September 13, 2016

Werk It

Germany’s Kraftwerk wowed at The Bomb Factory.

For someone who had never listened to Kraftwerk, absentmindedly ignorant of the ground-breaking German electronic band from the 1970s, walking into their show at the Bomb Factory on Saturday evening was like being transported into the pre-dawn of electronic music’s civilization.

The melodious computerized music was somewhat subdued and seemed elementary at times as compared to the overly caffeinated electronic music we know today, but the fact that Kraftwerk was performing in Dallas for the first time in 40 years was met with an ecstatic response. The electricity in the crowd was palpable even if most of the attendees stood in place or bobbed conservatively to the hypnotic music.

The four-person band took the audience on a trip through their history, outfitted in matching long-sleeved bodysuits that glowed in the dark and standing in a row behind what looked to be keyboards in glowing boxes. True to their robot-loving rhetoric, they had a stoic stage presence marked by minimal movement, zero talking, and no interacting with the crowd during the two-hour set.

Kraftwerk pioneered electronic music in the 70s and is cited as having influenced so many current-day musicians and genres not confined to electronic music. For example, if the track “Computer Love” sounded familiar, it’s because it’s the basis for Coldplay’s “Talk,” a correlation which was somehow much more obvious live than in the recorded version.

The sea of concert-goers bespecked in 3D glasses was a sight in itself, harkening back to the vintage photographs of movie-goers in 3D glasses in the 1950s. While the graphics on the stage-sized monitor behind the band were not terribly exciting by today’s standards, it was hard not to appreciate their historic effect. During “Tour de France,” vintage black-and-white footage of bikers racing through mountainous terrain was overlaid by ribbony graphics of the colors of France’s flag, and during “Autobahn” a very basic rendering of a Volkswagen barreling down a highway could have stepped out of a 1990s computer game.

The best graphics of the show involved a 3-D satellite orbiting earth. The satellite gave way to a hovering 3-D UFO that descended onto the Dallas skyline, then the Bomb Factory façade, and then out into the crowd, eliciting “oohs and ahhhs” from the audience.

The music provided a kind of background for conversation—there was more of it going on than in most concerts, and maybe that’s part of Kraftwerk’s long-lived allure. Their music isn’t demanding, it’s pleasant, repetitious, soothing in its predictability, and it fosters a sense of kinship through people’s shared history with it.  That was essentially the most magical part of Saturday—being shoulder-to-shoulder with music-lovers and history aficionados who were geeking out over witnessing a monumental player in music history. The elation in the packed venue was infectious.

–Alaena Hostetter