A month ago now the 4 oldies at ditto had the absolute pleasure of heading off to the Tate Modern for the opening night of Kraftwerk’s eight-day residency. Similar residencies have happened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York at the end of 2012 and at Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf in January. Upcoming residencies at Tokyo’s Alaska Blitz and the Sydney Opera House along with appearance at Europe’s summer festivals as Kraftwerk milk their heritage for all they can.
I first saw Kraftwerk back in 1998 at the Sonar Festival when they were headlining the Saturday night. Although it was an absolute thrill to see their full stage show, robots and all, in front of 30,000 screaming fans, I thought afterwards that they were a parody of themselves. Despite really enjoying myself I did feel that I was watching a Kraftwerk tribute band. All the hits, all the performing robots, the 3 acts within the 1 show – it was Mama Mia without the ‘storyline’. But it was fantastic.
15 years have past and I have an unhealthy fascination towards old music (not being made by the kids) and a worse attitude towards young music (being made by kids). It is definitely influenced by my use of Spotify rather than buying music from record shops (please see my previous blog). So when Kraftwerk announced their MoMA gigs and soon after the Tate Modern it got me very excited. I tried to get out to New York but it was turning out to be too expensive. The ‘joy’ of going to Düsseldorf meant that everything was poised for the London gigs. As the BBC reported, the demand for Kraftwerk tickets broke the Tate’s website, but to our rescue came a friend who went and queued for nearly 5 hours (and moaned about it afterwards!) to get tickets for the opening night featuring Autobahn, Kraftwerk’s first album.
Early Kraftwerk gigs routinely took place in art galleries, emphasising the band’s conceptual distance from American rock music in 1970s. 40 years later, Kraftwerk find themselves in one of the world’s pre-eminent art galleries, one which used to be a power station, which is what Kraftwerk means in German. Could it get better?
I was so excited, I was amazed I didn’t pee myself! Tate created an auditorium in the top, sloped area of the Turbine Hall with a large stage and screen and lots of black cushions to sit on. The space held around 1,000 people, most of whom were of a kind – middle aged (with matching physiques) folically challenged and all fanatical followers – we knew why we were here and just how important Kraftwerk have been to mankind!!! Not only that but tonight’s performance was in 3D. Kraftwerk are as much about their presentation as they are about there music. Ever album cover is a great piece of considered design. Order and straight lines are everywhere and the quality of both live and projected imagery is immaculate and of the highest quality.
There has been loads of coverage of the concerts through out the press and social channels – it was very strange hearing Today, Radio 4’s flagship current affairs programme talk at length about the significant of Kraftwerk and the residency alongside miles of previews and reviews and the expected meltdown that 6Music went into. YouTube has lots of footage from the all 8 gigs with my favourites including this one, and this one.
What did I think of the gig – they were brilliant. It could have been I am 14 years older or the fact we have played their catalogue to death in the studio. I did note that none of the young ones shared our passion in the week running up tot gig, in fact I am positive they thought most of what were constantly playing was rubbish and a million miles away from their latest beat combo. The 3D projections were the best I have ever seen – better than Life of Pi. They played all the good tracks from Autobahn and then a good hour of their greatest hits – nothing was missed out. It was amazing and left me in an eBay buying frenzy and going up to my wife singing an out of tune ‘we are the robots’. Best of all, look at my new top!!!