After 40 years, Kraftwerk are still the 'sound of the future'

Feb 7, 2013

The German electronic quartet thrills the crowd at Tate Modern with 3D visuals and surround sound

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GERMAN electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk have been hailed as “the best multimedia project on the planet” after performing their first show at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

In his review of the gig for the BBC, Andy McCluskey, a founding member of the British electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, said the two-hour performance was "incredible". McCluskey was one of just 700 people who managed to get a ticket to hear the band play their 1974 album Autobahn last night, the first of eight sold-out concerts taking a chronological trip through their most important albums.

Ralf Hutter is the only original member of Kraftwerk still performing with the group which has cultivated a mysterious aura over the past four decades. Demand for the shows, staged in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, was so strong that the gallery’s booking system crashed and touts were reported to be offering tickets for £500 each.

McCluskey said the band’s innovative use of 3D visuals - with the audience wearing cardboard glasses - a surround sound audio system and timeless songs, means they are “still relevant”.

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis says the scarcity of tickets created an air of "disbelieving excitement" inside the gallery and the band didn’t let their fans down. True to form, the quartet "remained almost motionless behind their identical neon-lit workstations", but the music "remains utterly captivating".

"In theory, music that was considered impossibly futuristic 30 years ago should have dated," writes Petrides. "Yet it audibly hasn't."

The Daily Telegraph's Paul Morley says the sight of four mute, motionless middle-aged men wearing "form-fitting body suits" could have been risible, but they manage to stay on the "dignified side of Marcel Marceau". The music itself sounds utterly contemporary, "perhaps because they created most of the blueprint for all electronic music, and we are as controlled by technology as they prudently predicted".

Kraftwerk would sound fantastic even without their use of cutting-edge visuals, writes David Smyth in the London Evening Standard. He describes the band’s tunes as "timeless – bright, crisp synth lines that would have brought joy even without the careful presentation".

The only thing Kraftwerk seem to lack is banter. "Good night. Auf Wiedersehen. See you tomorrow," were the only words Hutter uttered last night.

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