Kraftwerk live, Heineken Music Hall, 29.03.04 by Paul Overdijk

“Heute abend, Der Mensch Machine…K-R-A-F-T-W-E-R-K”

“Heute abend, Der Mensch Machine…K-R-A-F-T-W-E-R-K”

“Heute abend, Der Mensch Machine…K-R-A-F-T-W-E-R-K”

Kraftwerk don’t really need an introduction, do they? Everyone in the world must be familiar with them. Starting in the late 1960s, and undergoing both one name and several personnel changes, they were THE electronic pioneers; light years ahead of their time, scoring such hits as the “Model” and “Autobahn”. You might say they’ve done it all (electronically that is). The group doesn’t need to prove anything anymore; so why tour now? After all its 2004 and there have been whisperings that Kraftwerk’s music can, at best, be seen as somewhat passe. Well, there’s the new album to promote (albeit based on an old song), “Tour De France”; and, as the band themselves never cease to remind all and sundry, the Kraftwerk “concept” is never finished. Just think; right now, just as you read this, they’ll be busy adding to and perfecting their “Kraftwerkisms”; hidden away at their Kling Klang studios in Dusseldorf……..

Anyway, back to the show. As the curtains opened we were confronted with a huge screen definitely describable as “cinematic”, virtually filling the entire stage. Perched in front of this was a platform with four pedestals bedecked with laptops (doubtless packed with pioneering and electronic wizardry). Looking at this there was no doubt of one thing; we were going to get “Art” with a “Soundtrack”.

Once up and running, the visuals, (timed with true Kraftwerkian precision to effectively illustrate the theme of each track), contained (amongst other things), primal colour fields, dots and stripes, film footage, words and numbers. These images constantly flickered in and out, moving from left to right, always funny and interesting, always keeping the attention. The band, impeccably dressed in anthracite black suites and “flickering” (yes, “flickering”) ties; later ditched this formality, preferring instead full on yellow striped astronaut suits. Nice…

And the music? Well just bloody fantastic, even taking into account that a lot of music must have been pre-programmed; it was amazing how fresh the old tunes sounded.

There were some really beautiful revamped versions of the classics; a dreamy hypnotic “Neon Lights” which turned into by way of contrast, a very threatening heavy electronic voice warning of the dangers of the use of nuclear energy; followed by a thunderously grim version of “Radio Activity”.

“Pocket Calculator” was particularly stunning, a great insistent rhythm coupled with very funny visuals. In fact, at this point the music became so dancey that the band, especially Ralph Hutter, just could not stand still, shattering the myth of the inert stage personas. “Robots” was played, surprisingly enough, by robots; waving their metallic arms in a creepy, “come to daddy” way. Seriously, it was a hilarious moment; even bordering on self parody. “Music Non Stop” was, you guessed it, (because, as you know, Kraftwerk are very serious about their self parodies), the last track. One by one, the band members left, leaving the Music Non Stopping. One “heute abend” later, it was over. Amazing. Just a quick note, if you want to see the visuals, check out their website. Cool as.