Kraftwerk Can Still Wow After Five Decades: The fact that Kraftwerk was formed in 1970, by students Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, is just crazy. Think about that for a minute. Rock & roll was still in its prime. Punk hadn’t gotten going yet. What we now know as “old school rap” was still nine years away. Disco was a twinkle. But these Germans were morphing from krautrock to a pioneering electronic music project right in front of the world’s eyes.
We still often think of electronic music as something very contemporary. But the likes of Kraftwerk and a handful of others, notably French electronic composer Jean-Michel Jarre, were creating electronic music when there really was no such thing. There was no movement, and the equipment was rudimentary at best (they would often have to design and build their own).
So here we are in 2022, a full 52 years after Kraftwerk formed. They’ve been performing these 3D shows for the last decade, and this L.A. gig was originally scheduled for 2020 (rearranged for obvious reasons). And maybe, maybe, artists on the cutting edge right now might see Kraftwerk’s early electronic tunes and their 3D show as quaint. The likes of deadmau5 and Odesza have been blowing minds with their visual performances. But damn, the impact that Kraftwerk had in dragging electronic into the mainstream was enormous, and they’re still creating art that is visually stunning while sounding great.
The combination of man and machine has always been their bag, highlighted by “The Man-Machine” and, later, “The Robots.” Organic and mechanic. The glory of this show is that, while still cutting edges, they embrace early technologies. Wearing 3-D glasses, old school home computers hover in front of us, and numbers that look like old binary code whizz by. And that’s just on the opening “Numbers” and “Computer World.”
The setlist is a fan’s dream. “Autobahn,” “The Model,” “Radioactivity,” “Tour de France,” “Trans Europe Express” — all are proto-electro classics. The four men are lined up as they normally are, until “Robots” when they are replaced by dancing robots. All the while, 3D delights float around, including satellites and UFOs and VW bugs. It’s a joy.
“Music Non Stop” is, somewhat ironically, the last song. The music does stop. But not before the Shrine saw a 52-year-old band show a few newer artists how it’s done.
Kraftwerk Can Still Wow After Five Decades