Kraftwerk: London, Tate Modern – live review

Kraftwerk. Night 4. Man Machine
Tate Modern, London

I’d waited years 30 years to see Kraftwerk, given up on ever seeing to be honest. Then my old mate Kevan Hunt rang, “I’ve got you a ticket for Man Machine, two and a half hours on the phone but I got through”. Not only did I now have the chance of a lifetime to see the band that was responsible for Joy Division, OMD and Ultravox (the proper one with Jon Foxx), I was one of the chosen few. I’m Charlie Bucket with a MiniMoog.

The Tate Modern was the perfect venue to see the pioneers of electro, after all it used to the Bankside Power Station. A magnificent building designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the man responsible for Liverpool Cathedral and the red telephone box. This huge industrial space once used to create energy was now a room full of it. Electricity had come home but with 20% VAT.

On the way in I’m handed a beautiful paper envelope bathed in Man Machine artwork. Inside it is a pair of 3D specs. I’m sceptical about 3D, never really got it, not since I took the kids to see The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D and that was shit but this is Kraftwerk and I trust them.

Like any gig, first stop is the bar. “The beer is competitively priced” the young girl that wrapped a wristband around my narrow arm informs me. It is competitively priced, but with Oslo. £5 a can. It doesn’t matter though; I’m at gig I’ve waited 30 years to see. The bar is a mix chin strokers, men in red shirts with black ties, old-fashioned fans and a few well know faces. I bump into Neil Tennant, he’s thrilled at being here, as is Brian Cox. Two grown men both with an interest in all things electronic have smiles bigger than a Trans-Europe Express with an extra carriage.

It’s time. They’re coming on.

A large white screen has the words ‘PUT YOUR GLASSES ON NOW’ beamed on to it. I obey. Four men in Tron suits stand behind their keyboards and the words MACHINE, MACHINE, MACHINE, MACHINE…. Come gliding gracefully towards me, moving in time to Ralph’s vocoder voice. It’s magnificent, Man Machine and typography creeps around the room and in my head. I get the 3D bit now. Shit for films but great for experiencing these songs in a different way. The Robots, is accompanied by projections of giant Mannequins in matching shirts and ties. As they slowly spin their arms reach out to a room full of what must have looked like a 1950’s B movie audience. I have been touched by Kraftwerk I thought, but I’ll keep that thought quiet.

All though I thought I’d come to hear just Man Machine, they graced their way through Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express, Numbers, Computer Love and Techno Pop and many more, each track accompanied by 3D treat.

To lift an English translation from Autobahn,

‘In front of us is a wide valley

The sun is shining with glittering rays’

Kraftwerk are pioneers, I think they even invented electricity (I should have asked Brain Cox) When I was a young lad I felt like I was listening to the future when I played Man Machine, funny but I still do.

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