It’s no wonder the ticket system melted down with demand to see Kraftwerk taking over the Tate Modern Turbine Hall for eight nights. With a name that translates as “power station”, these are the concerts the pioneering techno quartet were born to play.
Those who did get in – surprisingly just a few hundred considering the vast space – were in a reverent mood, not losing their minds like the frustrated thousands on the ticket lines. A small black cushion was provided for each audience member. When the group came on, it was possible to stroll to the front row unimpeded.
Founding father Ralf Hütter and his three current companions dressed in black bodysuits like stationary superheroes, gazing intently at glowing lecterns. With unsightly wires and buttons well concealed, they could have been playing the old pub tabletop Pac-man game.
Right legs tapping occasionally, sometimes glancing to one side, they were as rigid as the automatons that fill their songs. It has been ever thus, but looking round an audience equally unmoving and uniform in 3D glasses, it was strange to see the songs that spawned all of modern dance music met with such stasis.
The heavy lifting was left to the visuals on the huge screen behind. Mechanical arms loomed out overhead during The Robots. Neon green digits moved back and forth in waves for Numbers. A space station spun towards the crowd to accompany Spacelab, and a little VW Beetle chugged through a hilly landscape during Autobahn, the title track of the album that was the first of eight to be aired in full over the coming days.
Once the sound of the future, music finally caught up with them in the Eighties and today they seemed to play up to a retro image. There is more sophisticated CGI on some current CBeebies programmes than there was on screen here.
But the melodies were timeless – bright, crisp synth lines that would have brought joy even without the careful presentation. “Good night. Auf Wiedersehen. See you tomorrow,” offered Hütter by way of banter. After eight nights maybe he’ll have loosened up, but I doubt it.
Until February 14, Tate Modern, SE1 (020 7887 8888, tate.org.uk/modern)