Adieu, sweet Bahnhof Tour (1984-1985)

first published: 22-4-98 / complete revision 20-11-98 / last update 21-10-04

Overview

This tour followed the Adieu, sweet Bahnhof album, which wasn't as commercially successful as the band had hoped. The sound of the album was rather slick, probably due to the producer/engineer they had hired. Live however the band sounded much more like themselves. This tour was really a transition between 'old nits' and 'new nits'. The most obvious change would be that after this tour founding member Michiel Peters would leave. But also very apparent from this tour is that the band really shed off the quite rough sound of the early days for a much more subtle approach to their music. This was not only apparent in the new songs, but also very much so in the old songs, which were all reworked to the new sound. I think the band also acquired some new synthesizers, which had much more realistic soundpatches. The typical analog synth sound of the previous was sometimes still present, but the much warmer sounding new synths replaced most of them. Michiel's guitar playing also changed. Instead of the wild guitar solos of the early years he continued in the way of guitar playing already changed from around the Omsk tour, although he sometimes still would whip out a rocking solo. This leaves the probably most significant change: Rob's drumming. He used to be a tight drummer who would play very effective rhythms. For this tour his playing for the first time changed to a more percussionist's approach instead of a rock/pop drummer. He started to concentrate more on cymbals, toms and other percussion instruments, although he didn't throw out his snares and bass drums! His style would refine even more in the following years, but this tour was the start of his unique sound. The tour lasted from August 1984 to June 1985 and the band visited the following countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany. For a long time only one 30 minute radioshow was available to tapetraders, the Countdown radio show. This was a special unplugged type performance, so it wasn't really representative of the normal concerts of this tour. Now several concerts of this tour are circulating.

Band

As mentioned before Michiel Peters left the band after the last show of the tour on June 2nd 1985 at the Vondelpark in Amsterdam. He was tired of being a musician and left the music business completely. In 1988 a solo-album of him was released and he was a guest at a Nits radioshow in 1989, but that was it. This was a major change for the band, leaving Henk as the main songwriter and guitarist. The band took a break from touring and recording to reflect on their future and luckily they decided to continue. In the meantime Henk produced the Grande Parade album and all members worked on separate musical projects. The Nits would record the next album as a trio and hire two new musicians to replace Michiel for the next tour. This version of the Nits had existed since late 1981.

Henk Hofstede: vocals, keyboards, guitar, marimba
Michiel Peters: vocals, guitars, bass
Rob Kloet: drums, percussion
Robert Jan Stips: keyboards, marimba, vocals

Stage

From what I have seen from photographs the stage had a backdrop of sheets with on it the paintings that were used for the Adieu, sweet Bahnhof album cover. This is all I know from the stage setup.


Songs

The songs played were mostly a selection of concert favorites from earlier tours, mixed with several tracks from the Adieu, sweet Bahnhof album. Of several tracks of this album I haven't heard a live version, but some of them would become classics that would be played for many years. One new song (the singing telegram) that would be released on the 1986 Henk album was also played. At the Countdown radioshow all the songs were played differently than normal. The six songs were played in a semi-unplugged version, years before the unplugged hype! One song was released in the live version: mask, as a b-side on the 'adieu, sweet Bahnhof single. Walter Schäppi remembered that during the Zürich concert this tour (it might also have been the year before) the audience asked for a song by the Beatles. Henk then fetched a small book with all the Beatles lyrics and the played one of the more difficult to play songs (from around 1965/1966).

Overview of all the (known) songs played:

Acres of Tintoretto

The sound of this version, which is similar to the previous tour, wasn't as jazzy as the original, but more like the original fast demo version. A fast version of the chorus was sung as an intro. After this echo-y drums and cymbals were played by Rob and Robert Jan started playing various ambient synth melodies ad effects. Michiel played a 'howling' guitar sound. The verses were sung over this backing, while the choruses were played in the fast way. Michiel sang backing vocals. Robert Jan played a synth solo, using an accordion sound. The ending had totally different music from the original. It started by Henk singing the line 'There's devils in the backseat' a few times, before a rather dramatic sounding instrumental part was played. This was very keyboard-heavy in the beginning, but later an acoustic guitar, played by either Michiel or Henk, took over.

Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof

This Nits concert classic made its first appearance on this tour. The three-language-title comes from a rather abstract Dutch poem by Wilfred Smit. This is the poem (and my attempt at a translation):

Adieu sweet Bahnhof (Wilfred Smit, 1956)

Drijft men dan steeds verder
uit elkaar? het afscheid schuift
een opdringrige oom tussen ons in.
sluit de ogen af - ja, dit is vlucht, 
een handvol kaarten laten vallen
omdat men in onze vingers knipt. 
wurg alle lichten - rasse schreden 
maakt mijn vertrek, reusachtig,
als op stelten wadend door de mist. 
adieu adieu sweet bahnhof -
een convooi melaatsen wacht
in alle stilte de nalaatste trein.
Does one float further and further
from each other? The farewell slips
an imposing uncle in between us.
closes the eyes - yes, this is flight,
dropping a handful of cards
because one clips in our fingers.
strangle all lights - fast treds
makes my leaving, gigantic
like on stilts wading through the fog.
goodbye goodbye sweet train station -
a convoy of lepers waits
in complete silence the afterlast train

Henk's lyrics are about a trip between Amsterdam and Paris by train. He also mentioned the Hotel d'Angleterre, a rather shabby hotel in Paris where the band used to stay, and the Centre Pompidou, a very strange looking museum of modern art.

The song was played differently from the album and later live versions. A rather rude sounding percussive synth was played in the beginning in the song, probably by Henk. This was quickly joined by a synth accordion, Rob's waltz drum and a bubbly synth bass. These percussive synth parts were only played in the first minute or so of the song. Michiel provided some guitar fills throughout the song, as well as backing vocals in all the choruses and also in verse parts later in the song. Robert Jan's accordion sound was sometimes a bit thin sounding, especially compared to the later live versions with a real accordion. The music was rather slow. In the instrumental part the melody was played by the accordion synth and a marimba, probably played by Henk. The version in Hulst had a very strange ending. Some very out of place loud sounds segued this song into Nescio. The sounds can best be described by a cross between train, thunder and fighter jet noises. This was very rude sounding and quite unfitting in both the songs it connected, but it was interesting to hear nonetheless. The version at the Countdown radio show was slightly different. It started out with the theme played as a staccato piano and keyboard riff. A little later the bass entered, followed closely by the drums. After a while the staccato part stopped and the melody was played by Robert Jan on the piano, when Henk starts to sing. This came closer to the familiar waltz-like song that we know. The song remained piano-heavy, but Michiel added his guitar touches throughout. After some verses the song returned to the staccato part for the chorus, which was sung both by Henk and Michiel. For the second part, which was again the waltz-like piano part, Michiel provided backing vocals, while Henk still did the lead vocals. The end was similar to the normal version, but with some drum effects thrown in and probably Henk playing the melody on the marimba. After the song ended there suddenly were some synth sounds. That sounded very cool, but I think it wasn't part of the song, but the dj starting a new record.

Ballroom of Romance

This was never one of my favorite Nits songs and the live version doesn't change that for me. Frank Boeijen, who sang on the original, was of course not present at the live performances. Henk sang the first and third verse, while Michiel sang the second one. The song started out with the melody on a cheesy sounding organ, with drums and a soft acoustic guitar. Weird organ melodies and touches were played by Robert Jan throughout the song. Michiel played a short, prewritten guitar solo, accompanied by a steel guitar synth. Near the end Michiel played another solo. 

Dapperstreet

This tour's version of this song was particularly beautiful. It had a full backing of synths that played slow melodies with an orchestral sound. Rob's new-found subtlety was audible in the percussion parts. A second bright sounding synth also provided melodies. Henk's vocals had a lot of reverb on them. It seemed like Michiel took a break during this song. The only thing he had to do was sing 'ah-ah-ah-yah-ah-ah-ah' a few times. Near the end a trombone synth sound played some melodies. his song often opened the concerts.

