Kraftwerk Brings 3D Show To Boston

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Words & Images by: Andrew Bruss

Kraftwerk :: 10.3.2015 :: Citi Performing Arts Center :: Boston, MA

Read Andrew’s take on the concert after the gallery.

Without Kraftwerk, Devo never would have “Whipped It,” Nine Inch Nails doesn’t go on a Downward Spiral, John Carpenter wouldn’t have Escaped From New York and Daft Punk certainly wouldn’t have sat atop their famed pyramid. It’s hard to deny that Kraftwerk is the single most influential act in the history of electronic music and their performance at Boston’s Citi Performing Arts Center effectively served as a crash course in the history of the genre they pioneered.

When Ralf Hütter formed the group in Dusseldorf during the early 1970s, they were performing on synthesizer and electronic drum technology that was in its infancy. As analog synths matured and MIDI protocols began to take over the conversation, Kraftwerk’s sound progressed and became more accessible as well. They went from a spacey instrumental act to a group who wrote catchy pop hits with simple vocals, pulsating drum beats and infectious lead lines. Their performance in Boston showcased that early experimental bent but focused heavily on their most popular material from the mid-1970s through late 1980s like “Computer World,” “Autobahn’ and “Pocket Calculator.”

Unlike the overwhelming majority of modern electronica artists, everything the quartet performed was done live and on the fly. Each performer had his gear masked by a glowing podium that made it pretty much impossible to know what kind of hardware they were utilizing but a little research explained that they have strayed from their home made Vocoders and drum machines for more modern equipment like MIDI controllers, an MK Maschine as well as a bunch of iOS-driven tablets utilizing Cubase software. With that said, you didn’t have to do any homework to realize these guys were queuing their tracks up in real time. Even with his hands hidden, by watching the movement of Hütter’s arms, it was clear he was operating a keyboard and two of the four platforms the members were operating had modulating floor pedals worked on throughout the night.

A big part of the hype behind a modern Kraftwerk performance is the promise of a 3D event and, true to their word, after having your ticket scanned you were handed a pair of cardboard 3D glasses that visually translated the work being done by a half dozen projectors from the front of the house. The experience was fun and put the 3D visuals I’ve seen accompany Primus to shame, but that said, the show would have been better without it. The human eye can tell the difference between seeing something unobstructed versus through a transparent film and when you took off the glasses, the band just looked better. In light of their lack of movement on-stage, it’s not a stretch to assume Kraftwerk felt the need to put on a flashy visual production to justify ticket costs, but had they utilized the same visuals in a 2D format, they would have put on a show that placed a more appropriate emphasis on the performers themselves and could have made them a more regular fixture on the highly lucrative summer festival circuit. This is a show that is dying to be seen late at night by a crowd at Bonnaroo.

Unlike the other nearly two-dozen songs of the evening, the first encore of “The Robots” was a prerecorded performance. How can you be so sure? It was literally performed by dancing robots resembling the band members in a turn of events that was somehow uniquely German.

Kraftwerk’s performance in Boston was practically identical to their other shows in recent years but with that in mind, they incorporated a real-time precision that reinforced their status as the technical wizards who helped give birth to an entire genre. Bottom line: over 40 years after their foundation, Kraftwerk is still putting on a performance that justifies their spot atop anybody’s live music bucket list.

Setlist

Kraftwerk at Wang Theatre

  • Numbers
  • Computer World
  • It's More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
  • Computer Love
  • Pocket Calculator
  • Metropolis
  • The Man-Machine
  • Spacelab
  • The Model
  • Neon Lights
  • Autobahn
  • Airwaves
  • Intermission
  • News
  • Radioactivity  
  • Electric Café
  • Tour de France 1983
  • Tour de France Étape 1
  • Tour de France Étape 2
  • Trans-Europe Express
  • Metal on Metal
  • Abzug
Encore
  • The Robots
Encore
  • Planet of Visions
  • Boing Boom Tschak
  • Techno Pop
  • Musique Non Stop