From doors at 9.30 disjointed womb like hums reverberated around The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, until Ralf Hütter and co arrived bang on 10.30. Yes! The German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk are back in town. Playing their first London performances since 2004. Saturday the 9th was the fourth night of the eight date residency, marking one of the groups most commended albums… The Man Machine (1978).
There was an unusual surprise upon entry… expecting to find die hard electronic geeks rushing to get a prime position on the barrier, we found a sparsely populated hall particularly towards the front. The crowd faced the same dilemma as when visiting a cinema… not wanting to be to close to the screen, most placed the cushions that they were handed upon entry in the middle of the hall, sat down and chatted or read their crib sheet with anticipation.
Most Germans are on the money with time keeping and tonight there was no exception. The lights went down and Ralf Hütter’s heavily distorted voice slowly echoed Ladies and gentleman… boys and girls… followed by some Germanic words… then Krafffttveerrkk. As this happened, the crowd fished their 3D specs from their pockets. To see a video of this intense intro click the fan footage link below.
Opening with the self titled track, The Man Machine… throbbing bass rumbled through the rib cages of the crowd. Accompanied by stunning visuals this really did fashion a breathtaking experience. A retro themed presentation accompanied each song with powerful relevant simplicity. At times the depth of the 3D shocked the crowd. During Spacelab a shuttle came floating out of the screen, people nearby stepped back. Other highlights from the album included Kraftwerk’s romantic sci-fi lullaby Neon Lights featured imagery that brought a nostalgic feel of childhood nintendo games.
After completing the iconic Man Machine track-listing, Kraftwerk commenced to drop off highlights from nearly forty years of material, spanning albums such as Autobahn, The Mix, Electric Cafe, Computer world, Radio-activity and Trans Europe Express. The crowd were also treated to classics such as Aerodynamik and Tour De France which featured monochrome archive footage from the great cycling campaign.
Toward the climax of Musique Non Stop, member by member they left the stage holding their integrity with a subtle bow… after saying goodbye Hütter was the last to look out over the robot like crowd unified by the same pair of glasses… he left to large applause. Surely this residency is one of the greatest turbine exhibitions The Tate has ever seen?
Having witnessed such a unique cult spectacle of live music… Kraftwerk have left me asking the question; Who else is pushing the boundaries to this extent? After seeing the fore-fathers of electronic music I firmly believe that they still hold the same level of value to the music industry today just as they did during the 70’s.