Empty Room

As usual this started with the echo-y guitar theme. The synth bass and the drums joined in full force after a while. Henk's vocals sounded angry and had a lot of reverb. Michiel sang backing vocals in the chorus. After the first chorus a high synth sound entered. The second half of the song was mostly instrumental. In previous years this part concentrated most on the guitar, but this time it was very heavy sequenced synth sounds and effects that took the front. Eventually also a piano was played. The vocals returned, but the wild music continued. Henk's voice was artificially sustained and distorted for a long time, which sounded quite good!. This was the last live version of this song and absolutely also one of the best.

How the west got lost

This 'cowboy instrumental' b-side from Robert Jan's solo project U.P. was a regular choice as an encore between 1981 and 1985. A repetitive sequenced synth, which sounded a bit like Jean Michel Jarre, formed the intro, accompanied by a bass drum. This soon transformed into wild drumming. More keyboards sounds were played after a while, including a piano and orchestral sounds. Rob also made some whip sounds. Michiel played the first melody line in an almost surf guitar sound. This was accompanied by an orchestral countermelody. A triumphant sounding synth trumpet was next, followed by a return of the main them on guitar and orchestral synth. This resulted in a very full sound. The synth solo section was the same as on the original. A nice percussive synth bass line was played during this. Next was a variation on the main theme, played by Michiel on the guitar. This new part sounded very nice. During this last part quite suddenly an extremely heavy synth bass entered and was continued until the end.

The Infant king

This is one of Michiel's finest songs. He must have thought that as well, he even named his 1988 solo album after this song (which was also rerecorded for this album)! Michiel of course sang lead vocals on this version, which was played close to the album version. Henk provided backing vocals. The song was very guitar-based, with some piano fills throughout the song. A subtle synth-bass is played by Robert Jan as well. The louder guitar breaks contrast very nicely with the more subdued lyric sections.
 The cool, beat-like guitar break in the 'someone said the other day..' part sounded very good in this live version. The normal concert version had some extra bright synth sounds, but wasn't too different. The version on the Countdown radio show was also similar, but sounded a bit more jazzy. 

Man Of Straw

This wasn't always played, but made a regular appearance. It was played the same as in the previous two tours with the prominent synth bass line and other hectic synth and guitar melodies.

Mask

Of this song I have heard two different arrangements. One is the piano version, the other the full band version. The piano version was released as a b-side to the 'Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof' single and it was played at the Countdown radio show. The main instrument was of course a piano, but some sparse keyboard parts were present too. Henk sang lead vocals, while Michiel provided some backing vocals and maybe also the bass. The first part of the song was without drums. But from the 'put it off slowly..' part Rob joins the rest of the band for some subtle drumming. Towards the end of the song some guitar touches were added as well.
The full band version was more similar to the original album version. After a guitar chord the typical rhythm was started by Rob. Some heavy synths with also some brighter sounds entered the song together with the vocals. As always in this song Henk's singing was very beautiful. For the 'I want to be alone' part a smoother synth sound was used. A vocal break with both Henk and Michiel was done and after this the band returned to the hesitant rhythm of the beginning. Near the ending Michiel inserted a few nice guitar parts and the singing became even more intense.
The full band version was played halfway through the concerts, while the piano version usually popped up as the last encore. Both versions were usually played at concerts, but unfortunately they are often missing from recordings or are incomplete.
According to Walter Schäppi's Nits Overview there was a third version: it was played at the AVRO's platengala in Rotterdam with an orchestra.

Nescio

A long instrumental piano-only intro was played. After some time Henk began to sing the 'I jumped of a bridge' part in a similar way as the later Urk version. After the 'nobody's knocking' line someone knocked… The orchestral sound that started the original song was then played, soon followed by the percussion and Michiel on a bass guitar and Robert Jan's amazing piano lines. Henk sang the Italian vocals and played an acoustic guitar. Michiel provided vocals in this part and also in the English section of the song. The second Italian part featured a lot of echo on the vocals. The fast ending had a slightly different rhythm than usual. Often this song was was segued from the song 'Adieu, sweet Bahnhof' through some very loud and rude train/jet/thunder sounds. These sounds were continued over a large part of the instrumental piano intro, but eventually disappeared.

