Kraftwerk at the Masonic Temple in Detroit
Some musical acts who get long in the tooth sustain themselves through constant reinvention, like David Bowie. Others, like Iron Maiden, keep their old hits from sounding tired by pushing themselves to make great new music. And plenty (Springsteen, the Stones) keep flying by on the strength of their live performance regardless of the weakness of their current output. Kraftwerk manage to grab the best parts of all of these by continually refreshing their classic music.
We traveled all the way to Detroit for only a long weekend, and it was basically just to see Kraftwerk. How many more tours do Ralf Hutter and the gang have in them? I don't want to be on the wrong end of that question, having never seen them. Pete told me their shows were boring. Kris told me whatever, the visuals are good and you know all the songs. This is pretty right-on. The visuals, this time in 3D, were a fantastic future-retro mix of graphics and video all completely synced with the tunes.
They started with zero buildup, launching into "Numbers" so fast that much of the theater hadn't gotten seated. They updated the beat that launched a million electro singles into a super powerful, booming dance assault. Apparently Kraftwerk's people enter a venue, evaluate it, and supplement the sound system wherever necessary. And it shows. The sound was powerful but pristine.
The process of updating the songs began with The Mix, but they now sound even better — the beats have The Mix's dancefloor focus but the sounds and synths feel more like ultra-high-fidelity versions of the originals.
Here's a not-great but not-distorted phone clip of "Radioactivity," possibly the most dramatic update.
Ironically, the largest response came for the beginning of the second set, "The Robots." It's ironic because the applause was for the old-school Kraftwerk "robot" mannequins, who took the stage instead of the members. The rest of the time, the group wore uniforms I can only describe as Tron-like, which lit up to correspond with each song's projections.
Overall, a great show and a great classic Detroit venue to see it. It makes an all-day trek with a near-3-year-old just about worth it.