Out of all the legendary Krautrock groups, Amon Düül II remain the most mysterious. Last year they self-released Düülirium, their first album of all new material in nearly 20 years, which rather flew under the radar. According to their website, the band – and former commune – had become “weak” and so had lived apart until “everyone was able to contribute to the family again”.
Before the concert starts, vocalist Renate Knaup rather ominously announces that she has a problem with her voice and can’t get her top notes. Being by nature pessimistic, this writer was wondering if the veteran group might have become an enfeebled shadow of their former selves. This review will stand as a written apology for even harbouring such a thought, for on this evidence, Amon Düül II will not be going gentle into that good night any time soon – and with a surprisingly young crowd in the packed, sweaty venue, it’s heartening to see them being discovered by a new generation.
Knaup is joined by guitarists Chris Karrer and John Weinzierl from the original line‑up, with Danny Fichelscher, once of Popol Vuh, and Dieter Serfas, both on drums and percussion, and a younger keyboard and bass player.
They start with Apocalyptic Bore and in this cavernous rail-arch setting, there’s already a greater heft to this music than there is on record, an undercurrent between the guitars and gothic organ and mellotron sounds. The set neatly balances their more melodic, proggy structures like Manana, with its clean piano lines, and their more kosmische side, such as a lengthy, untitled improvisation which nods back at their 1971 album, Yeti.
Karrer and Weinzierl – a great unsung dual-guitar combination – come into their own on Kanaan from their 1969 debut Phallus Dei, meshing together and then cutting across each other. And although the two drummers are a little close to getting in each other’s way at times, they also produce some serious rolling thunder.
Wolf City, expanded and rearranged, is also quite a beast. “For an old lady like me, it’s heavy,” jokes the charismatic Knaup afterwards, although her voice cuts through powerfully.
There’s no time to relax as they go into a seismic Eye-Shaking King. The song is restructured, with more verses than the version on Yeti, without the stratospheric wails, and the instrumental section is a wah-wah wig-out topping a huge tidal swell of psychedelic sound.
Unfortunately, a lengthy and virtually inaudible Chris Karrer acoustic guitar piece puts the brakes on their momentum. The incisive verse rhythms of Surrounded By Stars cut in, but it meanders on with an elongated percussion interlude and two bass solos before petering out. There’s no encore to top it all off, sadly, but a lengthy group bow gets a tremendous reception from the crowd.