10 Feb 2013

Kraftwerk's crafty work: crossing generations

How can a band that was the rage 40 years ago still be relevant? The question was answered for 1,250 3D bespectacled fans, of whom I was one, on Friday night.

The question is answered at every one of their eight night performances at Tate Modern.

No wonder the Tate’s online booking office crashed the day the tickets for Kraftwerk went on sale; no wonder they are changing hands for £500 apiece on eBay.

The band, their futuristic dark Spiderman suits, the show, the graphics, the power, the throb through the concrete floor are massive.

Adorned in our white cardboard 3D spectacles, we thirsted for more and more. For me I was transported by tracks like Autobahn and Radio-Activity to an age of exuberant hope, when progress was the watchword.

Performing behind their neon etched lecterns Ralf Hütter and his humanoid robots were frequently dwarfed by the vastness that was happening above and beyond them.

Great chunks of action burst out into the auditorium, assaulting the audience, yet never striking them. I grabbed for some of the white semi-quavers that appeared to be hurtling toward me. It was only when I peered over the 3D glasses that I found they were nowhere near me.

Read more: Kraftwerk’s trans-Europe success

But above all it is the impact of the techno music bombarding this vast space. The show has seized the slope of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and thrown the most gigantic screen across the bridge. So every one of us had direct line of sight and sound. Ralf Hütter’s eerie electronicised voice, his hidden hands weaving magic across his equally hidden keyboard.

Suddenly, you find Bowie in your mind, Coldplay, Madonna even, and Jay-Z. But by far the closest encounter in my mind seemed to be with that amazing 70s band from Liverpool – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Kraftwerk don’t tour much. I recognise I am blessed to be amongst 10,000 who will have seen them live. Sure, I saw the Beatles,  the Stones and the Who live – but I would argue Kraftwerk’s influence is as great if not greater, and persists in looking forward to ever wider horizons.

Ouch –  look out for the VW bounding towards you on the autobahn!

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