Saturday 27 May 2023

Ist Ist / TV Cult - Cologne Artheater - 26th May 2023

Ist Ist's second night of their European tour in support of their UK Top 50 album Protagonists saw them make their Cologne debut in a packed out Artheater in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne. Mixing songs from across their three albums in front of an enthusiastic crowd, they demonstrate the cross-border appeal of their sound. Support came from locals TV Cult.

TV Cult, a local Cologne band, open up the night and the room is already really busy for them even though few of the crowd seem to know who they are. Their music is not dissimilar to the headliners in influences, but their approach is a little more raw and unrefined, but it works well with the songs they've created, a series of digital singles ahead of their forthcoming debut album Colony, from which Party's Over, the lead single is one of the highlights of the set towards the start after their eponymous opening track. They go down really well with an appreciative crowd.

There's a real sense of anticipation building as Ist Ist take to the stage to a rumbling backing track and go straight into Protagonists' opening track Stamp You Out, all rumbling bass and through the floor drums, despite Joel carrying a wrist injury that Andy references a couple of times otherwise we wouldn't be aware of it. The more direct approach they've taken on Protagonists has upped the ante of their live shows, infused itself into older songs like Jennifer's Lips and Silence that follow and demonstrates their innate understanding of what appeals to their audience without standing still sonically. More guitars and less synths is the general direction live these days, but without ditching the synths completely it gives them a rounder, more varied live sound even in a venue where it feels like the sound is being limited at a certain level.

The crowd is a mix of locals and those who've travelled further afield, some from the UK, some from more southern parts of Germany where this tour isn't going. The age and gender mix is again noticeably different from their early days of playing to middle aged men with receding hairlines alone. They're drawn together by a love of this modern take on post-punk that knows the power of a hook-line, powerful drums, up-front bass and a vocal that communicates through lived-in experience rather than histrionics and show. As they move from album to album as the set progresses, skipping between Architecture, The Art Of Lying and Protagonists without pausing for breath, the songs do their bidding for them and you sense palpably the love in the room growing with each song, the applause and cheers getting louder, the odd shout out from an individual lost in the music.

With three albums to choose from now the set never once drops in intensity, the order being switched about to try and create the right one for the mood of both the band and the space that they're in. New Love Song takes the pace down, whilst the trio of Mary In The Black And White Room, Heads On Spikes and Waves mid-set pushes the envelope in terms of exploring the outer edges of their sound. Black, Nothing More Nothing Less and You're Mine are singles that should be gracing daytime alternative station playlists back home were they not fixated with youth and trying to force bands upon an often unresponsive public. The queues at the end to talk to them, get something signed and take away this music physically tells that story more than anything else can. Emily, the oldest song in the set, shows both the band's progression over the years and the consistency at the core of everything they've done. 

They finish on a blistering Trapdoors, there's no encore ritual, eighteen songs in just over an hour with little audience interaction, although Adam tells us he's pleased with a whoosh effect on Black that he's got to work for the first time, the focus purely and solely on the music. With a room close to capacity on word of mouth alone, Ist Ist feel like they're a break away from commanding seriously bigger rooms on the Continent, their style much adored over here and their delivery seems to hit exactly the right spot.

Ist Ist played Stamp You Out, Jennifer's Lips, Silence, Extreme Greed, Fat Cats Drown In Milk, Discipline, All Downhill, New Love Song, Fools Paradise, Something Has To Give, Mary In The Black And White Room, Heads On Spikes, Waves, Black, Emily, Nothing More Nothing Less, You're Mine and Trapdoors.

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter

Protagonists, as well as previous physical releases, can be ordered via their website. A digital version with an additional eight live versions of tracks from Protagonists can be ordered exclusively from their Bandcamp

Ist Ist's European tour continues at Paris Supersonic (May 27), Rees Haldern Pop Bar (28), Nijmegen Doornroosje (30), Bielefeld Movie (31), Rotterdam Rotown (June 1), Hulst Vestrock (2), Amsterdam Melkweg (4) and Berlin Kantine Am Berghain (5) before they support The Slow Readers Club at Wrexham The Rocking Chair (30), Holmfirth Picturedrome (July 2) and The Mission at Nottingham Rock City (24), Glasgow SWG3 (25) and London Roundhouse (28).


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