Review of their gig in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 17 March 2004
Four middle aged men in black suits, red shirts, black ties, are completely
absorbed with their flat computer consoles. They look like EU ministers that got
lost on the way to a summit in Dublin Castle. Barely a twitch between them,
there is no acknowledgement of the audience, the world, each other, anything.
Sounds are booming around the Olympia, vocalist and founder member Ralf Hutter
is doing his Sinatra swing thing over their techno driven 12 bar blues tribute
called "Vitamins". This truly great band are kicking up a storm. You're in the
presence of greatness - Kraftwerk, Dublin, March 2004.
I've seen quite a few rock poses thrown -Brett Anderson could do it for jam,Ian McCullough had it down pat, Julian Cope just oozed natural charisma, Mark E Smith could sour milk without looking at it but as a unit Kraftwerk - impassive, robotic, irony free, just look the business. Behind them fun boy four warm primary colours leap off the backdrop and as the gig warms up most of the material played is taken from their recent "Tour De France Soundtracks" album. Any new Kraftwerk material is to be cherished but I first found "Soundtracks" a little thin, perhaps too drawn to sustain attention. In a live context its beats and melodies take on a life of their own, all muscle and swagger, especially the pulsing "Aero Dynamik". "Tour De France", itself, a rethread of the 1983 single, is a continental summer set to music and on stage it's blessed with a backdrop of quaint monochrome newsreels showing the Kings of the mountains conquering all before them. During "The Model" Ralf Hutter croons the croon with a half smile and we've celluloid catwalk queens in furs and 60s hairdos, but best of all is their robust take on "Radioactivity", preceded by a chilling critique of Sellafield, Harrisburg, and Chernobyl. Scary colours, spine tingling sounds, and a truly blood curdling message is driven home. They might be cyborgs in suits but they obviously care.
The back catalogue is raided and it becomes blindingly obvious that some of the really major players of the last 30 years - Bowie, U2, Orbital, New Order, Chemical Brothers - have ridden shotgun on this great band's work. We get the hymnally trancy "Neon Lights", a sinuous "Computer World", a skittish "Autobahn" (complete with the car radio gag), a frankly banging "Pocket Calculator", and they finish with "Music Non Stop", leaving the stage one by one, Ralf the last man standing. Two real highlights stand out though - a storming Say It Loud I'm Black and Proud "Trans Europe Express", decked out in killer hip hop metal on metal beats has the crowd transfixed, but better again there's "We are the robots". And what's more it's played by black gloved robots moving in slow motion symmetry. Our robotic chums are intended as representations of the band members - scarily so in the case of Florian Schneider.
See Kraftwerk live. All robotic life is there.