These guys are the architects of electronic music, or as the “Lego Movie” would say, Kraftwerk are the Master Builders of electronic music. Kicking off their highly anticipated string of performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, last night Kraftwerk took fans and newcomers on a spectacular aural history of electronic music. Stimulating the audience’s visual senses as well as their aural, Kraftwerk had their signature 3D visuals displayed on the big screen behind them, with each scene unique to each album (watch my 15-second Instagram video).
The first of eight sold-out Kraftwerk gigs, last night we definitely got our “fun fun fun on the Autobahn”. As Kraftwerk’s 4th studio album released in 1974, Autobahn was the album that broke Kraftwerk into commercial success in the U.S with the release of its title track in which I was able to enjoy in all its original 22-minute glory. Taking me for a 3D Frogger-like drive through a busy animated European highway full of VW’s and Benzes, there was a unique charm to the simple graphics and sounds coming from this widely historical album. Considering it was the album that put Kraftwerk on the map, I had to see it performed live in all its entirely not just because of its importance, but to see Kraftwerk’s progression through the six ground-breaking albums that proceeded.
From the minimalistic and ambient soundscapes of Autobahn to the darker tones and intergalactic sounds of Radioactivity, Kraftwerk took us through an incredible journey of time and space. Psychedelic mind enhancers or not, everyone’s mind melted as they were swallowed catatonically by the first half of Kraftwerk’s performance.
Progressing to utilize more electronic rhythms and manipulated vocals, fans held on tight for the ride that was Trans Euro Express which dropped us off at the robotic streets of The Man-Machine. With its eerie electronic melodies, the track funneled us to the analog computerized-like beat-driven realm of Computer World. Both of these albums were a peak in the career of Kraftwerk and they clearly paved the way for break-beats and techno.
Kraftwerk delighted us next with the bouncing beats and 80s electronic rhythms of Techno Pop (aka Electric Café). Though pretty dark throughout the Walt Disney Concert Hall, I could see waves of white-framed 3D glasses bobbing their heads to the pulsating beats and wishing they could break it down Revenge of the Nerds-style. Closing it up with tracks from Kraftwerks’ 10th and final studio album, Tour de France — the visuals of this epic and historical race were just as mesmerizing as the sequence of heavy beats and majestic electronic sounds coming from the four glowing members of Kraftwerk.
Clad in some funky glow-in-the-dark lined bodysuits that matched their magical consols composed of synths, MIDI sequencers and other unique instruments that manipulate sound — each member of Kraftwerk broke it down with their own unique solo style before taking a bow and exiting the stage. It was truly a mesmerizing experience for all. I even met a seven-year-old little girl in the ladies room who was absolutely ecstatic about what she had just witnessed. Her mother had told me that this was actually her daughter’s first live show experience. I’d say that’s one lucky (and cool) kid.
By far, Kraftwerk’s Walt Disney Concert Hall performance for Autobahn was exhilarating, and at times it sent chills up my spine. I was in complete awe while hearing first-hand where the sounds of ambient electro, trance, techno, break-beats and more all originated from. While experiencing the best from the aforementioned albums, it was easy to comprehend exactly where and when each piece of electronic music came into play. You know that quintessential club/rave “untz untz untz” beat? Yeah, that came from Kraftwerk.
If you’re headed out to any of Kraftwerks upcoming shows at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this week, I highly recommend you get there at least 40 minutes early if you’re driving. It was super annoying when all the late arrivals would invade your narrow space while you were getting lost in Kraftwerk. Naturally, all these late arrivals were the young 20-somethings crowd that were probably just jumping on a bandwagon. Because if you were raised with Kraftwerk by the likes of your older brother or parent, or if you were fortunate enough to experience Kraftwerk in their prime — you know very damn well the greatness of their live performance and would not have arrived late. So yeah, don’t be that annoying hipster stepping on everyone’s toes because you were 25 minutes late.
GOOD TO KNOW:
1. Be sure to bring the exact credit card you used to purchase your ticket. You don’t have to waste time at the ticket booth, just go straight inside the venue and get in the line in front of the escalators to have your credit card scanned and seats assigned.
2. You can’t bring alcohol into the Walt Disney Concert Hall. So don’t purchase a couple of glasses of wine 10 minutes before set time because the ushers will make you drink at the bar, or leave it in the trash.
3. If you ride a motorcycle or moped, you have to check-in your helmets. We waited about 10 minute in line to scan our credit card for tickets, only to be told we have to get out of line and go all the way to the coat-check to check-in our helmets. Good thing the coat-check is free!
4. You’re not supposed to take photos / video of Kraftwerk while inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall unless you’re approved press, but hey, everyone else was doing it. Watch my 15-second Instagram video.
5. All Kraftwerk performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall begin promptly at their respective set times of either 7:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. There are no opening acts. If you are driving, I highly recommend you get there at least 40 minutes early. All shows are 90 minutes long, but can run longer if the set time is delayed. Last night the 7:30 p.m. performance ran behind because so many attendees were late. Kraftwerk did not hit the stage until about 7:10 p.m.