XTC Hamburg, Markthalle April 1982

Musik Express
April 1982
by Michael Kröher

An unauthorized translation by volunteer James Poulakos for the Internet listserv group Chalkhills, June 23, 1996. Any parts where I [James] doubted my translation are linked to direct quotes of the original German text.

The external cirumstances were thoroughly unintoxicating: for the ponderous TV cameras of the Rockpalast team, the entire stage area was cordoned off. There, where normally fans danced, stood now bulky camera-monsters, annoyed camera-people and druggy, gawping cable-layers. And the mixed public of experts, high-schoolers [1] and isolated punks crowded itself helplessly against the barriers.

The distance between stage and public, between expectations and claims, was clearly felt. It took from 5 to 6 numbers before XTC fell in step. But the band didn't let it get to them. Andy Partridge sings so clearly, in spite of his fidgets, that to some degree you can even understand the lyrics. Dave Gregory was always ready on guitar and keys with extra licks and fills, and bassist Colin Moulding onstage calls Nick Lowe to mind, although he sports neither Lowe's pot belly nor the obligatory beer fog.

XTC play quickly. They keep the songs brief and thereby hold to the tenets of the dearly departed New Wave Era, according to which solos have no more place in rock music [2]. From one piece to the next, the music compresses. XTC are playing with control and fun: lively, playful, yet rehearsed nevertheless. They are a paradigm of precision, yet well-known numbers such as "Making Plans for Nigel," "Living Through Another Cuba" or "Real by Reel" -- even their newest earwig, "Senses Working Overtime" -- seem fresh. The songs from the newest album, ENGLISH SETTLEMENT, don't exactly sound as international-cosmopolitan as the ones from the preceding BLACK SEA, but rather come across as compact and energy-packed British pop from the late 60s.

With XTC, everything comes together: the many, various elements; the sparsely deployed slide projections, the soundman who with great flair follows each detail of the arrangements -- even the the sound is clear and transparent despite the screeching acoustics of the Markthalle. The set is suspenseful without once seeming melodramatic. At the grandiose finale, the feeling from the stage spills out into the hall--and as the last encore, XTC's own hymn, "This Is Pop."

I'm convinced that if all the droolers and hangers-on of Van Aerostyx & Co. [3] had stood there listening in the Markthalle that evening, each and every one would have willingly reverted back to windowashers, used car salesmen or tax consultants. Rock music could have taken an enormous step forward this night. But only about 700 sworn fans witnessed it, the ones who already knew that XTC is "the absolute best Pop band in the whole world," as one of my colleagues once wrote.

[1]"Oberschülern" -- Thanks to Michael Knigge

[2] Sie belassen den Songs ihre Kürze und halten sich damit an die Vereinbarungen aus der seligen New-Wave-Ära, nach denen Soli in der Rockmusik nichts mehr verloren haben." -- Thanks to Michael Knigge

[3] "alle Lutscher und Laumänner von Van Aerostyx und Konsorten"

This translation is provided solely for the scholarly use of members of the Chalkhills group. It is not intended to be reproduced, redistributed, or sold at any price.

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23 June 1996 / James Poulakos