German electronic music pioneers, Kraftwerk, played to a full house on Saturday night as part of their limited 9-date US tour. The show has already received several reviews and photo galleries from local outlets and I’m not going to rehash what they’ve already written (all of it glowing). What I will do is offer a slightly different take on the experience.
First off, I’m not a Kraftwerk fan. I don’t own any of their albums, nor have I purchased any of their individual tracks. I do know that they are historically significant for pioneering popular electronic music and that many of the electronic based artists I listen to today were heavily influenced by them. This was my motivation to attend. And let me say right now, this is definitely a cool concert. If you’re a fan, you will no doubt love every minute. But, if you’re less familiar with the band, you may not leave so enamored.
What we’ve got is 4 guys standing behind keyboards in front of a large screen with 3D video synced with the songs. The keyboard stands light up and change color, as do the band members Tron-style outfits. Early in the show, the video shows a satellite view of earth and eventually the satellite begins a descent towards Dallas, TX. Once at ground level, a space ship/satellite thing flies directly towards the audience. The crowd let out a gasp and giant applause. And this is moment perfectly sums up the shows overall dynamics. The four men on stage were doing absolutely nothing strenuous or in any observable way difficult. I don’t think these dudes even broke a sweat. They could’ve been playing to backing tracks and I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It was also kind strange to me that very few in the audience were dancing in any legitimate way. This made me wonder why they didn’t just play a seated venue.
I watched the majority of the show from the balcony which provided a pretty great view, but I did find myself bored about an hour into it. The video is cool and all, but it’s nothing mind blowing. Everything is perfectly suited to the songs and I should say the music did sound great. I didn’t get a whole lot from the words they occasionally spoke, but I chalk that up to my superficial familiarity with their songs. After an hour or so, I moved down to the floor to see the difference and it was considerable. Being closer to the screen (though I was at the back of the venue) made the visuals more effective. Nevertheless, at this point I hit the bathroom, got another beer, and a brisket Frito-pie.
If you’re into Kraftwerk, you’ll love this show. If you’re on the fence, unless you’re pre-inclined to nerd-out on the video stuff, you may be disappointed. It’s an entertaining show, no doubt. But, if you’re there for the music, you should know that it’s as much about the 3D experience than it is anything else. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was the least impressed among my friends.
– J. Kevin Lynch