Kraftwerk are a legendary band and it’s not until you see them perform that you truly comprehend the impact they’ve had on every genre, from hip hop samples to electronic music, these strange German art rockers created sounds that were essential to the world’s musical fabric. At first, I wanted to go to this show just to enjoy the sheer spectacle of it. Kraftwerk 3D, or any 3D show, must be a mind-expanding experience, I surmised. Then, very quickly, my understanding of the band deepened much further than I expected. These guys are artists in the highest regard in the sense that this robot rock is a veil for heavy political and social commentary. The song Computer World for instance features the lyrics:
Interpol and Deautsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard
CIA and KGB and total data and memory
This song isn’t so much minimalist poetry but the suggestion these forces collaborate and misuse your personal data. People are rather ambivalent to the impact data mining and control have over their lives but as society draws closer to what can really be considered a “computer world”, it’s control of data that will sculpt your user experience simply living in reality.
The 3D spectacle was a visual glut, taking the audience on a trip to outer-space and to the Autoban. The commentary behind these songs is the simply exhibition of human development of technology. It’s triumphant rock displaying how far we’ve come and all the great advances we’ve made. The other side of that coin though, is that through this process of completing human evolution through technology, we become robots, growing noticeably colder every day. Soon, we stop celebrating these advances and simply exist, feeling no reason to waste time celebrating anything at all. This was the meaning of the show’s climax when the band stepped off stage while the music kept playing and a curtain lowered to reveal the four members had been replaced by robots, moving mechanically with only a sliver of semblance to their previous humanity left. We could feel their camera eyes gazing out as us, considering us inferior with our flesh and bones before them, they had transcended and could not die. As the audience hailed Kraftwerk with cheer, throwing flowers at the feet of robots that had no Earthly use for them, I began to wonder how many robotmen I encountered before this. Were my words as empty as their hearts?
Kraftwerk though, were ultimately human. Returning to the stage to thank the audience warmly. Throughout their set, though subtle, were homages to their founding member, Florian Schneider, who died in 2020. Kraftwerk is both a celebration and a warning, spoken in the language of the future: electronic beats.
Words by: Robert Shepyer
Photos by: Dillon Vaughn