Mounting an overwhelming mixed media assault on the Sony Centre, Kraftwerk benefited from their eerily prophetic influence over the modern fascination with retro futurism. With spectators bedecked in 3D glasses, made to look like droids themselves, the quartet activated their entertainment machine with the seminal “Robots.” It was a dramatic intro for the night and it stood out as a true statement of intent for the rest of the show. The band, dressed in reflective hieratic costumes stood in perfect alignment on stage delivering just what one would expect of a concert put on by humanoid robots equipped with vocoders and 3D technology. Now that might not seem like an endorsement, in fact it’s quite the opposite, since Kraftwerk’s strength lies in their stark presentation of the minimalist audio-visual art form: they’re a fruitful merging of music and technology.
Consecutively playing song after song from their last eight albums, Kraftwerk travelled through their back catalogue highlighting popular themes. With “Numbers,” the screen spat out endless figures over the audience’s heads reminiscent of 1980s desktop images. In “Computer World,” an old school PC floated by as the crowd roared their nostalgic approval. There was a futuristic melancholy in their choice of images that made the band seem more prescient now in retrospect. “Spacelab” was definitely the highlight of the show. The accompanying projections transformed the venue into a giant spacecraft zooming through the stratosphere, soaring with the UFOs, and finally gently landing by the CN tower, much to the enthusiasm of the crowd. “Das Model” was beautifully executed with kitschy 1950s vintage footage, while “Radioactivity” provided a disturbing spin with a quick reference to the Fukushima disaster. They played an extended version of “Tour de France” from their Vitamin album at the median, which felt more like an ode to Ralf Hütter, who is an avid cyclist. Surprisingly, while “Autobahn” was the crowd favorite it may have been the only weakness in the set. Its long version in performance didn’t provide anything different to its music video version. Nonetheless the synthpop love was clearly felt as Kraftwerk looped through familiar beats and fully took advantage of the crystal clear sound system of the venue.
As “Music Non Stop” closed the concert, individual members took turns to show off their synthesizer prowess, leaving Hütter, sole survivor of the original outfit, alone on stage. By this point the audience could barely stay in their seats and a few got up to dance. A girl managed to jump the stage to hug the band before security whisked her away. Kraftwerk had “worked” the crowd without budging from their android-like exteriors
Having changed the history of pop four decades ago as pioneers of electronic music, Kraftwerk still puts on an electrifying show. It’s interesting to note that while the band barely interacted with the crowd, the images that encompassed the Centre that night made for intimate and indelible impressions. If Kraftwerk were a thesis of impending concert entertainment, the possibilities of what come might next are as exciting as they are palpable. The future is definitely now.