Minneapolis Hates Kraftwerk

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a review of the influential German group Kraftwerk’s 100-minute show at the Myth nightclub. The performance was a warm-up for a headlining gig at Coachella next week.

It’s not clear if the show was terrible or if the review doesn’t like their music – but it seems that they hate Kraftwerk:

With all the flair of a power-point presentation at a mortgage-foreclosure seminar, the identically clad-in-black musicmakers stage demeanor was as emotionless and unanimated as the music itself. Co-founder Ralf Hutter occasionally sang — well, more like clinically chanted in English, German or French — simplistic lyrics that were really recitations of buzzwords. Of course, that is part of the social commentary of Kraftwerk, using few words and mechanical sounds nothing sounds as if its created by an actual musical instrument to lambaste radioactivity, espionage and societys dependence on machines

Kraftwerks music has influenced a wide range of stars, from David Bowie and Devo to Duran Duran and Daft Punk. On its last album, Coldplay sampled Kraftwerk. The German groups sounds presaged various musical movements, including synth-rock, new-wave, ambient and techno. Best known for the 1974 hit “Autobahn,” Kraftwerk has been less than prolific of late; the group has released only one studio album, 2003s “Tour de France Soundtracks,” in the past 25 years but has performed with greater regularity.

On Saturday, the tunes from “Tour de France” had more depth and musicality than the repetitious minimalism of the earlier material. “Elektro Kardiogramm” sounded like hyper-techno on quaaludes, and “Aero Dynamik” was modern sounding, with hip-hop scratching noises, a funky Prince-evoking bass line and a dance beat that even prompted a couple of the musicians to shake a leg.

The high point was “Radioactivity,” an ominous, active number with intense rhythms gurgling behind ping-ponging sounds. It was the only piece that built in intensity like a good rock song does. “Robots” was fun, delivered by four robots that, frankly, were more animated than the musicians they depicted. The nights lone disappointment was the classic “Autobahn”; the computerized dirge droned on in second gear for too many miles. Maybe thats why Kraftwerk needs a tune-up before roaring into the Coachella festival.

If you’ve seen Kraftwerk live recently, let me know what your thoughts are. Are they as boring as a Powerpoint demo, or does the Minneapolis reviewer just not “get” Kraftwerk’s aesthetic.

24 thoughts on “Minneapolis Hates Kraftwerk

  1. Well I’ve seen videos of them in their latest shows on You Tube, the four of them up on stage like that for 100 mins. does have to be very boring! Some good industrial acts like VNV Nation have 2 to 4 people on stage but the main singer moves around a lot to keep things interesting. Kraftwerk just stands there basicly. I can see that not going over with a wider audience tbh.

  2. The show was actually exactly what you would expect in a show by Kraftwerk. Looking at YouTube you’ll find that they really never do move during their performances. It was pretty obvious to me that the crowd that was there that night were into the show. They seemed to come to it with prior knowledge unlike the reviewer who should do a bit more research rather than go to a show never having heard the band only because s/he’s heard the band is important and then giving Wikipedia a cursory glance to fill in the gaping holes left in the written review.

  3. I have to agree with DavefromMN. You should at least become familiar with the group/music before you write a negative review about one of the most amazing, creative and intelligent groups alive! The show @ MYTH was incredible! The minimalism of the stage show is part of what makes Kraftwerk who they are;it works for them! The music speaks for itself and the stage show does not need to be extravagant. Did you pay attention to what was going on on the screen behind them? they mixed old video’s with new and the imagery was well thought out and creative. I was mesmerized by how minimal and cool the stage was and how incredible the music sounded. Kraftwerk delievered and I am so happy what I was there.

  4. One of my pet peeves of electronic music performance is performers that fail to communicate the relationship between what they are doing onstage and what you are hearing.

    That said, I’ve seen Kraftwerk’s DVD of their show and it’s pretty impressive.

    I still want to know, though, if they are really checking their email!

  5. synthhead makes a good point. When artists fail to communicate what they’re doing to create the music, it can make for a boring show. I saw Daft Punk last time they were in New York, and I couldn’t stand it. The music was great, but they could have put in a mix tape for all anyone knew. They just stood there barely bobbing along to the music, and you couldn’t even see if their hands were moving. If they put one camera pointed at their equipment, it would have been much more exciting, but who knows, maybe they weren’t doing anything. It may not have even been them inside those suits. When I go to a show, I like to think I’ll be able to connect with the artist a bit more than if I were just sitting at home listening to their CD. Daft Punk failed miserably in that aspect, and it sounds like Kraftwerk may have been in the same boat.

