When the invitation to perform came down the mail, in one of the oldest cabaret of Berlin, no less, the answer of the band was unanimous: Nach Berlin! To the East!
And so the first international tour of Dr Mabuse: Live & Spacial Experience set course for the Ballhaus, 102 Chaussestrasse, on the home-turf of the old grand master himself: Fritz Lang. We filled a sturdy van with the 18 speakers required by our acousmatic installation, a collection of instruments and left Paris with a stereo blasting wagnerian leitmotivs.
On the first night of representation of our live cine-concert, the city answered our call. Mesmerizing characters in the audience as well as on the screen. And wasn’t Berlin itself a character of Dr Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) ? "Yes, but a Berlin from before the fall, before its own malediction…" And yet, in this strange atmosphere from the Roaring Twenties, complete with chandeliers and opulent gilding, the magic of time-travel operated fully.
On both sides of the stages, rows of vintage phones looked eerily like the one Mabuse uses in the opening sequence. On the first, deep, electric guitar riffs, the room shivered. And the incredible scenery of clandestine night-clubs like Le Petit Casino had everyone whispering at the interlude, while Pro Secco ebbed and flowed on the bar of the Ballhaus. Berlin now and then: a picture of our times.
Each night, a different guest gave us his card, promising to invite the band in his home-town : Amsterdam, Luxembourg, and why not, Athens! Berlin was and remains Europe’s crossroad. After the show, we followed them to clubs that blurred the line between reality and fiction, backrooms where time itself had stopped. And the pictures from the movie continued to haunt the night — how modern the movie was, and how its themes, the lust for power, resonated with the election period that raged in France,
On the way back, we performed in the Künstlerhaus of Hannover, with its stunning façade. As we approached we discovered with awe the poster the venue had designed itself for the show. We had come slowly to understand the importance of performing this precise movie in modern Germany. At the desk, the operator really looked like a young Otto Sanders, who plays an angel in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire: had we ourselves stepped into a movie ?
At the first row of the film theatre, a venerable old german man with bristling white hair confided at the end of the movie, that he had seen this movie as a child, with his father. The act of rediscovering it in a restored copy, with blasting live music gave him the impression it had been shot just yesterday. Time-travel isn’t without paradoxes!
crédit photo : Johnny Lee (Berlin), Pascal Rivière (Paris)
The tour itself had a sustained rhythm of installation and taking down crate after crate of gear, and this is how the four horsemen really came together as a team : improvised naps at the state-of-the-art gym where we had to sneak in to take a shower, since frost had paralyzed our host’s.
The ride back to Paris had one clear objective: to reach the Cirque Electrique’s towering flag before nightfall, in order to unload all of the equipment. After such historical sceneries, the big top of the circus evoked a whole new atmosphere. With more than 350 seats, it was to be our biggest venue to date. The screen almost entirely filled the diameter of the arena. This was the next stage of our show.
A beautiful coincidence came to top it all, as an expert on the matter informed us that April 27th was the exact date of the world premiere in 1922, at the Ufa-Palast, the biggest cinema of Berlin. Was the ghost of Fritz Lang’s himself playing one last kind joke on us ? This magical and mystery tour of ours was completing a full temporal circle, at the circus, on the ring.
And through the magic of word-of-mouth, the third night, on a holiday we performed on a full-house, in an absolutely electrical atmosphere. Jules was orchestrating the sound’s diffusion on the army of speakers, Noam introduced the movie the way one casts a spell, and when Clément and Gaétan entered the stage, we all felt the same thrill.
Mabuse will strike again!