The recent death of Kraftwerk’s co-founder Florian Schneider reminded me of the band’s concerts I have been lucky enough to see.
My introduction to German electronic music was via Tangerine Dream’s album Phaedra that I bought in 1974. I also owned several other of their albums and a single Can LP. I was aware of Kraftwerk at the time but didn’t have any of their albums until 1998 when I first saw them live.
I was one of the Medical Crew at the year’s Roskilde Festival and Kraftwerk were appearing there in (I think) the Green Tent. I only have dim memories of seeing the band members playing standing on a sort of balcony in the tent and no memory at all of what songs they played. I just remember being excited to see this mythical band live.
I bought the albums Man Machine, Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express thereafter and, sometime later, probably around 2010, bough a fantastic Mensch Maskine knitted sweater.
I have been an on-and-off member of the Tate Museums and in 2013 saw that Kraftwerk were going to play live in the Machine Hall at the Tate Modern. They were going to play eight concerts one after the other on separate nights from 6th February through to the 15th (having a night off on the Sunday.) By the time I found I would be in London on some of those dates tickets were, of course, sold out. So I succumbed to temptation and searched Ebay for tickets and bought a pair for Thursday 7th February at an extortionate rate. So donning my Kraftwerk sweater I went to the show.
We received our 3-D glasses and a souvenir booklet as our armbands were checked.
The concert was due to start at 21.00 h and went on for over two hours. Everyone sat on the concrete floor of the Turbine Hall as the swirling sounds enveloped us and the 3-D projections leaped out of the screen. This was Radio-Activity evening but they played a selection of songs including The Robots, Computer-World, Trans-Europa Express, Autobahn, Die Mench-Maschine and others. A wonderful experience! The Wallpaper folder contained a short introduction by Ralf Hütter and two-page spreads of pictures from Kraftwerk’s slides.
I was also a member of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet and was really happy when the museum announced that there would be an exhibition Dansmaskiner – från Léger till Kraftwerk that opened on 22nd January 2014, which Ralf Hütter had been involved in planning. In addition Kraftwerk would play two concerts at Cirkus on 21st and 22nd January. I was lucky to get tickets for the 21st January.
As far as I remember, the set was substantially identical to that at the previous year’s show at the Tate Modern. But we didn’t get to keep our 3-D glasses this time.
Now I can simply play the music and reimagine the 3-D films that accompany them.