Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Kraftwerk - doors opened at 6.30, no support, Kraftwerk on stage at 8pm. At least that is what the ticket said, a couple of us meeting about 5 and going for Chinese, before heading to Mono to meet the rest of the group. When we got to the Academy it was about 7, with the queue already reaching round the front of the venue, and right round the side. Which was as impressive as it was annoying, given the rain and wind that we were hit with as we wove our way forward.

The gig was sold out, one of a handful of dates that the band were doing in the UK this month. The only time previously that any of us had been at this venue was for Ministry last year, the queue, and the feel as the hall started to fill made it clear that this was going to be a much busier event. From getting in till the band went on stage the crowd just thickened, the only sound the din of conversation, accompanied by the cycle of sequenced lights up the side of the stage. A stage partitioned by a great set of heavy curtains.

Eight came and went, so that it was more like 20 past when the first sounds of Man Machine started. Lights kicking in behind the curtain, so we got a giant projection of these stark figures through the curtain. The bass kicked in, and we could all feel it, with which the response from the audience was deafening. The curtains pulled back, revealing the four figures stood on a raised platform, beneath which coloured lights added to the feel through out the performance. The four of them were dressed in black suits, red shirts and black ties, each stood on their own mini dais, along with a desk of gear and what appeared to be lap tops. The two on either end having the addition of headphone/microphone rigs for the vocal contributions.

From there they played for an hour, covering a range of classic Kraftwerk material. The whole time the back screens presenting visuals, photographs and animations, keeping with the themes of the music and the band. Various cycling clips, and route projections during Tour De France. Fizzing vitamins, car shots, the train of the Trans Europe Express, each set of imagery fitting precisely – ranging from classic shots, to updated and state of the art imagery. The whole time that stripped down, classic electronica playing to a rapturous reception.

As the Academy was packed it quickly became incredibly hot, and at times it felt like you were being hemmed in by bodies on all sides, pressing through spaces to ensure that you could still see everything on stage. The downside of which was that there were times where we started to feel quite overloaded by the environment. But the atmosphere in the hall, and the timing of classics/upbeat numbers kept the night moving along.

After the first hour, the curtains closed, and there was a short break. Coming back on the band now had the addition of ties with flickering diode lights. Shortly there was another break, which was followed by the classic Robots track, with the band being replaced on stage by mannequin styled automatons, robotic arms moving in synchronised sequences, backed up by the full range of classic robotic imagery, and the latest animated robot images going through the choreographed moves.

This worked as an interval, during which the band were changing clothes. The curtains closed once more, the robots were removed, and the band returned once more in their neon lit outfits, the whole Tron style feel as the four of them were lit up. Concluding the now 2hour long set with a couple of tracks from the new album, including the single Aero Dynamik. Another excuse for the bass to kick across the hall, and a strong conclusion, as the band left the stage one at a time. Its been a long time since I’ve witnessed the level of applause Kraftwerk received, the enthusiasm from start to finish was a constant, deafening applause, whistling and cheering between every track, and for some time after the house lights went back up. People taking their time to clear out of the venue and away from the street out front, despite the continued weather conditions.

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