Kraftwerk *****


SO MUCH of what we take for granted in popular music today, such as the many permutations of house and techno, and the notion that musicians don’t have to be holding a microphone or a guitar to command adulation, can be traced back to four boffins from Dusseldorf.

It felt almost surreal that the nigh-mythical, notoriously reclusive Kraftwerk were in town for a live flesh-and-blood gig - or as flesh-and-blood as a group who are self-proclaimed robots can appear.

Stage curtains opened ceremoniously to reveal four Teutonic automatons (actually two of them are Spanish, but they did a good cover-up job on their emotions), dressed immaculately in their trademark black suits and ties over red shirts, each confined to a sleek podium from where they studiously stroked their synthesisers and laptops.

Having endured the wind- and rain-battered queue, the audience could identify with such iron stoicism.

They began with their exquisitely-poised mission statement Man Machine and over the next two hours they told the history of dance music. Those insidious melodies, minimal synthesised beats, repetitive lyrics and audacious but sledgehammer visuals have been ripped off countless times by euphoric club-friendly duos. But, ironically, no-one was dancing. Never has a group with such a cavalcade of simple infectious rhythms commanded such contemplative attention.

Even in the heart of the crowd, there was little extraneous movement at first. It was enough just to drink in this beautiful static display.

No hit was left unturned and eventually protocol was violated as audience members openly expressed their enjoyment. During a particularly funky Pocket Calculator, Florian Schneider was perceived to be blatantly "getting down". As punishment for such a naked display of human impulse, he and his cohorts were replaced by robotic mannequins for one of the encores. To be unapologetically primitive for a moment, how cool is that?

Kraftwerk represent the ultimate in clinical obsession. This engrossing performance proved that contemplating the flawless can be fun.

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