Given their penchant for beguiling strobe lights, intense visuals and pocket calculators, witnessing Kraftwerk live is nothing less than surreal writes Paul Fennessy.
Let’s face it, the term ‘rock star’ is in danger of becoming extinct. Instead of bands throwing TVs out the window, we now have Chris Martin and others of his irksome ilk lecturing us about the virtues of living clean and saving the environment.
One of the most commonly uttered quips which a frustrated gig goer is likely to express nowadays is that he/she ‘might as well have stayed at home and listened to the record’. Fans don’t want to be treated to two hours of well rehearsed, meticulously crafted songs. Classical music concerts have always catered for those seeking an evening of bland refinement.
The degree to which a rock gig succeeds or fails should be measured by how competently the element of the unexpected is implemented. Whether it’s Ozzy Osbourne biting off a bat’s head or Nicky Wire telling fans at Glastonbury that: “Somebody should build a bypass over this shithole”, rock gigs have provided innumerable moments to savour. While Kraftwerk aren’t exactly The Rolling Stones, seeing them live will inevitably be an experience worth remembering.
Even the most seasoned music fan would be hard-pressed to find a more unusual sight than that of four black leather clad jumpsuit wearing Germans, joylessly tapping away at their keyboards. While their refusal to indulge in-between song banter may initially prove frustrating, their stage show is so accomplished that their emotional sterility ultimately goes unnoticed.
Although Kraftwerk are certainly not the most expressive of live bands, there is no denying the theatrical flair which they evoke. From the show’s outset, the quartet’s visual bombast is striking, as the shadows of their static figures appears through the curtains, before they dramatically unveil themselves to the bedazzled spectators.
As the thud of an electronic beat commences proceedings, the audience is simultaneously confronted with images of machinery, transport systems and all things technological. Tellingly, the band has professed to a keen interest in cinema during interviews.
Arguably the most impressive facet of their performance, these ten to fifteen minute videos accentuate the tone of songs such as ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Pocket Calculator’ to such an extent that it actually enhances the listening experience. Moreover, the visuals perfectly complement the band’s inhumane melodies.
In fact, Kraftwerk’s unique concoction of sight and sound proves so illuminating that it seems to entrance the audience for the entirety of the show. The majority of the Kilmainham crowd act in unison with the band, thus remaining mostly motionless and concurrently in awe of this brilliant group. Perhaps the term ‘rock star’ should not be so readily discarded after all.
Additional information provided by Patrick McKenna