Thursday, June 02, 2005

Kraftwerk in New York

There is a review of a Kraftwerk show in the New York Times. Here is some of it:

There's something mildly hilarious in the fact that Kraftwerk, the pioneering German electronic group, is about to release a live album: "Minimum-Maximum" (Astralwerks), due Tuesday. Performing at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday night as part of a brief American tour, playing the songs from the live album, Kraftwerk tried, as usual, to appear as un-live as possible.

True to its fascination with technology's impact on people, Kraftwerk has billed itself as "the man-machine" since the 1970's. When Kraftwerk started, it made music on limited, recalcitrant synthesizers and tinny electronic drums, but in the analog era it played its music by hand. Digital synthesizers (and sequencers and computers) have allowed Kraftwerk to automate.

On stage, much of its music was apparently recorded, with each note perfectly timed to the video on a screen behind the band. The four members stood at identical keyboards with laptop screens that largely hid how, or whether, their hands were moving, and they stayed as impassive as possible. Although Ralf Hütter did move his lips to sing, at any given moment, for all the audience knew, half the band members could have been watching DVD's on their laptop screens.

...While the band stood still, Kraftwerk's music and videos supplied the motion. The videos dwarfed the band members in grids, words, numbers and images of velocity, while the band's demeanor fulfilled the lyrics from a 1978 song: "We are the robots." For that song, "The Robots," Kraftwerk's members were replaced on stage by mechanized torsos that rotated and gestured. While all concert performances are mechanical to the degree that they repeat well-rehearsed music (and sometimes stage patter as well), Kraftwerk had its own wry twist. Its robots were far more demonstrative than the band itself.
If I may quote Mel Allen, How about that!?

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