Eight nights, eight albums. The robots were in town. No, we don’t mean DAFT PUNK but their parents (or grand parents) instead. KRAFTWERK‘s residency at Berlin’s ‘Neue Nationalgallerie’ was a triumphant celebration of their own past. The German collective gathered for a nostalgic version of a future that is closer to our present than we might actually think. And that’s just one realization NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION got while attending one of these eclectic performances. Find the rest of them right here.
1. They literally belong in a museum
Well and here they are. KRAFTWERK are an essential piece of German and international pop culture. So, it’s not that much irony that the electronic icons finally ended up as a live-action instalment in a museum in Berlin’s capital. The timing couldn’t be better as the ‘Neue Nationalgallerie’ recently closed its doors for an extended restoration over the next years. The controlled demolition already started which left plenty of space for the stage of the four gentlemen. An audio exhibition about the living roots of electronic music – way better than just staring at a few paintings.
2. They are THE BEATLES of electronic music
Did anybody ever make that comparison? Probably yes but there’s one thing you quickly recognize during their show: they actually were the pioneers. Just like THE BEATLES invented contemporary pop music KRAFTWERK invented its cold-blooded sexy electronic sister. They are living history, especially since their high times lie already more than three years in the past. Only one founding member, Ralf Hütter, remains left but the idea of KRAFTWERK might be far bigger than its single individuals. The sound is iconic and so is the look, only they got robots instead of a colourful Sgt. Pepper uniform.
3. The 3D effect is way better than you might think
Over the course of last week the band performed all albums from 1974’s Autobahn on as part of their ‘1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 concert series’ in Berlin. The concept is not entirely new since KRAFTWERK have been performing this idea for a while now in selected places all over the world. After all, it’s about celebrating the past since the band hasn’t released a proper album since 2003. But to add a little extra note to the ‘Greatest Hits’ show (which it basically was, despite the whole ‘one album per night’ concept) 3D visuals were added to the performance. And say whatever you want about the cheesiness of the concept but in the case of a KRAFTWERK show the idea works way better than in most Hollywood movies. The audience applauses as an UFO flies over its head, bubbles burst right off the screen and into our eyes and the Trans-Europe Express is almost passing through us. It’s actually a nice plus… not a must-have but since the group isn’t really doing anything rockstar-like behind its audio operator tables it is almost a necessity. The great surround sound was another plus of the night.
4. Everybody basically stole everything from them
Although pop music in general and electronic music specifically evolved into multiple directions over the past four decades the KRAFTWERK-DNA is sensible almost everywhere. From DEPECHE MODE to JAY Z, from COLDPLAY to BJÖRK. Sounds, melodies and rhythms have been always inspired by the foundation the German Wunderkinder once built in Dusseldorf. Just take a track like Radioactivity… it starts with an almost dry break beat (did anybody say ‘Trap music’?) before morphing into a mighty piece of techno music. There’s a timeless efficiency that surrounds the sound of KRAFTWERK. Well-composed melodies mixed with a perfect reduction to musical essence. And whether it’s RADIOHEAD’s love for clicking beats or DAFT PUNK’s use of the vocoder – that formula never gets old. Insert a metaphor for German engineering right here, if you like.
5. The future is already the present
Not only have KRAFTWERK been pioneers in their musical field they’ve also been prophets when it comes to certain subjects in society. One decade before Chernobyl they already warned about Radioactivity, they told us back in the 80s that the FBI is stealing our data and that we can make love via computer. Despite their love for the Tour de France they might have also hinted on the whole doping subject way earlier than others. That means – we have officially arrived in the future and it’s not a lovely one. It almost feels as if the robots and computers are the better people after all. There’s no terror in the world of bits and bytes, just logic, reason and the power of the beat. Simplicity as a romantic dream – Hütter and his ‘man machines’ would love this.
6. Musical monuments, destined to be preserved
Each night was a more than positive received celebration of the KRAFTWERK legacy, packed with influential tunes, great sound and spectacular images. They are living monuments although one question remains… if a band has always been so much focussed on the future like these guys: what should be their future? Does a ‘future’ in a traditional sense even make sense for them? Does the world need another KRAFTWERK album (one that has been rumoured to be in the making for years)? 2003’s Tour de France Soundtracks already was slightly disappointing besides its contemporary sound back then. But the stakes won’t be lower next time. And sometimes you don’t need to force things when there’s no necessity in doing so. Let’s face it: they’ve done enough. Although the Dusseldorfers are historical figures they remain quite vital as their music just never seems outdated. Maybe they know that. They are aware of their own legacy and are willing to preserve it in the most possible way which explains the rare performances and even rarer releases. One thing is for sure – whenever the robots will come any near your place don’t let this chance pass.