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by Ryan Muir
"Sell-out rock shows usually mean a lot of shouting, some sweating, maybe a few drunken pass-outs. Kraftwerk inspired none of that on Tuesday night. The first of its eight consecutive sold-out performances at the Museum of Modern Art had reverence and stylistic weight; even for a New York museum crowd, there was a lot of black. Artfully swept hair, uncomfortable-looking shoes, architectural glasses: check, check and check. The high-design audience was rewarded with an equally aesthetically tuned concert, with the band, a foursome in graphic black-and-white unitards, playing neon-lighted synths. Behind them, a video screen offered a parade of simple 3-D images, like stick figure robots and spinning numbers, a retro-future in an MS-DOS font." [NY Times]Kraftwerk began their eight-night Kraftwerk-Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC last night (4/10). Each night they'll play a different album, and last night was Autobahn, their first.
Kraftwerk are groundbreaking in their music and legendary in their influence, but can arguably be a difficult band to enjoy in a live setting. With historically minimal stage-activity from each of the four members of the band, it was unclear what to expect from these exclusive museum installation-performances.
True to reputation, apart from the occasional foot pumping and minute hip thrusts, there wasn't much thrilling about the physical performance of the four modern-day members of Kraftwerk and the nature of their instruments is somewhat obscured - possibly even more than usual, due to the setup designed for these shows.
But this wasn't just a concert. It was a simple yet engrossing multimedia experience in the clean and otherwise austere setting of MoMA's Marron Atrium, a space that was both ideal and impractical. The stage was trimmed with blacklight, and a 4-projector, 3-D lighting rig projected images on a movie theater sized screen behind the group. Among swirls of floating musical notes, matrix-green digital sin waves, and radioactive hazard warnings, the audience enjoyed the show in 3-D glasses which were provided by the venue. The retrospective is further flattered by the custom white stage construction, and the unusually airy and artwork-free environment.
After playing Autobahn in full, the remainder of the set included familiar songs from various stages of the band's discography. Many songs received a polish beyond that of the recent "Minimum-Maximum" live release, and possibly a hint at what the new "Catalogue" re-releases has in-store.
It seems these shows in particular have been designed to be scrutinized and documented-- from a personal perspective it seemed essential to experience the show from several perspectives, however, the 3-D effect is certainly designed to be experienced head on.
Tickets to the shows were not easy to come by and in huge demand for the group who doesn't play that often let alone a full album in a museum, though show sponsor Volkswagen made some more available to contest winners recently. Regardless, it goes without saying that there were less tickets than people wanting to get in, and that will hold true for the next seven nights as well. If you still can't find one, a consolation prize is that PS1 is hosting a related installation and party which has tickets still available.
More pictures from 'Autobahn' night, and the setlist, below...
Set List: (via)
"We Are the Robots"
"Kometenmelodie 1 & 2"
"Mitternacht" / "Morgenspaziergang"
"Numbers" / "Computer World"
"Computer Love" (The Mix version)
"Home Computer" (The Mix version)
"Tour de France" / "Aerodynamik"
"Boing Boom Tschak" / "Techno Pop" / "Musique Non-Stop"