Kraftwerk brought their pioneering 3-D tour to Liverpool, Getintothis’ Peter Guy reports on a historic evening in the city.
“I’ve just dropped a couple of Garys,” says one fella in the queue outside an exuberant Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
And it was somewhat understandable – as Kraftwerk‘s first show in Liverpool for 26 years was a rocket-fueled robotic dance explosion deep into another dimension.
A sea of fans descended upon the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, and as hundreds gathered outside during a slightly delayed doors opening, it appeared the entirety of the region’s music community were out in force for the German pioneers overdue return.
Having played the city’s Empire Theatre on September 11 in 1975 and the Royal Court Theatre for two consecutive nights in June 20-21 in 1981, it was in 1991, again at the Royal Court, that Ralf Hütter‘s men last played Liverpool.
Tonight then, is a genuine happening – with the show selling out within seconds despite the £75 ticket price – and amid the throngs of fans, visibly bouncing on tip-toes outside the venue, there’s the likes of festival bosses from Liverpool Music Week and Sound City, record label founders from Deltasonic – and a raft of musicians from several generations; Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark‘s Andy McCluskey through to Zutons Dave McCabe and Russ Pritchard plus contemporary acts like By The Sea, Ohmns, Bonnacons of Doom and Death Blooms.
It’s a clear indication of Kraftwerk‘s enduring influence and musical legacy.
And from the off it is clear that this is no exercise in nostalgia – for this is Kraftwerk in THREE FUCKING D. Yep, each member of the crowd is handed a set of 3D glasses – and boy, are we in for a treat.
A medley of Numbers, Computer World and It’s More Fun To Compute sees a tapestry of neon green typography shoot out of the vast screen above the four men stationed on their synth-pods. They’ll remain near statuesque for 90 minutes while the visuals burst forth in a range of colours and light beams.
The latter of the opening trio of numbers is quite sensational – and it’s a wonder the entire Philharmonic crowd aren’t given glowsticks to rave along too as It’s More Fun To Compute recalls the likes of Daft Punk with it’s ebullient beat and ecstatic stabbing breezeblock synth lines.
Indeed, the entire show can’t help but make this writer think about the countless generations of musicians they’ve influenced – from Orbital‘s transcendental Glastonbury set through to the Chemical Brothers‘ skull-crushing beats during their Exit Planet Dust period through to a whole raft of modern psychedelic artists and back to the entire techno catalogue – Kraftwerk‘s music is the blueprint for it all.
And while they’re known for their robotic, clinical nature, tonight’s show is imbued with genuinely life-affirming emotion. The crowd are on their feet repeatedly – the front row collectively punching the air with glee and cheers of ‘go ‘ed Ralf‘ are volleyed forth in quick succession.
It’s the visuals which create the many, many highlights – we’re thrust into the cockpit of a rocket during Spacelab with the earth orbiting we look down into space before a satellite bursts through the screen plunging a radio antennae into our grinning faces. We’re then shown a map of the UK with a Google Maps pin in Liverpool before a giant flying saucer docks outside the Liverpool Philharmonic. Clearly robots do have a sense of humour.
Autobahn, meanwhile, sees the band revelling in their German ingenuity with a Volkswagen Beetle kick-starting the song before a Mercedes Benz fizzes off down the motorway and closes with us behind the wheel as the radio station musik fizzing up to 11.
Better yet is a barnstorming Geiger Counter / Radioactivity as we’re plunged into darkness with just the pulsing radio waves bouncing to the beat amid a song rife with political overtones. Tour de France, meanwhile, brings splashes of red, white and blue across archive footage from the famous race. It’s astoundingly good.
If there’s a criticism, the encore at times does feel slightly flat compared to what’s gone before, but it’s a mere quibble and the sight of seeing the four iconic robots replace Hütter and co during The Robots is as amusing as it’s a brilliant moment of musical theatre.
They close with Techno Pop and Musique Non Stop – and for the first time we’re given a glimpse into the humans behind the neon-costumed robotic musical conductors as they take it in turn to exit stage left before bowing to the crowd. Last to leave is band leader Ralf Hütter to a deserved standing ovation – it really was quite something.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam and Peter Guy.
Kraftwerk Liverpool Philharmonic set list
1. Numbers / Computer World
2. It’s More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
3. Computer Love
4. The Man-Machine
6. The Model
7. Neon Lights
10. Intermission / News
11. Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
12. Electric Café
13. Tour de France
14. Etape 1/ Chrono / Etape 2
15. Trans Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Abzug
16. The Robots
17. Aéro Dynamik
18. Planet of Visions
19. Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop