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Green Light in the City

Live Music Review: Kraftwerk At The Royal Concert Hall

21 June 17 words: Paul Klotschkow

The electronic music legends brought their 3D techno pop to Nottingham…

Kraftwerk Live

Ralf Hutter may be the only original member since Florian Schneider jumped ship in 2008, they may not have released an album of original material since 2003’s Tour de France Soundtracks, and they may look like the world’s worst superhero squad in their neon romper suits, but there’s no denying that the techno pioneers know how to put on one hell of a show.

Most recently seen playing their albums in full during a series of high profile museum performances that took place in various capital and major cities around the world. Now, Kraftwerk have taken that show, remixed and repackaged it, and are presenting Kraftwerk in 3D - an audio-visual feast - and hitting up the provinces.

It becomes immediately obvious that the time spent away from making new music has been spent on refining and updating their sound. The music has been deconstructed and rebuilt for twenty-first century ears. Perhaps, this is the sound Ralf and Florian had in mind 40 years ago when they became fascinated with the possibilities of the Moog and started building their own synthesisers in their Kling Klang studio. It seems that technology has finally caught up with Kraftwerk’s vision, and the results are immense.

Playing essentially a greatest hits set, songs are thematically clumped together by albums, with the gig often feeling like a DJ set, songs booming, sounding both crystal clear and intricately layered, and often flowing in to the next. It sounds massive and part of me wishes this was happening in a club on a Saturday night and not in a theatre where I am sat down wearing cardboard 3D glasses.

Opening with a batch of songs from 1981’s Computer World, including the prescient Computer Love, before four songs from the iconic The Man Machine album. It is a masterclass in electronic music craftsmanship, every song bursting with ear-worm catchy melodies and mechanized crunching percussive rhythms.

It is often quipped by those with the misfortunate to lack a sense of humour that the personality of Kraftwerk mirrors the robots and machines that they are so fascinated by. That couldn’t be further from the truth; if anything, Kraftwerk’s music is brimming with humanity and warmth. And tonight that is present in all its glory.

Spacelab’s whooshing sci-fi is accompanied by a cute visual gag of a UFO descending upon earth and landing outside the Royal Concert Hall. Radioactivity’s anti-nuclear message rings loud and clear. “Chernobyl, Harrisburg, Sellafield, Fukushima”, the dangers of nuclear power splashed across the large screen. Dramatically and clearly its protest rings out as the rhythms twitch like a geiger counter amongst melancholic synth lines. A poignant moment.

Autobahn is greeted with the biggest cheer of the night. That chugging motorik rhythm soundtracking images of vehicles moving on a cartoon motorway. A tribute to the Beach Boys, it was the moment where Kraftwerk introduced themselves as electronic innovators, and its refrain of “Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn” and parping sound effects that represent the sound of moving traffic still sound remarkable as Kraftwerk take us on a joyride along their sonic highway.

A bass heavy thump that shakes our seats introduces the masterpiece that is Trans-Europe Express. A paean to the network of railway lines that connect and link the continent together; it is the sound of optimistic wonder from a band who came of age in post-war Germany and for a long time lived in a divided country. A song that was once brimming with hope is now tinged with a wistful sadness as we head in to the week where Brexit negations are about to take place.

When the real robots eventually appear it is to massive cheers. Four showroom dummies dressed as The Man Machine-era Kraftwerk jerk awkwardly along to The Robots. You can feel tongues being pressed firmly in to cheeks.

After returning for a three song encore, the four members of Kraftwerk leave the stage one-by-one, smiling and taking a bow, as Musique Non Stop’s mantra brings tonight’s extravaganza to a close and perfectly summing up the Kraftwerk experience.

Setlist
Numbers
Computer World
It's More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
Computer Love
The Man-Machine
Spacelab
The Model
Neon Lights
Autobahn
Airwaves
Intermission / News
Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
Electric Café
Tour De France / Prologue / Etape 1 / Chrono / Etape 2
Trans Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Abzug

Encore:
The Robots

Encore 2:
Aéro Dynamik
Planet of Visions
Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop

Kraftwerk were at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Sunday 18 June 2017. 

Kraftwerk website

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