The virtual electronic museum that is Kraftwerk bring their Man-Machine to London

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Kraftwerk

THE ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, LONDON

THURSDAY MARCH 18, 2004

The Stones, the Stooges, the Pistols, Joy Division, Public Enemy…Kraftwerk? Sure enough, Kraftwerk provide one of the great rock’n’roll ‘spectacles’. Despite the immaculacy of their sound and uniform lack of on-stage motion, they astonish with their stunning visuals and digital overload. Don’t be fooled by the serene lack of drama, the order and symmetry, the graceful flow of their hi-tech pulse. The excitement here is all in the ideas and their execution, in the playfulness of the presentation, not in some ersatz notion of edge.

But what is the point of Kraftwerk in 2004? Are they a mere cipher of “cyber”? They were fully integrated into pop’s circuitry by the analogue synth revolution of The Human League and their ilk. By 1982 and Afrika Bambaataa’s Soul Sonic Force, their work was done. By 1983’s “Tour De France” Kraftwerk?whisper it?were dated. When they last undertook a major European tour, in 1991, in the aftermath of aciiid, house, rave and the rest, they were touted as outrageously predictive. They were more than just strikingly relevant; they were the machine men who invented the modern dance. Now, however, with dance officially dead, Kraftwerk no longer bestride the contemporary scene like robot colossi because, well, there is no contemporary scene.

With this in mind, their techno tone poems, these electronic folk songs, assume an even more wistful quality than before. What these four silver-haired and/or bald fiftysomething relic replicants from D

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