These elder statesmen of the electronic scene may consider themselves “semihumans,” but their 3D concert experience is anything but soulless.
Kraftwerk is the closest thing music has to robots (aside from Captured! By Robots, of course). Throughout the '70s, the electro-pop pioneers responded to the era’s rapid technological innovation by adopting the cold, distancing aural qualities of a machine. This, well, mechanization extended to the band’s public persona, effectively transforming them into music’s version of Gilbert & George. Matching suits, stiff movements, and a total lack of visible emotion became part and parcel of the band’s presentation, culminating with 1978’s “Man Machine” and its correlation of “semihumans” with “superhumans.”
More than 40 years into their career, Kraftwerk is on the road again, bringing with them an immersive 3D concert experience that synchronizes digital audio with transportive 3D visuals. And though the band is as emotionless as ever, that doesn’t mean you’ll be. Here are three of the feelings you’re likely to feel during their set at the Riviera Theatre on Thursday, March 27.
And not just for “Autobahn,” the crossover hit that made Kraftwerk a household name. Remember that halcyon era when The Lawnmower Man made us marvel at the advancement of technology? Geometric patterns, humanoid figures comprised of white lines and emptiness, a world cloaked in animated grids—these are the touchstones of the future we once looked forward to but now consider laughably dated. Not Kraftwerk, though. Their music feels distinctly of that era, an echo of the time when technology was just starting to take over our lives.
You’ll see the four men of Kraftwerk on stage, but you’ll barely see them move. In matching bodysuits, they stand behind sleek, glowing podiums that recall the digitized universe of Tron. As they busy themselves with knobs and keys, the members’ on-screen doppelgängers haltingly move their bodies in time with the music, their blank faces conveying the essence of a sentient mannequin. If you fear the uncanny—the Freudian term for that which is both familiar and somehow not—Kraftwerk’s live show is enough to make you hide under the covers.
For all its evocations of mechanization and robotics, Kraftwerk’s music never feels as if it’s trapped inside a laptop. Trains, spaceships, and bicycles are all on display, both in the music and on screen, creating an undeniable sense of movement that you wouldn’t expect from four guys standing behind podiums. From “Autobahn” onward, Kraftwerk has always been concerned with forward progress, be it the technological kind or merely the steps we take with our sneakers. Perhaps, as you remove those 3D glasses and step out into the cool night, you’ll even look forward to the long walk home.
Kraftwerk will be at the Riviera Theatre on Thursday, March 27, at 8 p.m. Buy tickets here.