New Flat

A rather sinister version of this song was played during this tour. It began with the guitar, the synth and the percussion. It was played slower than the original. The first verse was sung over just a pulsating synth part. After a percussion break a very nice subtle electric guitar part entered. Full drums, acoustic and electric guitars were played after the first verse. Robert Jan provided synth effects and Michiel sang backing vocals. The static drum-break from the original was now played using an electronic handclap sound, after which the full band re-entered, bringing this rather impressive version to the end.

Nickel And Wood

This b-side from the Kilo days was played at a few concerts this tour (for the first time in Zürich). It sounded very much like the original. An organ and a trumpet sound were played on the keyboards, there was some nice drumming and Henk's singing  was excellent, including using his high voice in some parts. This beautiful and rather soulful song is unfortunately only present on one or two recordings..

Red Tape

In Emmen this song was played slower than the original, but apparently towards the end of the tour it had gained some speed again, because in Hulst it was played closer to the tempo of the original version. A synth bass and some bright keyboard sounds were the main ingredients for this song. Rob provided some echo-y percussion in this very full sounding version of the song. Michiel sang backing vocals and played the guitar. He also played the guitar solo exactly as on the album. Henk had some reverb on his voice.

Silly Fool

In my opinion sounded this song better live than on the album. It had this rough edge that seemed to be polished off on most of the album tracks. It started with a fast acoustic guitar intro. The drums and a low synth melody joined after a while, followed later by electric guitar melodies and more synth. Michiel sang lead and Henk sang backing vocals, mostly 'answering' Michiel's lines, as on the album. The song sounded rather angry and sinister.In the 'books are burned' art Henk's backing vocals became really cool. The song ended with an instrumental part. The Hulst version featured some strange vocal echoes.

The Singing Telegram

This was a very special song, because it wasn't released at the time. What makes it extra special is that Michiel was rather prominent on this song, but he was of course completely absent on the studio version of 1986. This song indicates a little bit how the band might have sounded if Michiel wouldn't have left. The song itself sounds a bit like a live demo. It sounded as if they were still working on it. The lyrics were at many points different from the later released version, for instance there were lines such as: 'In a highway in a car' and 'In an ocean on a steamer' and more like this. The song started with a drumbeat, which had an echo-y snare. Henk explained the song over this. An organ-like sound that was distorted to a somewhat shrieking sound. The part that would be played later with the bass guitar was for this tour played by Michiel on the guitar. This fast melody sounded very cool. The bass part in this version was a heavy synth drone. Michiel also provided backing vocals. A cool drums and guitar break was played, followed by a heavy return to the song. The ending consisted of heavy drumming and synths. The song wasn't yet as jubilant as it would be later, but it sounded very nice nonetheless.

Sketches Of Spain

Percussion, the piano melody and a real bass played by Michiel, started this song. A low orchestral sound was played after this and soon the vocals entered. This version of the song wasn't very different from the original. The first instrumental part had a heavy orchestral synth as the main instrument. Michiel sang backing vocals on the ' I have seen the trenches..' part. The beginning of the second instrumental part was very piano heavy, but also some acoustic guitar was present, probably played by Henk. This was followed by the orchestral sound, which itself was followed by some repetitive guitar lines. The vocals returned and the song was played to the end in a normal way. The version in Emmen was somewhat remarkable because the audience started singing along with the lyrics and even taking them over for a while, much to the surprise and delight of the band.

Suddenly I Met Your Face

This began with the hyperactive synth part combined with a rather strange drum rhythm. The usual 'take five' like piano entered after a while. Henk's singing was rather subtle. Michiel sang the backing vocals in the chorus. After a big piano crash the song really became 'take five' like, including the bass line and a siren like synth trumpet solo. A rather long rumbling drum part was played through the synth bass and piano parts. The song returned to the vocals, this time accompanied by a very rhythmic backing. Another high piano crash ended the song.

