Kraftwerk live

Kraftwerk: Dublin Bord Gais Energy Theatre, 3 June 2017

When I was fourteen, I first heard Autobahn on a pilfered parental record. Twenty-two minutes of repetitive synths later, and I was hooked. Still, it was nearly twenty years before I could see them live, but it was well worth waiting for.

The gig-goers looked like a demographic more suited to a Van Morrison concert, but I’ve never seen people more boisterous and lively at the sight of four German synth-toting pensioners. And what a sight it was. The curtain rose on Ralf, the only original member left, wearing a lycra outfit straight out of Tron, behind a synth festooned with neon lights and 3D sequences out of some kind of acid-induced William Gibson dream.

Crowd-pleaser The Model was performed early on, as if it was an obligation they wanted to shed before getting through as much of the back catalogue as possible. There were plenty of gems to pick through – highlights included Radioactivity (with “Hiroshima” changed to “Fukushima”), a shimmery rendition of Neon Lights, and Trans-Europe Express, complete with mesmerising, swooping railway visuals. But what we were really there for, of course, was the full version of Autobahn; it didn’t disappoint, accompanied as it was by BMWs and Beetles trundling down virtual roads and occasionally looming out at the audience.

Oh yes, the 3D gimmick. I was sceptical, having sat through hours of the turgid Avatar with low-grade nausea. But Kraftwerk used the effects well – at one point they projected a UFO sailing over Dublin and the venue, then floating out menacingly at the crowd. Since the theatre wasn’t as big as, say, the SSE Hydro, the effect was pretty staggering. And, not content with frightening us with spaceships, one song was “performed” entirely by synchronised animatronic dummies. It was like a nightmare from the future as imagined by the early ’80s.

My only real niggle would be that on occasion the audio felt like it stuttered, with some bars lasting half a beat too long, as if the synths were struggling to keep up with the visuals. Then again, most of it was drowned out by rapturous applause, so it seemed most people didn’t notice. The quartet played an astounding four songs as an encore, including Musique Non Stop as voiced by a terrifying polygonal face not dissimilar to the last boss in Starfox (one for the younger readers, there).

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And that was it. No banter, no “How are you doing, Dublin?”, no faffing. One by one, they took their bow and left the stage, with Ralf giving a brief thank-you and receiving a standing ovation. Sehr gut.

Setlist

  • Numbers / Computer World
  • It’s More Fun To Compute / Home Computer
  • Computer Love
  • The Man-Machine
  • Spacelab
  • The Model
  • Neon Lights
  • Autobahn
  • Radioactivity
  • Electric Café
  • Tour de France
  • Tour de France 2003
  • Trans-Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Abzug
  • The Robots
  • Aero Dynamik
  • Planet of Visions
  • Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop