The Bridgewater Hall – Monday 19th June 2017
The emperors of electronic music came to Manchester to present timeless, joyful music to a full house of all ages in the elegant Bridgewater Hall. Dressed in our summer clothes we donned our 360 glasses, and we were joined centre of the front row by the king and queen of Manchester: our finest guitarist and TV’s smartest lawyer and awaited for the delicate clunk of German efficiency.
To understand Kraftwerk is to understand human life, sounds grand doesn’t it, but it’s not. It’s the chemical reaction which makes life: the spark of electricity into the primordial soup which gives us the building blocks of music and life. It rises in us: we are the robots and it kick starts the human metronome: the heart. Every drum beat defines our own and our natural rhythm is aligned with the four figures stood on pedestals, and for the next 2 hours we race, nod and sway. Our eyes are transfixed by the huge screen and we are engulfed by the most unique of sounds to grace the ears of the world, genre defining and genre owning: there’s nothing else like Kraftwerk.
The old men of electronic rock and roll, the ‘electronic Beatles’ deliver on sight and sound. Our eyes, ears and senses are opened up. We are sonically massaged and beaten within bruising distance by the most wide ranging pulsating, driving rhythms and nurtured back with a longing of distance love layered textures. In unison we are counted as numbers, had our vitamin A,B,C and D, went to computer-world, fell madly in love with computers, had a cycle ride, a car ride and a trans European express train ride. We saw the model dance and witnessed the iconic red shirts and black ties of the robots. This majestic Man-Machine, the thrill of Radioactivity and above all we experience first-hand how timeless the sound of Kraftwerk is today. A perfect illustration of their craft is the reworking and remixing we are treated to in tonight’s show and across this 2017 tour, the ability to remix their own work and make it new and now. At the same time make current pioneers such as Radiohead, Daft Punk appear as mere copyists.
It is approaching 50 years since Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider first met and to go back to their roots and traverse their passage through musical history is as defined as their sound. They teach as the greatest teacher and reclaim as star pupils. What they absorbed from free form jazz, sessions emulating the freedom of Coltrane, adsorbing Stravinski’s art of the mini melody and memorable motif, jamming with Can; they passed through the angular architecture of sound, embraced by Pink Floyd and onto and into the energy of The Prodigy. As a Manchester audience we are thrilled to hear the familiar textures we love so much in New Order, an influence which has been respectfully absorbed and taken forward. A direct lineage to the pop, disco explosion from Blondie to Giorgio Moroder, an effect we hear every day today.
Even a Detroit-techno, driving, menacing four to the floor rhythm is wrapped in Kraftwerk’s very own woolly blanket of sonic love and delivered to us as a sonic pounding that almost knocks us over, but at the same time we know full well if we fall we simply land on the comfort of their sound.
Thanks to the old guys, Ralf and Florian and thanks to current occupants of this truly unique entity we know as Kraftwerk: Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Greffenhagen.
Vorsprung durch technik innit!