Kraftwerk practically invented electronic music. Devising their own instruments they created a totally new and strange sound which has gone on to play a part in inspiring the Hip-hop, ambient, industrial, techno, house and electro-pop music genres which would all have sounded different without the Kraftwerk influence.

Kraftwerk are, therefore, music icons but they remain secretive and enigmatic. They don't play live much and when they do give a concert it is usually in big venues like the Royal Albert Hall where they sold out three nights in under two hours. So it was a rare treat to see Kraftwerk play live at Oxford's far smaller New Theatre.

Ahead of the concert, stewards handed out packets of 3D glasses. Then, to thunderous applause, Ralf Hutter, Henning Schmitzand, Fritz Hilpert and Falk Grieffenhagen all walked out in their identical suits, taking their places behind their black boxes in an amazing blaze of computer-generated graphics projected on to a giant screen behind the stage. Digits filled the screen as Kraftwerk launched into ‘Numbers’, from their album ‘Computer World’. This piece is 40 years old but still sounds futuristic and thrilling as the 3D graphics fly over our heads.

The tunes came rapidly with not a word of banter to break the flow. Not a hint of human warmth was offered. But this audience did not expect or want that. There were cheers of recognition for ‘The Man-Machine’ and again for ‘The Model’ which is almost close to pure pop with its bouncy synths accompanied by retro glamour shots. Then there was the dreamy ‘Neon Lights’ followed by another anthem number, ‘Autobahn’. Kraftwerk's minimalist electronics reached their apotheosis with ‘Geiger Counter’ and ‘Radioactivity’ which have an ambient, soaring, sublime quality. Then there was more celebration of German engineering with ‘Trans Europe Express’, ‘Metal auf Metal’ and ‘Abzug’ – simplistic but strangely beautiful with a unique synthesised doppler effect.

The band leave the stage and the curtain quickly rises on four robotic representations with plastic faces and red shirts for a rendition of ‘Robots’ (obviously). Then there's a second encore in illuminated suits before the show ends with ‘Musique Non Stop’.

The applause was rapturous and the whole audience was buzzing and fizzing with sensory over-stimulation. I have to confess I was not always the biggest Kraftwerk fan but, having seen this performance, it is impossible not to be impressed at the band's mastery of a genre they invented and still own. And the “men-machine” have been doing this since the 1970s yet still sound like they are from the future...which is a huge accomplishment.

Related Links:

Commenting On: New Theatre, Oxford, 6/6/2017 - Kraftwerk

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last