If you can measure a band's influence by the other artists that turn up at their gigs,then judging by tonight's outing Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.) are about as influential as they come. Without any effort or much circulating (and no backstage pass I might add!) I saw Daniel Miller, Die Krupps, Komputer, Inertia and Mechanical Cabaret in amongst the crowd packed into the recently rechristened O2 Academy in Islington.
Of course, that's only to be expected from a band who influence is unquestioned by any who have heard them or heard of them. In spite of spawning imitators and inspiring others who would gain much greater popularity and record sales, D.A.F.'s sound remains entirely their own. Only the early Nitzer Ebb material comes close to capturing the minimalist austerity of their unmistakable noise. Yet no one has ever challenged their claim to the title of being the definitive exponents of electropunk - that potentially unholy joining of electronic music and punk attitude. Revolving around a constant core of looping, stepped synth sequencer patterns, muscular drums and shouted lyrics, vocal delivery and the simple construction is the very essence of punk - albeit one that applies synth technology in place of the standard guitars - something most punk bands would abhor.
Gabi Delgado-López and Robert Görl were both original members and with previous line up changes behind them have settled for a two-piece D.A.F. for the modern age. Aside from his cheery smiles and waves as he walked on stage, during the set Görl was largely hidden behind his huge live drum kit; lead vocalist Delgado-López left to stalk the stage on his own, something that clearly he enjoyed. The remainder - all electronics - was on backing track. Which was fine, as it left the two most dynamic musical elements: drums and vocals, to be leveraged to maximum live effect. There was no overwhelming anger or angst in Delgado-López's delivery but that never dampened the impact. Indeed, with some songs not finishing quite as rehearsed, in place of the frustration one might expect the Spanish singer often laughed and simply thanked the audience for their understanding.
There was a huge German contingent in the very up-for-it audience, in fact it was difficult to make out an English voice amid the black-clad crowds and, a lone "Thank you" apart, the entire night was a dialogue between stage and dance floor in der Deutsche. Though never doubting their importance, having picked up a couple of albums along the way, and counting Robert Görl's Mit Dir as a landmark influence during my musical youth, I've never really worshipped at the church of D.A.F., so in spite of their standing, I came into this evening with modest expectations, half expecting to loose interest midway due to the limited musical palette. But that never happened. Songs that on record which to me sounded far less exciting than their descriptions did were an entirely different proposition live.
The full beauty of those primal analogue synthesizer sounds was a revelation - like someone pouring honey into your ears (okay, maybe not quite!). Stepped sequencer basslines are one of the music world's most glorious creations and these guys are the master exponents. In terms of producing such impacting elemental sounds, only Kraftwerk have managed to out do D.A.F. All their most familiar songs were present (I spotted Der Mussolini, Kebab-Träume, Sato Sato, Alle gegen Alle, Der Räuber und der Prinz and Sex Unter Wasser) and I lost count of the encores, but the result was a night of perfect electronics, delivered by a couple of old hands who, given the immeasurable influence they have generated since the 1970s, deserve their evening of glory and adoration like few others. 8/10