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coverpic flag Germany - Full Moon 121 - 08/09/06

Sentrum Scene, Oslo, Norway, 08.08.2006  

Kraftwerk has only confirmed six live performances in 2006. The first two were in Norway (Bergen and Oslo) and seem to be the only club concerts of the six. The gig in Oslo was sold out in 18 minutes, the fastest selling show in Norway ever! This was the third time the band visited Norway. The gig in late 1991 is one of the most amusing I've ever witnessed. The four guys were certainly not the half men, half robots without any stage personalities as expected. Instead they made a lot of fuzz at the edge of the stage, dancing, involving the public to push the buttons of some small boxes they were playing. Someone even claimed they sang 'Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn, Fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Karl Johan' (the main street of Oslo) at the end of "Autobahn"...

The second time, two gigs in early 2004, they were back to normal. Four grave men behind one desk with a laptop and a small keyboard each; hardly even moving their hands. The gig was a disappointment for me. The fascinating old films and video effects flickering on the screens behind the quartet were much the same as 12 years earlier; at least one of the guys seemed to be bored and with some tension between them when details didn't quite work as planned. And the sound wasn't so good either. Both times the quartet demonstrated that they hardly needed to be present, though. The majority of the sounds pouring out of the speakers were safe playback, if that's the appropriate word concerning Kraftwerk's kind of music, at least not produced there and then. The parody was complete when "The Robots" were performed, with only four human looking robots from the waist up were present on stage.

The third visit (yesterday, the night before the full moon) wasn't very different from the gigs in 2004, but worked a lot better for me. It might partly have to do with my expectations, adjusted after the 2004 meeting. The stage presence and effects with films, lights and a curtain were the same. Some of the songs were different. "Computer Liebe (Computer Love)" and "Schaufensterpuppen (Showroom Dummies)" were new on the setlist compared to the eh... band's live performances in 2004 and 2005. Also I think they sang more in German/less in English than earlier. But of course almost half of the singing was pre-programmed or pre-recorded if you like. Well, Ralf Hütter, the apparent leader of the eh... band, sang quite a lot. He and his sideman even played some chords on their keyboards. We got the usual greatest hits from 1974's "Autobahn" onwards. "Das Model" received the evening's loudest applause. Not due to me. In my opinion it was one of the few songs that didn't work too well this evening. "Radioaktivität" and "Trans Europa Express" on the other hand, were simply stunning. Most of the the tracks off Kraftwerk's latest studio offering Tour de France Soundtracks, only three years old, were also great.

One might say a lot about Kraftwerk's music; pioneers and masters of the synthesizer, techno, electronica - or technopop as they called it themselves on Electric Cafe in 1986. Simple repetitive synth melodies or next to nothing apart from electronic beat, groove and noise. Also explorers of technology, what technology are doing to human beings, man versus machine etc. etc. In addition they're green environmentalist, bicycle enthusiasts and want to stop radioaktivität, you know.

More interesting nowadays, methinks, is how they can keep the same old show going year after year with only minor changes. They have only released one new ordinary studio album between 1986 and now... Four middle-aged grey-haired or bald men standing still, hardly doing anything on stage or saying anything until a 'good night, guten Nacht and auf Wiedersehn' towards the end of the last song "Music Non Stop" doesn't sound very interesting. Florian Schneider, who started the eh... band with Ralf Hütter, didn't look very inspired. He hardly even tapped his foot to the beat like the other guys in fact did. I wonder if he just stood there, surfed the Internet without finding any fascinating pages. Still, the public was completely spellbound last evening. The music sounded fresh and the quartet somehow managed to pass on some kind of humour, even self-irony. In short: it was fun! I guess Kraftwerk can keep going like this for several years to come. Last night was a big event in Oslo. No doubt it will be other big events if they return next year, in five or fifteen years. If they don't find their way to a stage near you, you might get an idea what Kraftwerk live is about on the double live CD Minimum Maximum released only last year or, even better, the brand new DVD of the same title.

Copyright © 2006 JP e-mail address

Copyright © 2006 Blurred cellphone photo by J.R. Braun

You may also want to check out our Kraftwerk article/review: Autobahn.

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