KRAFTWERK, Albert Hall – Evening Standard, 22 June 2017

 

While many heritage acts can get away with carting out the old favourites without really trying, there are few more carefully curated legacies than Kraftwerk’s. Theirs is a precious catalogue, responsible for the subsequent arrival of everything from the most minimal techno to today’s EDM eruptions and the digitally altered vocals on almost every current pop single. On their 1981 song Computer Love, these precise, enigmatic Germans even seemed to have invented internet dating.

Having performed all eight of their albums over successive nights in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in 2013, now they’re appearing in a more familiar concert venue. It was mostly the same show, with all of the audience focus on retrofuturistic graphics that they watched through 3D glasses, while four men in black bodysuits stood static at glowing lecterns.

Sole original member Ralf Hütter sang unremarkably occasionally, but otherwise the performers could easily have been replaced by robots. When they actually were, with four red-shirted humanoids waving their arms around during The Robots, it felt like a natural conclusion.

Kraftwerk’s music has always celebrated the machine’s ability to improve the man, from calculators on Computer World to bicycles on their most recent album, 2003’s Tour de France. They’re not as isolated as they sometimes seem. In the railway rhythms of Trans Europe Express it was just possible to hear echoes of Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line, while Autobahn’s simplistic lyrics revelled in car culture just like The Beach Boys.

Some darkness crept in on Radioactivity from 1975, reworked to include a list of nuclear disasters. Otherwise, although the inventors of dance music didn’t manage to persuade anyone to dance, with some witty animations and the undying thrill of seeing a spaceship looming out of a screen so close you could grab it, there was plenty to smile about.

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