The Tender Trap

Instead of the horns that were on the album version, the live version had two bright synth sounds, percussion and a guitar melody. The two synth sounds were an electric piano and a more spacey sound. Some synth bass touches were played in the song. Later in the song another keyboard sound entered, this time it was a low orchestral sound. I like this version a lot better than the original. This version had a very warm atmosphere. The bonus-DVD with the 1974 album has an excellent version of this song from this tour. For the Countdown radio show the horn parts were replaced by both the piano and guitar. Henk's excellent singing was accompanied by an effective piano backing, cool drumming and some guitar touches. According to Walter Schäppi's Nits Overview this song was also played at the AVRO's platengala in Rotterdam with an orchestra.

Think it over

This song was written by Robert Jan about a school friend of his who later became a prominent member of a racist political party. The cool synth bass line, several keyboards and a marimba were played in the intro. The marimba wasn't used further on in the song. Michiel played guitar behind Henk's lead vocals in the beginning. Later they switched lead vocals a few times and the bridge part of the song ('you - never were a friend..') was sung both by Michiel and Henk as on the album and this part sounded very good in this live version.. The instrumental part consisted of a duet between the synth and the guitar. Robert Jan used various sounds on his synth, including piano, orchestral sounds and the bass.
The Countdown version had a piano intro, soon joined by the bass line. The horn parts that are on the album were replaced by piano. The piano also played the melody throughout, while Henk and Michiel sang the vocals. In the instrumental part an acoustic guitar is heard and Robert Jan played a piano solo. This was another song that sounded better live than on the album. I prefer the version at the Urk Tour of 1989 and the one of Robert Jan's solo project 'Egotrip'  over this one though.

Tons of Ink

The structure of this song was similar to previous versions with the alternating staccato and fluent parts, but the synth sounds were much brighter and fuller sounding. The whole band provided the 'yo-oh-oh' backing vocals. Both Henk and Robert Jan played keyboard melodies. A marimba can also be heard (played by Michiel?)

A Touch of Henry Moore

This started with the typical Henry Moore intro on the keyboards. The abstract drums, other synth effects and marimba melodies were added to this.  Michiel sang the 'sometimes' and a few other parts in a rather warm voice. The main lyrics, which again excluded the chorus, were sung by Henk. The 'a reclining figure..' part was sung by both Henk and Michiel. The first instrumental part featured Robert Jan on a harpsichord like sound and probably Henk on the marimba. The second instrumental part had BIG drums, a percussive synth and ethereal sounds. After a few more lyrics the song came to an end.

Tomorrow Never Knows

This Beatles' cover was played often during the encores. It was played with lots of sweeping synth effects and echo-y cymbals. Henk's vocals were also distorted and reverse sound effects and guitar melodies made this hectic version complete. There are several instrumental sections that feature even more weird noises and sounds. Even though it's certainly no easy-listening, it's pretty cool to hear this song and it's definitely one of the more experimental songs of this tour. It usually segued into Tutti Ragazzi.

Tutti Ragazzi

This song usually segues out from Tomorrow Never Knows with a bubbly version of the Tutti-synth sound that slowly transformed into the normal one. The song was played in the same structure as usual, but with an added acoustic guitar, which gave it a more natural feel. In the last part of the song Robert Jan added a new, short melody, but mostly it remained close to the regular way they play it. It ended with a short crescendo. In the beginning of the tour it was sometimes used as the first song, but it was replaced by Dapperstreet and moved to the encores.

Unpleasant Surprise

This very nice, or should I say pleasant, Michiel song was once again played this tour. It wasn't played too different from the original, but it was slightly slower and it featured the new synth sounds. he intro featured the marimba and later on also a saxophone synth sound. Michiel's vocals sometimes had some strange distortions, which maybe can be described as 'clipped echoes'. More 'sax' parts were played later on in the song, which also featured a synth bass and piano. Henk sang the 'oh-oh-oh' backing vocals, as well as the 'finally, you have been..' parts. In the instrumental part the marimba returned, this time together with a tuba sound.

