For the past couple of years, Kraftwerk have been doing the electronic equivalent of the victory lap. They’ve performed similarly well-received album retrospectives at MOMO in New York (another instant sell-out) as well as a recent sojourn performing Catalogue in Düsseldorf. And now comes the third in what is three of eight shows, if not more, stop-offs at small, illustrious venues across the globe.
At this show – eight of eight within the smart turbine halls of The Tate Modern – saw fans seasoned and fresh come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of Ralf Hütter and his three current men up close and personal. See, for the purists, their support shows with Radiohead in Mexico in 2008 marked the end of an electronic partnership with Florian Schneider that had lasted the best part of three decades.
Now Ralf has new, similarly robotic friends (Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Grieffenhagen) to help him steer the ship forwards – although in truth, most people would struggle to pick Hütter out of a crowd, let alone his partners in time. But the point is this: it matters not.
While Hütter speaks only to say the odd line (“she’s a model and she’s looking good!”) and a not-especially memorable outro (“thank-you”), it’s not conversation or clever quips we’ve come for: it’s amazing music with 3D visuals.
So for the first part of the evening, we are treated to the under-rated 2003 album ‘Tour De France’ before launching into the amazing Greatest Hits that literally has grown men weeping with delight.
From the green wash of ‘Autobahn’ to the blood red visual drama of ‘Man Machine’, ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘Music Non Stop’, they leave no motorway unturned. And the final fifteen minutes, which saw 3D imagery of a space shuttle floating back to earth, really did leave the best until last. All that was missing was A New Song, a track to show that Kraftwerk are still moving in the right direction. But given that countless Werkers came every single night to see their heroes light up the Tate – and make no mistake, the sound and vision was spectacular - such small trifles can wait for another day.
Photo: Peter Boettcher