"A member of Kraftwerk in Zoetermeer. You'd have thought they'd all live together in a hand-built robot somewhere in the Ruhr valley, or half-way up a mountain in the Swiss Alps..."
You know, I like the Boerderij. I like its convivial, relaxed atmosphere. You can loosen your belt there, safe in the knowledge that you will not be surrounded by the professional self-starvers or trend-hounds who frequent more fashionable venues. It is prudent to say that the audiences at the Boerderij believe in simple, obvious pleasures. Like patronising the excellent cafe bar. Good for them.
Kraftwerk's Bartos had drawn out some crowd too. Just think of the incongruity of that for a second. A member of Kraftwerk in Zoetermeer. You'd have thought they'd all live together in a hand-built robot somewhere in the Ruhr valley, or half-way up a mountain in the Swiss Alps...but no, here was Bartos, with quite an audience assembled to greet him. Old Kraftwerk fans, acid heads, goths, computer scientists, people who test brakes, Iron Maiden fans (I kid you not), people dressed up for a Dr. Who convention and yours truly.
The great man walked on to a minimalist stage set, dominated in the main by a large screen and banks of computers and twiddly electronica. Obviously, Bartos was to be the evening's chief knob twiddler. He rightly took his place centre stage. His appearance was austere - monkish even - an impression that was further highlighted by the dress and demeanour of his two companions. To his left there stood a bald chap, who looked remarkably like the Muppets' Sam the American Eagle; though a Sam who had renounced puppetry with hippy leanings and taken up holy orders. This chap was the video operator and visual provider. The other chap had silky long hair and a buttoned up blouson. These aspects of his appearance suggested that he was a rogue member of Marilion who had been committed to an institution. He twiddled some more knobs and sang. So far so good, I thought.
A promising beginning, you will agree, but in no way preparing me for the surprise that was to follow. Kicking off with Home Computer, Bartos smashed out what was, to all intents and purposes a Kraftwerk gig, interspersed with a smattering of solo numbers, which were, as a matter of fact, rather fantastic. There was one about being famous for 15 minutes, another about communication and a couple about relationships. I can enlighten you no further on the solo material, except to say that the visuals (indeed the visuals for the whole show) were utterly brilliant, simplistic, hypnotic and superb hand-maidens for the music. All the songs were of course accompanied by a dead pan vocal delivery verging on the sarcastic, or maybe the emotionally autistic; I still can't make up my mind. When the hits began to flow, you could see the audience get sucked into the ultra-naiive kindergarten mind games and legoland futurisms that are so typical of the Kraftwerk oeuvre.
On and on went the big hitters (or should I say Hutters? Ho! Ho! – sorry about that); Trans Europe Express, The Robots, Tour de France, The Model, Pocket Calculator, Computerland; it was pulverising, yet an oddly aesthetic experience; enjoying at one remove almost, as listening to Kraftwerk often is. Still you can't bloody well argue, can you? At the end, the crowd went nuts; causing Bartos to embark on an embarrassed show of thanks. A couple of encores were rounded off with Neon Lights and that was that.
Words: Richard Foster
Illustration : Paul Overdijk