Vah Hollanda Seni Seni

This song was sometimes introduced by Henk as 'a song written by a Turkish girl that lives in Holland'. This was played in a version that sounded similar to the album version, but without the Turkish vocals. The structure of the song was the same for the rest, but it sounded a bit more alive than the album version.

The Vermilion Pencil

This was usually the last song of the regular set before the encores. It started with the synth and percussion. An acoustic guitar entered, followed by a piano. The music became faster after this. Henk sang the enthusiastic lead vocals. It wasn't played too different from earlier versions It had some nice piano playing by Robert Jan, who varied his lines a lot throughout the songs. Henk probably played the guitar, and Michiel a bass guitar, since he had played it in the songs before as well. The song had the 'Scottish' ending.

Villa Homesick

This was never a favorite song of mine, but it's nice to hear it live in this tour. It was never played again after this tour. Low synth sounds and a thin, fake sounding violin sound opened this song. Rob played some strange echo-y rhythm and Michiel sang the lead vocals. His vocal melody was doubled by the violin sound. Henk sang backing vocals in the chorus and the ending. During the song some of the synth lines changed a bit. The instrumental part featured some ethereal synth lines and the ending had several guitar touches. The song was played rather slow and very much like the album version, resulting in an atmospheric, but not really special version.

Wake up

This song from Robert Jan's U.P. solo album was regularly played between 1981 and 1985. The song featured heavy guitar, synth bass and straight forward drumming. This song sounded much more like the band in previous years than the newfound subtleness they had reached this tour. Michiel provided the guitar melodies and touches. He also played a long guitar solo. The instrumental part had this solo, as well as piano and the synth bass. Robert Jan sang lead vocals, except in the chorus, which was sung by Michiel. The last chorus was sung by both Robert Jan and Michiel and the 'aaaaah wake up' part was the only time Henk sung. He did this part together with Robert Jan and Michiel.

Woman cactus

This song about Picasso's art became a regular concert feature between 1984 and 1989. It started with a steady drum intro, soon joined by the marimba and a sweeping airy synth sound. After the guitar melodies also entered Robert Jan introduced the bell sounds. Michiel played low rhythm guitar parts. Henk's vocals were followed by a direct echo of his own voice, so it sounded like he sang all the lines twice. Michiel did some backing vocals. The song had a synth bass. The weird break was played the same way as on the album, including the distorting synth and the high vocals. After this the band returned to the 'normal' part of the song. Although this version wasn't bad, the later live versions with a real bass guitar made it much more coherent sounding.
The song was played very strangely at the Countdown radio show. It started out on piano, which was a new part but sounded very familiar. The verses were mainly vocals and piano. The kloefonic (Rob and Robert Jan's handmade primitive sampling machine) was played after a while with its 'oh oh oh oh' sounds. When they got to the chorus the song suddenly went wild with some weird drum effects and piano crashes. By now it was apparent this version of this already not so normal song turned out very strange. In the instrumental part the kloefonic took its place as the major instrument, with Robert Jan playing some percussive piano. Some guitar touches were added as well by Michiel. Henk of course did the high voice part of the song. After a while the song returned via some dramatic piano chords to the music that started out this version of the song, ending this weird version.

Your Next Tyres

This was played similar to the Kilo Tour version. This song had a great intro. Just one guitar paying a funny little melody. After a while a second guitar joined. Soon after this the drums and a heavy synth bass entered. A synth melody was started and Henk began singing the lyrics. Robert Jan used a trombone synth sound, while the guitars remained somewhat in the background. Rob's percussion was very effective with many little effects. At times the rhythm guitar came more to the front during the song. Michiel and Robert Jan sang backing vocals. Michiel also sang co-lead on a few lines. The 'almost instrumental part' featured heavy guitars, marimba, 'ho-ho-ho', 'lo-lo-lo' and other vocals. After this Henk returned to the lyrics, singing them very loud. After a climax ending a long chord finished the song. This version sounded great. Less angry than the original, but musically very interesting. It's apparently Henk's least favorite Nits song and they never played it again after this tour.