Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Olympia Theater, Miami
It seems odd that any band would want to put on a 3D show — real life is always three-dimensional.
And, honestly, how much more interesting can a concert be when viewed through a cheap pair of 3D glasses? Apparently, a lot more.
Without an opener, the audience just waited until Kraftwerk was ready to take the stage.
Around 8:05 p.m. the curtains went up and Kraftwerk kicked into "Numbers." Everyone in the crowd slipped on their custom Kraftwerk-branded 3D glasses, which they were given upon entering the lobby. They were those classic paper ones with clear plastic lenses. Instantly, MS-DOS graphics and digits started flying into the audience. It took a couple of minutes of yelling "Holy shit!" for me to recompose myself and pay attention to the show. Sure, I've seen IMAX and 3D movies, but my jaw dropped because it felt like, in some odd way, I was part of the show.
Strangely enough, the audience remained in their seats from the start. Yep, no one dared to get up and dance, which is what I tried to do before the crowd behind me quickly told me to sit down. So for the remainder of the show I just twitched and bobbed around in my seat. (I texted my friend who had attended Kraftwerk's Denver show last week and she assured me they too had remained seated. Her excuse was the crowd was decidedly older, but the Miami show definitely had a mix of different age groups.)
Still, dancing in my seat at a Kraftwerk show is better than no Kraftwerk show at all.
The band's current 3D tour is arguably a repackaging of their "Retrospective - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8," which debuted at MoMa in New York back in 2012, and last night's setlist reflected that. The songs were organized into musical suites that made up an album starting with Computer World and moving on to The Man-Machine, Autobahn, Radioactivity, Tour de France, Trans-Europe Express, and Techno Pop. (The eighth album — a remix compilation, really — is The Mix, whose influence was stretched out among each suite.) This was perhaps the best concert for a Kraftwerk newbie because it gave a wide sample of the band's catalog.
And for all intents and purposes, the show was very similar to their 2012 Ultra appearance, except this was more of an extended set and the graphics were in 3D. Also, unlike the apathy I witnessed during the Ultra set, the sold-out 8 p.m. crowd was there to see Kraftwerk and only Kraftwerk.
The 3D visuals were really the star of the show and Kraftwerk knew that. They stood stoically behind their booths only slightly tapping their toes as if not to take away from what was going behind them. "You cannot jump around on the stage like maybe when you have other instruments, physical instruments," Ralf Hütter told us in an interview last week. "It's all high concentration involved."
The screen absolutely consumed the entire background and the visuals were a combination of awe-inspiring, amusing, humorous, and retro-futuristic.
During "It's More Fun to Compute," the background changed into fragments of different color lights that pulsated with each beat, while "Pocket Calculator" feature an over-sized calculator and finger punching in numbers. Visuals during "The Man Machine" seemed to evoke De Stijl and constructivism, while "Spacelab" gave the audience something to cheer about when Kraftwerk featured a satellite view of South Florida and an exterior shot of the Olympia as a spaceship landed in front of it.
And if you know Ralf Hütter, Kraftwerk's sole original remaining member, you know that he's always updating the band's musical catalog. "Radioactivity," the band's anti-nuclear anthem, has been updated to reference 2011's Fukushima nuclear disaster. The song's new first verse goes: "Chernobyl / Harrisburg / Sellafield / Fukushima."
However, the highlight was perhaps the Tour de France suite which blended the titular song with "Étape 1" and "Étape 2." The track builds on a backtrack of heavy breathing and the clicking of a bicycle wheel and best captures Kraftwerk's out-of-the-box thinking.
By the time the curtain fell after the band took the audience on the "Trans-Europe Express," I was visually overloaded, but the showstopper was about to happen. After the curtain rose again for the first of two encores, the band had been replaced by their robotic avatars who danced a mechanical ballet — more movement than their human counterparts did during the entire show. The audience lost their collective shit as they proclaimed, "We are the robots," while 3D representations on the screen also extended their arms over the theater.
When closer "Musique
Some may think of Kraftwerk as a krautrock relic that tugs on nostalgic heartstrings, however, the robots from Düsseldorf remain relevant as ever. Their song catalog still manages to sound contemporary and they continue to push technological boundaries with their live shows — I cannot think of a better concert experience out there right now. The idea of 3D sounds gimmicky, but the way it's used during the show added depth and visual interest without taking away from the music.
It finally seems like the rest of the world and its technology has caught up with Kraftwerk.
- "Computer World"
- "It's More Fun to Compute" / "Home Computer"
- "Computer Love"
- "Pocket Calculator"
- "The Man Machine"
- "The Model"
- "Neon Lights"
- "Geiger Counter" / "Radioactivity"
- "Tour de France" / "Tour de France Étape 1" / "Tour de France Étape 2"
- "Trans-Europe Express" / "Metal on Metal" / "Abzug"
- "The Robots"
- "Planet of Visions"
- "Boing Boom Tschak" / "Techno Pop" / "Musique Non Stop"