Four-Way Rock Concert Proves To Be A Bummer By Steven Reisler ("Sound Thinking" column) Berlin Observer April 2 1971
Accursed by the miserable compulsion that caused me and nearly 7,000 others to purchase tickets to last weekend's four-way rock concert at Deutschlandhalle. Henceforth, I shall not rely on my intuition when it comes to plugging an upcoming pop extravaganza.
Lend an ear to my tale of woe.
I was sucked into the huge auditorium along with the mob when the doors opened promptly at six. Toting an "Adidas" bag stuffed with fried chicken, tangerines, potato chips and a thermos bottle of iced tea, a friend and I located ourselves in a strategic spot in the hall and made camp, fully convinced that the night's festivities were going to be memorable. I was still in sterling spirits when the show commenced one half hour late at 7:30
The stage was illuminated in off-pink as the first band, "Man," appeared from behind the 70-odd speaker boxes that were menacingly directed toward the crowd.
"Spunk Rock," the quintet's opening number, was a routine standard designed to warm up the audience and relax the general atmosphere. With the exception of an intricate lead pattern woven by the combo's two six string guitarists, the song was typically nondescript.
Their next offering was refreshingly reverent, however.
With my eyes tightly sealed, the group's electronic concoctions transported my imagination to a craggy, desolate beach complete with the cries of seagulls and the crashing of breakers. The whispering lull of the slide whistle and bowed guitar transcended even the blistered spirits of the shutterbugs who had been ceaselessly popping away with their flashguns since the program began.
I was roughly jolted out of my illusory Shangri-La when "Man" ended its set by reverting to a classic rock beat with a throbbing, jackhammer bass line.
After a brief interlude of recorded music emanating at ear rending volume from the ceiling P. A. system, the five-man British group "Yes" sauntered on stage.
Although the voice of the lead singer of "Yes" reminds one of Wayne Newton with, perhaps, a drop of citric acid, he did manage to keep the vocals respectable.
The show climaxed when the versatile lead instrumentalist strummed his way through a personalized version of Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" on the flattop guitar.
There followed the inevitable rock'n'roll theme (Perpetual Change? – your_host) and then a modified rendition of Paul Simon's melodious release, "America."
Had "Yes" quit before attempting this Simon and Garfunkel number, they might have escaped unscathed. Unfortunately, they didn't. The resulting destruction of fine music may be duplicated by playing a wax Caruso record on a battery powered phonograph and piping it through your 200-Watt stereo amplifier.
During the 20-minute break that followed "Yes," my friend and I feasted upon the fried chicken and other assorted goodies (amid the envious stares of our neighbors, I might add) and proceeded to watch a short skit that was being enacted on stage. The action consisted of two pneumatic "monsters" flailing one another with their arms and occasionally collapsing on the floor. At one point, they jumped into the galleries and managed to freak-out dozens of terrified spectators.
The lights dimmed once again and "Family" appeared, bringing with it Anacin headache number 23. Improperly employing the electric xylophone, "Family" sounded disjointed, disoriented and uniformly bad. The group must not have been familiar with the discerning nature of Berlin audiences, for their screech owl vocals were incessantly hooted and whistled. Peering through the thick veil of haze and smoke (a chemical analysis might have proved interesting) I observed that "Family" had a fair degree of showmanship although it was nothing original
Seventy minutes later came the fumes, I mean the tunes, of "Soft Machine." The group is anything but soft what they lack in talent they make up in decibels and incoherency. I had suffered 10 excruciating minutes of "Soft Machine" when common sense (and acute fanny fatigue) overcame my devotion to journalism. I packed my belongings and plunged into the swelling exodus of humanity that was steadily winding its path out of hearing range.
And the clean panacea of midnight silence was the sweetest sound I had heard all evening.