MiG 2011, in-akustik 2007 / MiG 2017
Vintage and contemporary, three entire concerts from venerate German ensemble who refuse to be gracious and are all the better for it.
Soon to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, these artists are often categorized as a Krautrock collective – erroneously so because the quartet’s progressive tendencies, quite obvious in their early period, have always been kept to a minimum in favor of the good-time sort of heaviness, as captured here on three CDs and two DVDs. Innocently visceral in 1977, feverishly wild in 1979 and still intelligently untamed in 2004, EPITAPH may have gone through a few changes but their spirit remained the same: riveting to witness and inducing a smile. And, of course, there’s the music to apply it to.
Relaxed yet muscular, the funky “She’s Burning” signals a perfect beginning to their earliest performance where the players sport a rather casual attire while paying a great deal of attention to texture, especially in a guitar solo department, Cliff Jackson and Klaus Walz trading bluegrass-influenced licks on “Woman” before going off on an alternate tangent, with protracted instrumental passages of “Tequila Shuffle” a showcase for the band’s musical telepathy – lifted to whole different level at the group’s latest concert for a slider to caress the track. The tension would sag in “Fresh Air” as hippie sensibilities kick in in 1977 and get solid again in 2004 when the piece was significantly rearranged, reflecting the ensemble’s maturity which suits them well, and the foursome got their boogie down right from the start, with smiles all around, even though “Moving To The Country” takes some time to take off.
Sometimes belligerent and always filigree, their delivery deepens emotionally on “Crossroads” and “Outside The Law” as Cliff steps up to relieve bassist Bernd Kolbe of lead vocal duties, yet the veterans also shine on a more pop-oriented material such “Bad Feeling” and “Big City” demonstrating the ensemble’s harmony front. The collective’s dynamic range is measured on “Who Do You Love” whose drive is charged by the surge of rhythm section and grounded by the use of talk box, its finale’s party mood spilling into the rambunctious boogie “Going To Chicago” – the only cut present in all three sets, Klaus rejoining old friends in the new Millennium for a triple guitar treat – that could be brimful with swagger if the quartet cared more about panache and provided more eye-pleasing interaction to progress beyond reading each other’s mind as they eventually do on “Stop, Look And Listen” – revisited for a tremendous run in their most recent phase.
The group’s second appearance at “Rockpalast” is truly arresting, thanks their simpler look and sleeker sound on the immediately engaging likes of “Return To Reality” or the yet-to-be-released “Tonight” which see energy projected on the rather agitated, and sometimes unhinged, stage presentation. There’s an updated, with only Jackson left over, and expanded with the inclusion of a keyboard player, line-up exercising their newly attained looseness to a great effect on another then-unissued piece, the riff-driven “When I Lose Your Love” that has a cosmic Moog vignettes painted om, and on “Strangers” that switches from hefty, Hammond-helped pounding to romantic ripple. As Heinz Glass weaves in his six-strings for a twin guitars attack on the dramatic “When I Lose Your Love” and the frolicking “On The Road” where the ivories shine, while “Mick’s Boogie” finds organist Michael Karch in a singer’s role, the musicians and fans have a lot of fun, the dance-inducing “Spread Your Wings” incorporating drummer Fritz Randow’s visually impressive personal spot.
2004’s performance features a mix of the two previous line-ups, so the spirit is even higher there, but two “Beat Club” tracks from 1972 on the same DVD capture the quartet still finding those wings. The band would play for many more years, and it’s great to have their on-stage story and glory preserved like this.