KOKO Asia Exclusive

KOKO Asia Approved is for those from the region or are touring the region. We watch a local band and we love it then we will review it. We watch an international band touring the region and we love it you guessed it we will review it.

Metal Machine Music





Kraftwerk
Esplanade Theatre
Date: 3 December 2008

Man or Machine? Imagine if you will, four non-descript looking German blokes with matching dark uniforms and neat, short accountant haircuts standing stock still in a vertical line on a bare, wireless stage, gently caressing and monitoring identical black keyboards and laptops while behind them on huge video screen, computer generated images flash by artfully at regular intervals.

Extend that by an hour-and-a-half and what you have, ladies and gentleman, is the Kraftwerk live experience in a nutshell. While Düsseldorf’s finest electronic music pioneers – comprising on stage of founder member and vocalist Ralf Hutter (other founder member Florian Schneider never goes out on tour, preferring instead to hold the fort at their infamous Kling Klang studio laboratory back home), Johann Fredrich Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Stefan Pfaffe - have never been one for grand onstage gestures during their long and illustrious four-decade career, the starkness of their live presentation coupled with their complete lack of movement or audience interaction still manages to come across as incredibly subversive in this media-friendly MTV age, especially when viewed live for the first time. And that, ladies and gents, is a very good thing indeed.

What may initially look (and feel) like four old geezers in uniforms using their precious onstage time to check their email, log on to Facebook and generally fool around on their laptop in front on a giant computer screen while a retro-sounding synthesizer soundtrack plays on quickly develops into an entertaining live spectacle of unique, seductive quality. The thing that eventually begins to make itself understood as the gig speeds by is the realisation of just how unlike anything else out there Kraftwerk’s live show really is. One suspects that the phrase “run of the mill” is simply not in the group’s vocabulary.

Put it this way: although nothing extraordinary really happens onstage at a Kraftwerk show for long periods apart from different (albeit similar-sounding) songs being played and different visuals being shown on the video screen, the group still manages to entertain and give good value for money for the duration of the show. In an utterly Germanic way, one might add. Let’s face it, Kraftwerk Is the sound of Germany with their cold precision and minimalist aesthetic and onstage, they totally manage get that point across with their elegant style of presentation. If that’s not genius, I don’t know what is.

In terms of music, what fans who made it to the Esplanade to catch the show got from Kraftwerk on the night was a crowd-pleasing greatest hits that included all their stand-out moments, from older classics like Trans Europe Express, Radioactivity and Autobahn to latter day wonders like Tour De France and The Model, all rendered in classic Kraftwerk fashion – with vocals sung either through a vocoder or computer speech software in that distinctive flat, cold Teutonic accent sitting on top of an minimalist and slight retro sounding synth soundscape.

To make things more interesting on stage in a visual sense, every song came complete with its own eye-catching light and video show which really captured the imagination. The visuals, from the classic Tour de France footage to cheesy pocket calculators and exploding nuclear reactors, were stunning all night and created just the right balance between the kitsch and conceptual. The band even found time for a costume change towards the end of the show, from their uniform into skin-tight, glow-in-the-dark body suits that made them look like freaky humanoids which I’m sure was the point.

Of course, no Kraftwerk show is complete without an obligatory appearance by their famous robots and when they were finally unveiled in all their glory during the seminal (wait for it.) Robots, they received a roaring reception that even louder than what the group received at the start of the show. They even managed to provoke some spontaneous standing up from the somewhat sedate seated audience, which, as anyone who has ever been to live shows in Singapore will attest, takes some doing. In the end, the robots ended moving a lot more than most of the humans present in the venue, which is so typically Kraftwerk when you think about it.

The final verdict? Kraftwerk are living legends (still) and an utterly fascinating live proposition to boot. Roll the next four decades.

By Robin Banks.

Song List

  1. MANMACHINE
  2. TOUR DE FRANCE 03
  3. TOUR DE FRANCE
  4. VITAMIN
  5. PLANET OF VISIONS
  6. NUMBERS
  7. COMPUTERWORLD
  8. HOMECOMPUTER
  9. POCKETCALCULATOR
  10. AUTOBAHN
  11. COMPUTERLOVE
  12. MODEL
  13. NEONLICHT
  14. SHOWROOMDUMMIES
  15. RADIOACTIVITY
  16. TEE
  17. ROBOTS
  18. ELEKTROKARDIOGRAMM
  19. AERODYNAMIK
  20. MUSIC NON STOP

 

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