The night we had all been waiting for had arrived. The electronic kraut-rock innovators were to play in Liverpool for the first time since their Royal Court Theatre show back in 1981. Tickets for this 17-date UK tour were like gold dust, so I couldn’t believe my luck when a friend was selling one. This 3-D performance appeared to realise a long-term goal of Kraftwerk’s in creating a Gesamtkunstwerk: the fusion of all works of art.
The crowd built outside the Philharmonic Hall for the two hour, uninterrupted set of electro-robot vibing and once inside we were passed our 3-D glasses. The four men stood at their synth-stations in front of a huge projector beaming 3-D visuals to fully immerse the audience in sound and light. The show lifted off with Numbers/Home Computer, with digits flying across the screen to German, Russian and Japanese robotic vocals. This theme continued with It’s More Fun to Compute / Home Computer and Computer love, songs bursting with melodic genius. At times, we sunk into our seats in awe of the visuals in front of us. At others, we couldn’t help but rave.
During Space lab, the ‘Spacekraft’ orbited the earth, jetted across the River Mersey and docked outside the venue. It was a thoughtful gesture from Kraftwerk to personalise their shows this way and it certainly garnered applause from the crowd.
When the famous blue Autobahn artwork took over the screen, we knew we were in for a long ride. We followed a Volkswagen on the German freeway, just as the group did in their early days touring their homeland. Then the Morse code intro of Geiger Counter/ Radioactivity kicked in, followed by the ionising pulse of the bass and crisp, high-hitting synths.
Our circuits were fried but we were still ready for the encore, which saw The Robots rise to the stage. The anachronous androids moved their arms and heads mystifyingly and we were reminded of the classic Kraftwerk futurism. Boing Boom Tschak perfected the synchronicity of graphics and crystal clear synths to emphasise every beat, buzz and chime. It was a fully immersive experience. During the finale, Musique Non Stop, the hall resounded with cheers as each member left the stage in succession. Last to depart was the only remaining founder of the band, Ralf Hütter, who was given a well-deserved standing ovation.
The room was filled with ecstasy and not just the recreational kind. We auditorily orbited an alternate universe of cinematic euphoria. It’s taken me a few days to come out of hyperspace- because I haven’t wanted to. Kraftwerk may be machine men, with machine minds but these robots have big, thumping human hearts full passion and sentiment.