Technically speaking, this isn’t the first Colour Haze live record, but it most definitely is the first they’ve put out through Elektrohasch, and it’s their most complete-feeling to date. A set from the Berg Herzberg festival aptly-titled Berg Herzberg Festival 18 Juli 2008 was issued in 2009, but in comparison, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 attempts to capture the best performances of a whole tour and winds up with two discs and over two hours and 11 minutes of music as a result. Spend an afternoon with Colour Haze. There are few better ways I can think of to dedicate that time, honestly, though I’m hardly impartial as a fan of the band. Comprised of 13 tracks, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 culls material recorded in Paris, Frankfurt, Wurzberg, Berlin, Köln and puts it together fluidly — presumably in an effort to give an idea of what any given night’s setlist might’ve been — while spanning a decent portion of the Munich trio’s widely influential career.
As ever, Colour Haze are guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, and this live outing was taped early last year as they were out with Radio Moscow, Cherry Choke and The Sun and the Wolf to support the late-2014 release of To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), their 11th studio album. Though they continue to be regular denizens of Duna Jam — and why not? — they’ve done less overall touring the last several years, having nestled themselves into a kind of statesman-like status in Europe’s heavy rock scene and provided a formative blueprint for an entire swath of jam-based heavy psychedelia with their unmatched instrumental chemistry, depth of tone and memorable songcraft.
Fortunately for anyone who might pick it up, all of those are on display throughout Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015, and Colour Haze show just how successful they’ve been in bringing an on-stage feel to their recordings all along as they dig into the still-exploratory-feeling title-track from 2012’s double-LP She Said (review here), from which “Transformation” and “Grace” are also featured, in succession, both with different arrangements than appear on the album. To the Highest Gods We Know gets its due as well, with a medley of “Überall” and “Call” joined together, a shortened, string-less take on its “To the Highest Gods We Know” and the righteously-riffed album opener “Circles,” on which Koglek‘s and Rasthofer‘s tones come through no less brilliantly than on the record itself. They go as far back as 1999’s Periscope, opening with that album’s title-track, feature “Love” and a 26-minute version of “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” from their 2004 self-titled, “Aquamaria” and “Tempel” from 2006’s Tempel, and “Moon” from 2008’s All.
Transitions across this swath of time — 16 years’ worth of material — are of course as seamless as anyone familiar with their work would expect, the three-piece having set their course with Periscope and continued to refine their processes ever since. Granted, for a live offering like this, there wouldn’t necessarily be the warts-and-all missteps one might find in, say, a single recorded set from any group — a flubbed note here, a flat line there — but at no point does Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 sound anything other than blissfully natural in its execution, and as the band hop from town to town, “Überall and Call” in Frankfurt, “Circles” in Paris, and so on, they give the genuine impression that the circumstances are the same, every night, every city, and so succeed in making Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 a representation of the tour and their live show in general. Whether it’s getting lost in the 13-minute “Transformation” or the far-ranging jam they embark on as part of “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!,” Colour Haze bring their legend to life in welcoming fashion.
And yeah, maybe the two-plus-hour live record is a fan piece. We’re coming up on being two years removed from the release of To the Highest Gods We Know and Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee coincides with Colour Haze‘s return to the US to take part in Psycho Las Vegas after a decade since their last US show, at Emissions from the Monolith in Ohio, so that they’d want to get something out makes sense from a practical standpoint as well, but it says something about the band that clearly this material has been carefully compiled, edited together so smoothly, and done in a manner worthy of the quality of the performances contained within. It is in no way half-assed, up to the point of including “Get it On” from 2000’s CO2 as a bonus track after the show-unto-itself “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” caps what would be the regular set. An encore! After a 26-minute song!
There are few acts who could get away with such a thing, let alone as gloriously as Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald do here — the latter’s snare subtlety even coming through on the live recording — but Colour Haze aren’t just any band. As they’ve demonstrated time and again, their strange brew is endlessly potent, and while they’ve marched past 20 years since the release of their first album in 1995’s Chopping Machine (discussed here), this collection proves their luster has only shone brighter over time and that their vision of a new classic rock finds no conflict in being as loyal to its roots as it is forward-thinking. Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee will be essential for any Colour Haze fan regardless of geography or how often they might tour in a given place, but for newcomers as well, it gives not only a sense of the spectrum of (much of) their catalog, but also provides a wholly immersive listening experience, and so pushes forward an essential aspect of the band’s sonic personality. Go with it.