It must have been about 35 years ago when my mate Fitzy told me about this cool German band that his post punk loving elder brother was into. This was before “the Model” hit number one in the British synth pop era. I parked the information in my memory and probably didn’t do much more as a 13 year old.
Fast forward through time and it is a bucket list moment. I had seen the Youtube footage of them playing the Manchester Velodrome with Ed Clancy, Jamie Staff, Jason Kenny and Geraint Thomas cycling around the track whilst the band performed.
We had tried but failed to get tickets for the gigs in the Tate Modern turbine hall.
So Geraint and I are in Utrecht. I’m off to a midnight gig to see Kraftwerk. G is probably tucked up in bed for the time trial and the three weeks of slog that follows.
It nearly didn’t happen though. Having had a power nap in the early evening (I rarely see the other side of midnight these days), I pitched up at the Tivoli at the allotted time. Kraftwerk are like Spinal Tap, both famed for their punctuality.
The ticket in my hand had my name on it, along with some spiel in Dutch which seemed to indicate I needed some ID to get in. A mild panic set in – my passport was in my hotel room and my driver’s license in my wallet in the UK. “Not to worry” I thought. I had three credit cards including the one that I had booked the ticket on plus the email receipt for the ticket. But they wouldn’t let me in. I joined a forlorn queue of mostly British punters including my mate Mal who were all in the same predicament. At 1155, five minutes before the band were due to start, I was being berated by a Dutch woman and told that next time I go to Holland for concert, bring the correct ID. Wristband attached, I charged up the stairs and entered the auditorium just as the concert started.
Aside from breathlessness, my first impression was just how small the venue was. The Ronda auditorium holds just 2000. It is steeply banked and tiered with balconies which gives fantastic sightlines. It really was a lesson in venue design.
The band were sublime. I know it is questionable as to how much of the music is being produced at that point in time by the musicians on stage. It really ceases to be an issue when the quality of the experience is this good. The sound was a tad quiet but clear as crystal. The 3D visuals were crisp and often complemented the music perfectly. The little grey VW Beetle driving toward you for “Autobahn” was perfect.
Highlights for me were a rather bouncy “Computer Love”, “Radioactivity” updated to include reference to Fukashima and the TDF section. I wouldn’t put the TDF album in the same league as Kraftwerk’s other albums but a combination of the visuals and the TDF actually being in town elevated it.
There were a few other home bankers. During Spacelab the satellite image homed in on Utrecht raising a cheer. Man Machine featured De Stijl inspired graphics, a nod to the Dutch art movement and Gerrit Rietveld in particular, the Utrecht based architect and furniture designer (more on him in a forthcoming blog post).
After the curtains closed on another Kling Klang production, the band returned in automaton form for “The Robots.” The guys could have been tucked up in their hotel by then but they returned for a second set of encores which honoured the Detroit Techno revolution that had been so much inspired by Kraftwerk. One by one the members left stage until only Ralf Hutter was left. The sight of a 68 year old man in an illuminated suit playing electronic dance music could have been faintly ridiculous but there was so much love in the air that any misgivings were set aside.
It was well worth the journey and the hassle getting in and there was still the TDF to come!
- Computer World
- It’s More Fun To Compute
- Home Computer
- Computer Love
- Tour De France 1983
- Tour De France Etape 1
- Tour De France Etape 2
- La Forme
- The Model
- The Man Machine
- Trans-Europe Express
- Encore 1
- The Robots
- Encore 2
- Aero Dynamik
- Planet Vision
- Elektro Kardiogramm
- Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop