Kraftwerk 3D

Kraftwerk 3D wasn’t perfect, but it popped

We watched the masters at work. And it was impressive. But not that impressive.

Kraftwerk 3D

My reaction to the Kraftwerk 3D show is making me wonder just how jaded I am. It’s also causing me to question the critical faculties of my peers and social media circle.

Using the same antiquated gimmick that the film industry uses to put asses in seats to enhance the spectacle of four deadpan middle-aged men in skin-tight suits standing behind consoles is not impressive in itself. Some of the visuals pulled from Kraftwerk’s past were hokey enough to merit a rethink, looking more like a forgotten video game than the auditory assault we’ve come to expect from electronic-music spectacles (be it the ’90s rave aesthetic or dubstep/EDM’s regurgitated ’90s rave aesthetic). And the fact that the average age of the crowd appeared to be near 40 somehow makes what’s touted as a major cultural event feel less than vital — though maybe it was the price ($60+) and the timing (Sunday) that kept the kids away, not the perceived relevance of the artists on stage.

But this is the thing about Kraftwerk: their relevance is beyond reproach. They may not have invented the building blocks of electronic music, but they’re the architects  of electro-pop, the band that brought synthetic music to mass audiences by fusing fresh technology with pop convention. The fact that they inspired musicians who are regarded as pioneers themselves, from David Bowie and New Order to Derrick May and Afrika Bambaataa, is so staggering that it barely computes.

Just being in the same room with these guys (okay, one of these guys, as three quarters of the current line-up weren’t around during the band’s ’70s/’80s heyday) is special enough. But to be handed Kraftwerk 3D glasses, held in a nicely designed little card case that doubles as a keepsake, and stand in the centre of a smiling, bobbing crowd as “We Are the Robots” plays and giant animated Kraftwerkian hands seem to reach for your face — well, that’s kind of hard to beat, isn’t it?

With no new music to push, the show was 100% hits: “Autobahn,” “Tour de France,” “The Model” (in which the visuals broke away from 3D and animation in favour of some vintage runway film), “Musique Non-Stop” and “Metal on Metal”/”Trans-Europe Express,” possibly the band’s greatest hit of them all. (Sadly they never played the tune that, for some reason, used to scare me as a toddler — “Showroom Dummies” — but you can’t have everything.)

The show’s other highlight was the meshing of “Numbers” and “Computer World,” two tight tunes that were well woven together, with an undulating green-on-black digital grid that was probably the trippiest visual of the night, from an 80 per cent sober perspective anyway.

So yeah. It wasn’t a delirious, dazzling spectacle, and I’m a little puzzled at some of the off-the-chart social-media raves I’ve been seeing over the last 15 hours or so, but it was amazing. It was fucking Kraftwerk. ■