Tuesday 20 June 2017

Live: Kraftwerk – Sheffield City Hall, 15/06/2017

Sheffield City Hall

The tickets may have said **ON STAGE 19:45 PROMPT** in typical Kraftwerk fashion, but it was still 8pm by the band finally took to the stage. Perhaps it was down to that British of habits of turning up at approximately the right time that delayed the performance as the band waited patiently backstage for the audience to take their seats. Or it could be that in their advancing years the Krafterk idiom of punctuality has softened somewhat.

The location of tonight's performance, Sheffield City Hall, might not be the average venue for an electronic artist's performance these days, but for Kraftwek it is strangely suitable. An old seated theatre layout with nice acoustics and a beautiful moulded plaster ceiling give this the feel of a classical recital. Indeed the band's robotic on-stage persona has never lent them to energetic performances, rather stoic and dignified not unlike classical performers.

The band, an oddity in their commercial heyday of the late 70s paved the way for nearly every band with a synthesizer after them. Democratising the synthesizer from the overblown heights of prog rock and putting it into the eager hands of the DIY post-punk scene as another invaluable weapon aiding in the development of synthpop, industrial, and dance music over the next few decades. Their importance cannot be overemphasised enough in the annals of electronic music, and despite not releasing any original music for quite sometime, their live shows still pull eager crowds.

If you've previously seen footage of the band recorded over the past decade, you'll be aware that they are always aided by a synchronised projection behind them. The new twist is the projection is presented in the latest 3D technology, and as such every audience member is given a pair of 3D glasses on entry. Cynically it may seem like a cheap gimmick, but in the hands of Kraftwerk it works incredibly well.

The band open with 'Numbers' and 'Computer World' before rolling out classic upon classic. Tracks such as 'Computer Love', The Man-Machine', 'Spacelab', 'The Model', 'Autobahn', 'Radioactivity', 'Tour De France' and 'Trans-Europe Express' are met with rapturous appreciation from the audience.

The band briefly leave the stage as their robotic counterparts are brought on for 'The Robots'. Unfortunately the stage curtain begins to snag and the unveiling of the automata Kraftwerk is delayed, but surely the curtain is pulled apart by the sheer force of the stage hands. However, after the curtain closes once again for the band to return to the stage the same problem hits and though one side is able to be fully opened, one does not and the stage hands have to hold it open as best they can, which does cut off part of the screen. Undeterred, the second encore sees the band roll through 'Areodynamik', 'Planet Of Visions' and a final medley of 'Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Music Non Stop' before leaving to a well-deserved ovation from the audience.

Kraftwerk these days may essentially be the Ralf Hütter show, with founding partner Florian Schneider, as well as the classic line-up, having left some time ago. But that doesn’t dull their edge any less. Tonight's show was a master-class in electronic composition and technical perfection. For a band as obsessed with technology and the future as Kraftwerk it would be wonderful to have some new material soon and new additions made to their touring set. But, as tonight shows, even when Kraftwerk are looking back they still seem light years ahead. 

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