  6. The thing alot of people seem to forget is that that is Kraftwerk’s schtick.
    They write amazing music, and that’s that. They dont need to bounce around on stage, they simply do the show they have always done, a multimedia one. I saw them a few years back and it was one of the best shows i have ever seen, of course they didnt move alot, bu i didnt expect them to. Comparing them to a “good”(?) industrial artist like VNV? Um, Ok. You may seem to forget that it was bands like Kraftwerk and Throbbing Gristle that actually gave industrial/Electronic music its voice. Hell, Kraftwerk was a major influence in early hip hop.
    That said, if you hate it and get bored, please move to the back of the room next time, so the people who are enjoying it dont have to look at the back of your heads.

  7. Yes the Strib was abysmal. I also note City Pages did not include them on the A list. THEY JUST DON’T GET IT, ARE ABYSMALLY STUPID, AND WILLFULLY IGNORANT. Calling the music emotionless reflects far more on the reviewer than the performers. WHAT AN ASS! Onion had a positive notice. But I haven’t read other reviews.

    One of the most important concerts of my life. Other people I met traveled across the midwest to be there.

    The reviewer noted the influece on others, duh, noted some current musicians dubbing, seemed to think Kraftwerk took a little something from today to tack on and bring themselves up to snuff.

    The music is still groundbreaking, highly influential, and technically superb in concert. No sound problems here. Kraftwerk’s tones are always crisp, dynamic, in your face, loud enough, and brilliant in combining bits to approximate vocals in “Tour de France,” to name one high point. Yes, POWERpoint. Precise, planned, and effective. I could go on and on. And this reviewer has no clue as to the amount of work behind this. Kraftwerk creates about all with synthesis. There is no “sampling” nor acoustic sounds. They do it all.

    Of course it may be hard for persons to grasp this when they can’t see them at work with the machines and analog type sources. When Holger Czukay was in town several years ago, he walked around with his stuff, turning knobs etc. Still this doesn’t make for a lot of groovy visuals.

    The visuals as noted were excellent and combined with the sounds to a great degree- as far as evoking moods and thoughts.

    Standing still, changing constumes, etc. wasn’t just lazily farting around. Probably what was missing for the reviewer was …Tits and Ass! The Brazilian Girls at Fine Line had good synthesis, a mix of styles, modern commercial appeal, and a gorgeous lead singer, with references to sex, etc. Maybe thats what the reviewer was looking for.

    At Kraftwerk concert I saw plenty of excitement in the crowd, from a young woman in silver lame and red stiletto boots to others behind me swaying and bobbing, jumping, and screaming like crazy. We all had a great time. And that is part of a concert also.

    Yes,it is sad that music reviews in twin cities publications fall into promo of local acts, promo of the big money makers, or fawning over personalities. I haven’t seen any good critical understanding of MUSIC in years. This is no different from any other subjects. Look at the media coverage of the primaries. Sound bites, American Idol, news entertainment. SHIT.

  8. I absolutely agree with Michael. I was at the show and I thought it was amazing. First of all, I have to say that I never, NEVER NEVER NEVER trust any of the music or film reviews done by the Star Tribune or Vitamn magazine put out by the Star Trib because their reviews are usually not well expressed and most of the time, untrustworthy. I studied film critique and writing in college so I’m pretty well versed in that field. Even if they give positive reviews, they’re usually extremely base and of a more popular opinion. The person who reviewed the Kraftwerk show probably never even listened to them and maybe did a couple minutes of research before he or she got his free ticket handed to him. He was probably forced to go see them instead of some shitty local band who thinks they’re the next big hit, so he was probably all bitter from missing out on that.

    I’ll admit, I went to the show with the impression that it could be totally awesome or just ok. I was a big fan, but probably not as much as a lot of the other fans there. During the entire duration of the show I was full of this incredible energy, the experience was phenomenal. The visuals, the music and the fans made it an overall unforgettable experience.

    I’m so sick of the Twin Cities papers fighting to put out what they think is “hip”. It’s ridiculous, the Vitamn and Star Trib are always late on knowing who the new, “cool” bands are anyway. A new band comes out and a couple months later after everyone is already sick of them, they finally do a write up about them. It’s bullshit. Give up already, the fans already know what’s good without the Star Trib telling them. Let them decide on their own. Shit, indeed.

  9. The show on saturday was a blast – truly a great performance and anyone (startrib) who says otherwise is out of touch with creativity. It was a dream come true to see Kraftwerk live.

  10. I was there.
    The performance ambience image material SOUND were all exquisitely superb….so OF COURSE the local dweeb @ the strib “didn’t “get it”.
    It was INDEED a dream come true to see Kraftwerk LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!,
    It also was A LOT of FUN!!

  11. “nothing sounds as if its created by an actual musical instrument”

    “the tunes from “Tour de France” had more depth and musicality than the repetitious minimalism of the earlier material”

    “It was the only piece that built in intensity like a good rock song does.”

    ““Robots” was fun, delivered by four robots that, frankly, were more animated than the musicians they depicted.”

    “the computerized dirge droned on in second gear for too many miles.”

    Certainly sounds like the words of a dinosaur rock fan. Makes me wonder if he sat disgruntled in the back yelling “FREEBIRD!” between each song.

