I got lucky this week as inherited a ticket to see Kraftwerk at Vivid Live this year. There’s a lot of eletronica about today but once upon a time the leading purveyors of ‘techno’ were the unparalleled, idiosyncratic, machine-minded Kraftwerk. They’re doing a series of concerts in Sydney for Vivid Live where they play their 8 albums and then let loose with the hits.
What’s Good About It
Kraftwerk on stage is unlike any other rock act, and that alone is refreshing. There’s no small talk, no chitchat about what the songs mean, no introduction of members. They just get on with it. The barrage of songs is overwhelming. The sound mix is astounding, what with the surround sound play on the filter sweeps and looped audio. The 3-D video is at once referential to their film clips as well as adventurous and surprising. The little LED light strips on their consoles are also amazing.
The whole integrated experience is mind-bending and unlike anything else you will see.
What’s Bad About it
What’s Interesting About It
Kraftwerk have streamlined their stage presentation to 4 people at consoles and the 3D video playing in the background. The Bauhaus Modernist aesthetic is pursued to extreme refinement. The guiding vision for the entire experience is this controlled, sustained, designed look as well as sound. The experience is at once, forward looking as well as retrospective, but filled with an irony of having predicted a different kind of future to what took place.
The grid motif on the high collared coats and trousers is also fascinating because together with the wire-frame graphics, it harks back to the style of ‘Tron’ where horizons spread out infinitely. Indeed, the horizon seems to inform the concept of Kraftwerk greatly, as we are made aware f it over and over in the clips for ‘Autobahn’ as well as the video for ‘Spacelab’. It seems they want to peer out to the horizon of technology and yet at the same time they have been standing on that edge for the 40-odd years of existence.
Aniother aspect of the astounding nature of the performance is that Kraftwerk’s music is like a decontruction of music itself. Melody is cut away from Harmony; timbre is abstracted through use of synthesisers; beats are pulled apart and reassembled to be more evocative of machines, not less; the resulting reconstructed gestalt is a kind of critique of the assembly of music.
The dispassionate playing is also interesting because by the end of the night, their resistance to their own output breaks down, and they’re all foot tapping on stage as they play the music. All in all, it’s the most mind-bending show I’ve seen in a long time.