Image: Craig Hitchcock
WE ASKED ELECTRONIC SOUND READERS WHO ARE GOING TO SEE KRAFTWERK ON THEIR UK & IRELAND TOUR TO TELL US WHAT THEY THOUGHT. CRAIG HITCHCOCK (@craighitchcock) WENT TO SEE THEM IN NOTTINGHAM…
We had been informed of a prompt, 7.45pm start, but as eager music fans were still queuing outside in several different directions and still filing into the venue as late at 8pm, our affable hosts for the evening thankfully delayed this attendance deadline. Eventually a pixelated image appeared on the curtain with the sounds of what I thought was early Ralf and Florian, some lovely ambient sounding electronica. And then…
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Eins, zwei, drei, veir, fünf, sechs, seiben, acht. Boom, straight into ‘Numbers’, a personal favourite so an amazing kick-off to what promised to be an amazing gig. The visuals straight away are a highlight, numbers flying into the audience, what looks like an outtake from ‘The Matrix’, the backdrop to the four men in front of their machines. ‘Computer Love’ brings a huge retro desktop hovering over the stalls, all of this early highlights that add to the stunning sounds these four men are kicking out.
Ralf Hütter, obviously the leader of the group gives us beautiful synth lines and robotic voices whilst his three colleagues (names of which I don’t know) send wooshes, beats, bleeps and farts ringing around the venue and dragging these classic songs very much into the 21st Century and beyond. The performance art aspect that the band have created for themselves brings me my only real downfall of the evening. I can understand it being an all seated gig because of this but with how the songs are interpreted for the live performance, there could so easily be a standing area for movement to be made and shapes to be potentially thrown. As it was, I found the atmosphere a little subdued, the majority of the crowd offering polite applause at best. I feel a band as awesome and influential as this deserve more of an atmosphere, more appreciation, more noise. I’m not talking Mexican waves and terrace style chanting, but more than the Nottingham crowd offered.
Back to the music, a suite of songs from ‘The Man Machine’ offer a melodic pause to catch your breath after the opening upbeat numbers, all before being sent on our first mode of transport for the evening, a journey on the ‘Autobahn’. It wasn’t a drive at breakneck speed but a gentle drive towards the darkness of ‘Radioactivity’. This track was a dayglow warning of the dangers the song title suggests. It’s about as fire and brimstone the men machine get, but they’re angry!
Another journey followed, this time through the mountains, streets and roads used for the ‘Tour De France’. Five tracks from the album, and stunning they are too. OOH! AAH! OOH! AAH! An absolute peak of the music and vision before we are hurtled back to the cold, industrial sounds of German railways. ‘Trans-Europe Express’ brings a kling and a klang, evoking the sounds of their youth to create this masterpiece. Never more have I wanted to rendezvous on the Champs-Élysées, poignantly meeting Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
A robotic interlude, then the final high energy set of tracks. All primitive beats, the words ringing out are the nonsense of ‘Boing Boom Tshak’, currently my 5-year-old son’s favourite song. Along with what I hoped would come true, ‘Musique Non Stop’, this is an encore to remember.
It’s safe to say that Kraftwerk delivered an absolute feast to the ears and eyes, it’s just a shame the majority of people here forgot they were at a music venue, not an art gallery. It’s 13 years since I last saw Kraftwerk live and they seem to have done everything in their power to keep their neon lights shining bright for the modern world.
They were the robots and they were programmed just to do anything we want them too. Thank you Kraftwerk, it was a pleasure.