Yesterday I attended the “Trans-Europa-Express” show of Kraftwerk’s 8-concert series at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Each concert puts a different of their classic albums in the spotlight. The Neue Nationalgalerie will be closed for renovation after these concerts, so this was a once-in-a lifetime chance to witness classic futuristic music in classic futuristic architecture. The concert was to be held in 3D, so we were supplied with 3D glasses and animations for each song.
The 3D animations were beautiful: no overdone “throw-in-your-face” action, but graphical, formal and strict – just like you’d expect from Kraftwerk.
Of course they grew older and Ralf Hütter is the only original member left (and was standing on the left side… 😉 ).
But this did not spoil my evening at all. So let me take you through a couple of highlights of that evening.
The first block of songs was dedicated to the Trans Europa Express album. Kraftwerk started with that song and send that beautiful class VT 11.5 train set in 3D through the audience, which was assembled out of many 50-plus men, some club people, just a few young people.
Those 4 old men were standing behind 4 desks containing equipment but it wasn’t possible to see which.
Ralf Hütter was wearing a head set mic and performed all of the live vocals. Vocoder voices. From what I’ve heard, especially from some uncoordinated sound effects and sequences that were out of sync for a few beats, I would guess they performed a lot of the music live.
As the second song the Düsseldorf Four played Europa Endlos (Europe Endless) followed by Spiegelsaal (The Hall Of Mirrors) and Schaufensterpuppen (Showroom Dummies). I had the impression that they were not enthusiastically performing this part of the concert. There was a dull atmospjere also in the audience, or were we just stunned by the moment and the animations floating over the stage?
Until then the animations had been black and white and coloured up to friendly blue and green, when the iconic cover of the Autobahn album appeared with the corresponding song. CGI-animated cars where driving on the Autobahn and the main featured car in the the clip was a VW Beetle.
(Nerd fact: Volkswagen had sponsored the whole event.)
I must confess, I started to lose track with the songs played. And I lost my restraint, when the band and the songs became more rousing. With Radio Activity Kraftwerk delivered the first really emotional highlight. Tschernobyl, Williamsburg, Sellafield, Fukushima! Stop Radioactivity! Not only in lyrics, this track reached from the past into our present time more than all the others before, which just repeated good memories.
I was especially fond, that they played Space Lab from The Man Machine, because it’s one of the most underrated tracks. That pad break in the middle was a huge inspiration for anything I had done on MFS and Superstition in the early 90s and the main sequence is pure electro sex. Loved the view on planet Earth from the Space Lab, which also flew through the audiance in amazing 3D.
In the end, a UFO appeared and landed in front of Neue Nationalgalerie. Spot on!
Next was Das Model and Kraftwerk switched back to Retro Mode again. But since this was probably their biggest hit so far (even GNTM fans know this 😉 ) it caused the biggest cheer in the audiance so far.
“Sie trinkt im Nachtclub immer Sekt! – KORREKT!” was the only lyric that always made me feel that Kraftwerk could be Human After All. some Rock’n’Roll emotion. This white-trashy “KORREKT!” sounds so totally out-of-place in the whole Kraftwerk catalogue, it’s like the only piece that did not fit into my picture ever. Ever ever EVER!
Accordingly Ralf Hütter pronounced it very mellow during the concert.
BTW: they used the video sequences of the original video, in beatified 3D. And now Kraftwerk where really flying in “Greatest Hit”-mode and fired one cracker after the other, no fillers, just killers!
Like Man-Machine, with that distinctive intro sequence that inspired generations of musicians no matter if Techno or Hip Hop/ Rap already as early as 1982.
Amazing 3D again and it almost felt as they would jam a bit over this track.
Next was a megamix through their Computerwelt album, my personal favourite, including a version of Computerliebe from The Mix. This is one of my favourite tunes ever, it anticipated so much at the time, including today’s Online Dating and the loneliness of people in the computer age. But I prefer the original version.
BTW: Other personal favourite songs about love and computers include Computerlove from Zapp and Der Computer Nr. 3 by France Gall, one of the few songs the French singer sang in German. (BTW: this is a composition by Christian Bruhn, composer of the beloved German Captain Future soundtrack, but that’s another story….).
Kraftwerk merged into Numbers and It’s More Fun To Compute.
As Wikipedia points out, the title of It’s More Fun To Compute was inspired by the slogan It’s More Fun To Compete, that could be seen on old pinball machines, something I’ve been guessing ever since that album was released. Kraftwerk rounded up their Computerwelt excursion with the eponymous song.
Tour de France and the image of the Eiffeltower brought immediately the assault on Charlie Hebdo on my mind. The retro video of a old Tour pictures couldn’t keep me from mourning the victims and hoping for a world in which terrorists can’t prevail because they cannot coz fear amongst us, because we are all united.
This message was always my personal mission and I will put it on my agenda again in 2015, more than ever before.
(BTW: if you miss certain pictures, that I describe here: no, I did not raise my smartphone all the time, I tried to be decent and so did most of the people in the audiance. Don’t you hate looking at a wall of phablets rather than seeing the actual band?
And that was the end of a wonderful concert. But of course there was “one more thing”. The curtain opened for the encore and there they were: Die Roboter!
Humans watching robots performing music: that was one goal that Kraftwerk already announced in 1978, with the release of the Man-Machine album. I actually read in German youth magazine Bravo that they planned to produce 4 robots of themselves, so that they could play 2 gigs simultaniously in two places with 2 human band members each performing with 2 robot members and the audience would not know the difference.
As much as I found that idea fascinating and absurd at that time, I now wonder if David Guetta and Deadmau5 might be actual robots. 😀
Musique Nonstop was the great final to a wonderful concert that will stick in my mind not because the band was acting wild and crazy but because of the beautiful images, they created. In the very end they even acted like a traditional band, each musician one after the other jamming on his “instrument” and then leaving the stage with a bow, of curse Mr. Hütter last.
And for the record: although there was no Pogo Action, I actual got wet by beer: a guy spilled it over my sweater when hastily pulling out his smart phone. Sigh of the times…..
Nerd fact: Kraftwerk started at 8pm and ended precisely at 10 pm.
Here’s a gallery of pictures I took!
Here a complete show from Kraftwerk online:
Live @ Sony Centre in Toronto 2014 (Full Show HD)