How do you begin to review a band like Kraftwerk? An act that have been around since 1969, who have literally pioneered a genre of music and who continue to innovate when it comes to live performances; it's difficult to sum up their career based on one performance and a few hundred words.
Does their status as 'legends' cloud the judgement of the fans, both young and old, who flock to see them almost five decades after they first formed in Dusseldorf? Quite possibly. Nevertheless, the electronica stalwarts have sold out two nights at Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre and the foyer before the second is packed with fans of all ages – from the die-hards proudly wearing the Autobahn t-shirt they've queued at the merch desk for twenty minutes to buy, to the more inquisitive musos wondering what all the fuss is about. They're all here to see Kraftwerk's famous 3D show, last performed in Ireland at Longitude in 2013 - but tonight, in the confines of a darkened indoor venue, promising something altogether more special.
The crowd don their special 3D glasses and the four-piece, led by Ralf Hutter - the only remaining founding member of the band – take the stage in their lycra onesies. What follows is two hours of material that spans the Germans' careers, from Computer Love to The Man-Machine and the closest thing they've ever had to a 'hit', The Model.
The 3D aspect is undoubtedly a major draw. In the same weekend that acts like Aphex Twin and Flying Lotus wowed the crowds at Forbidden Fruit with their jaw-dropping visuals, Kraftwerk offer something entirely less off-the-wall, but largely entertaining and occasionally (as seen during the likes of Tour de France and the eerie The Robots) exceptional. The main issues? As beautiful a venue as the Bord Gais Energy Theatre is, we're reminded that it is a theatre – and the formal setting subsequently leaves little room for spontaneity, the opportunity to shake a leg or generate any sort of atmosphere. This is a show to sit back and absorb, which is both a good and a bad thing; but when coupled with the overlong running time, it means that there are long periods of wandering minds before Hutter and co. depart the stage with nothing more than a brusque 'auf wiedersehen'.
Long-established fans may have left feeling somewhat disappointed, but for the more casual or curious observers like ourselves, it's a box ticked in the 'bands to see before you die' category - we're just not sure that we'd bother a second time.
June 3rd, 2017