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KRAFTWERK - ROYAL ALBERT HALL 22 JUNE 2017   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Friday, 06 October 2017


Man. Nature. History.

Kraftwerk have a lot of History. They formed in 1969, 48 years ago. Their first decade saw 8 albums of transformative, groundbreaking, prog-electronica. But the last 30 years have seen only one album of new material , with 2003's "Tour De france" . And thus effectively, no longer producing new music, Kraftwerk have become a little more than a travelling museum - to themselves.

IF you are going to have a museum, it better be to something worthwhile. Kraftwerk have - its not just the history of electronic music, having been so incredibly influential across the years, but probably a fairly good claim to be have been the most influential band since The Beatles.

As performances and presentations go, what they provide is nothing more than stunning. On one hand its four guys and their laptops - which is like describing The Beatles as four guys and their guitars. That doesn't even come close to describing how fascinating that four guys hardly moving on a stage can be. Whilst they are hardly the most engaging of stage presences - it is the visuals that make this such a totally immersive experience.

Because, unlike any other gig I've ever seen, it is a complete, and totally immersive 3D experience. The core experience of the evening revolves not around watching them perform, but the visual display they present. A video screen behind the band is completely sycnhronized to the performance. And the use of 3D is revolutionary in a live environment. I've never seen anything like it. I can't imagine I ever will again. Its not a 3D experience that is based upon converting live images of the band on stage, but based upon the thematics of the lyrics, and the animations that almost seem to fly into and over the heads of the crowds. show - such as in "Spacelab" , for example

Kraftwerk are not a band known for their overstated ebuillience. Which is not just to say that it is a bunch of goons standing on stage as Ralf presses "play". Nowhere near. Flubs and goofs are noticeable, proving that the perofrmance is not just a mime. The opening lyrics to their no.1 hit "The Model", a track that was perfectly ahead of its time, even as it hit no.1 in 1982 , despite being recorded 4 years earlier, are noticeably incomplete. And "SpaceLab" - despite its stunning visuals shows an actual humanity of two wrong notes (when someone tries to plays the synth line to the bridge over an instrumental verse).Who said it ain't live?

Out of this - and with sole remaining original member / singer Ralf Hutter now aged 70 - comes what is possibly their last visit to UK shores. Some might say that now that they no longer have the classic line up - or even long time foil Florian Schneider who left in 2008 after 40 years service, they no longer matter, like a tribute act featuring original members. After all, Even their "new guys" are now over 60. Aside from, that is, the onstage technician who controls the video displays, who wasn't born when the band began playing. Come to think, neither was they guy he replaced...

Ultimately, what are Kraftwerk about? An ethos, enscapulated in a merging of audio and visuals.The setlist, whilst infinitely flexible, remains pretty resolutely static and predictable.Despite having every song from their last eight albums available to perform - as per the "Catalogue" performances where they have done exactly that - there's little to differentiate the perfomances, such is their clinical precision. A duff note in "Spacelab", a word missed from the opening line of "The Model". Despite their best efforts, Kraftwerk remain only human.

As concert go, it is spectacular. the sound is precise, clear and perfect. The visuals are aligned perfectly to the audio, and the performance shows how a band can make something so...minimal, go such a very long way. So much so, it rewrites the history of modern music. Without them, there would be no such thing as techno, no such thing as hip hop (Afrika Bambaata's groundbeaking "Planet Rock"? Its a Kraftwerk cover version, just with different lyrics), and we'd all be wedded to buzzsaw guitars, and loud choruses - like the Ramones. A band that even Kraftwerk love (and Kraftwerk referenced not just on record but on stage too ; the Ramones all too familiar "wuntoofreefor!" was reprised, auf deutsch, in the opening of "Showroom Dummies", and the stage design with the neon names of the band referenced the Ramones own habit of only being referred to by forename).

Tonight might only have been a couple of hours of old blokes playing old songs, but its' so much more than that. From the opening pair of "Numbers" and "Computerworld" to the closing "Musique Non Stop" suite, it is almost a journey through the history of modern pop music. If you've ever seen Kraftwerk live, you'll never forget it. If you've never seen them ,you might just regret it. There's no one else like them. And there never will be again...

Man. Nature. Technology. Legendary. And deservedly.

SETLIST:
Numbers / Computerworld
Its more fun to compute / Home Computer
Computer Love
The Man Machine
Spacelab
The Model
Neon Lights
Autobahn
Airwaves
Intermission / Antenna
Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
Electrik Cafe
< Tour de france (Original) /Etape 1/Etape 2
Vitamin
Trans Europe Express
The Robots
Aerodynamik
Planet Of Visions
Music Non Stop

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