On Monday evening, at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre, Nils Frahm was nothing short of spectacular. The pianist’s talent and beauty was perfectly complemented by the historic venue, as Frahm left jaws-dropped and the room standing in ovation.
Nils Frahm is a German composer best known for channeling contemporary classical music through a host of electronic distortion devices. Touring in support of his most recent release—All Melody—Frahm took the stage alone; save for his laboratory of synths, pianos, and pedals. Although the artist rarely deviated from his newest album, the extraordinary amount of variation in each song meant that the music felt new and thrilling yet familiar.
Proceeding a brief intro to “The Whole Universe Wants to be Touched”, Frahm dove into the heavy-hitting “Sunson”. The evening oscillated between organic and electronic vibes—something of a truism regarding his body of work—which permitted the audience to catch their breath before another wave of bass would engulf the room.
A young woman and her father—presumably brought unwittingly to the concert—provided an endearing side-show to the evening, as dad and daughter spanned the generational gap through their appreciation of Frahm. Dad: “I bet he was inspired by Brian Eno!”, “Oh, it’s an analog synth!”. Daughter: “Frahm said ‘Forgive me, I’m too stoned’”.
Frahm’s stage presence is a gift unto itself. The performer was candid and self-effacing, and cut the bullshit encore trope. His physicality expressed what the synthesizers could not, undulating and bobbing to the rhythms, and showed a lightheartedness that was not anticipated considering the often serious tone of his music.
Superficially, Frahm’s music may appear to be for the coffee shop intelligentsia—trance music for Liberal Arts grads—but thanks to an astounding level of expertise paired with (seemingly) authentic humility, he defies pretentiousness. Wrapping up the evening with “Toilet Brushes” and “More” wherein he cuts the middleman and directly hammers his grand piano’s strings with…toilet brushes, it was a tongue-in-cheek showcase of Nils Frahm’s absolute perfection of his craft.