham performance.
Leaving the hall totally transcendent, Nils opened with a 25-minute hypnotic, ‘The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched’, transitioned into ‘Sunson’, the opening two tracks on his latest album, All Melody. Taking to one half of his crammed stage setup, Nils began at a tiny keyboard, amongst an array of various analogue and digital keyboards and sequencers all crammed into an area – meaning not only were we listening to a unique performance of his pieces, but we are assured, due Nils embracing the difficulties of vintage equipment that these pieces would never sound the same twice. On the other side, a stripped-down Grand Piano, dozens of retrofitted keyboards and an entire wall of speakers, knobs and buttons, meaning lots more was in store for the O2 Academy tonight.
Frahm is internationally recognised for his poignantly emotional blend of minimalism, classical and electronic music and those watching the master at work this evening were in utter awe as Nils effortlessly fused beautiful, emotional piano instrumentals with slow burning synth electronica.
His set is impressive, aurally and visually – it is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Like an astronaut in a moon base, Frahm bounces between the two sections of his gigantic stage setup lathering layers of synth over beautiful piano melody; it’s easy to see why these hypnotic and beauteous gems have earned the 36-year-old musician the title of “the single most important artist in the world right now”, from BBC’s radio presenter, Mary Anne Hobbs.
Gliding through his catalogue of immense masterpieces, Nils performs some early work, including his signature solo piano song, ‘Hammers’, which beautifully demonstrates Frahm’s technical pianistic skill, as well as the experimental ‘Toilet Brushes’, where Nils strikes the piano harp percussively with two white toilet brushes.
Frahm’s quick wit was obvious throughout, making jokes about his rather large setup, through to an oration on encores and their lack of spontaneity – following through on this, Nils instructed the audience to keep clapping in between the end of the set and his ‘encore’, where he performed one of his most notable pieces, ‘Says’. A true paragon of minimalism featuring a slow burner mix of tinkling, passionate piano with fully-loaded synth electronica.
Nils Frahm’s attempt at sparking a movement and challenging typical musical conventions is not only clear through his music, but through his entire stage presence.
(The original version of this article was first published on Gigjunkies http://www.gigjunkies.com/band-reviews/nils-frahm-at-o2-academy-birmingham-uk-20th-february-2019/)