  12. Brian Eno once suggested that critics should be required to list their five favourite albums as a preface to their review. Obviously this reviewer’s list would be Tom Petty, Counting Crows and Bruce Springsteen…

  13. Yes, yes…

    Knowing an author since he used to dirty his pants doesn not give anyone any special right of making that author untouchable.
    Who cares IF kraftwerk invented anything? They only play the most silly ideological tin music that sounds like demos from child keyboards. Their work is an alienating apology of the machine, and there is not any shadow of an ideal apart from that. I don’t know how some can call that inspiring.
    They really make music for calculators. They make calculators happy.

    I like electronics music: it can be expressive in a way that phisical instruments cannot; it can be supernatural.
    But not kraftwerk. They are the opposite of supernatural. They are very low: tuned engines, synthetic coockoo clocks. They miss the point of making music, an act that unites Unites what? anything. Everything. On the opposite, their sounds are thin and individualistic, they don’t bring spirit, they don’t even make friends. Their music is not electronic music – music made with electronics, for people. Rather, it is music made about electronics. I don’t want to please electronics! Rather, It’s the other way round. Kraftware basically says I love the machine, I obey the machine. They put in sequence annoying, simplistic, childish melodies that resamble old home machinery, telephones, voicemail, beep beep.

    The farer away from this they went, is to made asongs in the honour of aerodynamics, speed… but the italian futurists made this unnecessary strangeness un century ago without any computer. You honestly have to judge how big and glorious is the kraftwerk contribution to art. To me, they just go backwards: instead of cotributing to the glory of the seven notes, they take away. They mortified music by riducing it to nothing. Or even try to subvert the relationship instrument/music. Their music is about the instrument… literally. Just like man is reduced to produce machines, rather that machine just produce goods for man.
    And their music, specifically? What has it got so special, that all the critics should go down to their knees and adore?

    I think Kraftwerk are a joke in comparison to many talented kids playing in the streets and even DJ-ing in their garage. Even theese sweat ugly neoprimitives are infinitely more interesting than kraftwerk. On any aspects.
    And to say that someone not liking Kraftwerk’s sterile ping-pong sounds is an ignorant, really only shows how narrow is this person’s idea of music: ping pong, ziiiiing! That’s all.

    Take Vangelis: he takes electronics to their best expression. He makes music for people – and I mean non only their mechanical aspect, the bodies – and NOT for calculators. NOT music to please an absurd god of machines. He espresses high, important ideals with music. This is inherently good. While repeatig for 30 yers the same abstract essay on machines is an objectionable act, to say the least.
    Can I too say Kraftwerk are boring without being called ignorant or whatever? Thy are incredibly boring. 4 Maybe 50-60 years old record salesmen standing for 2 hours like manikins that stare the screens of their cash registers and making their toys sounds, given the cost of the ticket, is just a… ahhh.. no thanks.
    Sorry, I got too tired for this … byebye

  14. Sara, it’s not a matter of “trusting” or not music/film reviews.
    You trust the words of some else who you don’t know and who writes in a newspaper only if it is something not vital nor too important and/or you cannot see and hear the source yourself.
    No one prevents you from knowing someone’s music.
    You are not meant to put yourself in the writer’s hands.

    So, it’s not about trusting a music/film review. If that was the case, it would be completely useless to read it, becuase they could write whatever they want, even that the kraftwerk can fly, if you would never have the chance to know.
    It’s a matter of bringing – or not – any valuable consideration that may make you change your mind about a certain subject.
    We don’t explore all the aspects of all the things we think and discuss about. So, discussing, we may change our mind, if something clever comes up. Nobody knows everything, and everyone’s judgement is always incomplete.
    Didn’t you know that?

    So if someone described a concert – quite precisely, afterall – like a poor show, the only thing that matters is: the description was true, was it reasonably complete?
    Then, based on facts, you can judge if such a show could be good or not. Otherwise it’s only your word agaist his word.

    I quite often change my mind, not because I want to follow the wind, but simply because there is often someone clever or lucky enough to bring some valuable considerations that I had not thought about.
    Only in this case, discussing is usefull: share valable information, but most of all, make someone else consider differnt aspects of things from the ones that have only been considered.
    Then, some of he talkers may have an interest in making something look in a certain way, or maybe some is really not bright, but otherwise, there is a lot that can be considered, without bringing prejudices like “they don’t like it because they are ignorant” – always on top.

    No ones really needs to declare how impenetrable he or she is, it’s useless. To start a conversation with “I don’t trust”, is just unnecessary and useless. Anyone can say it, and in fact someow every one wants to imply it, nowadays; it doesn’t take to be excellent. Especially a stone is impenetrable. So what? If we had to trust what they write in newspapers… well… byebye

  15. I have two main points I’d like to lend here.

    1). Minneapolis doesn’t have much of a scene for Electronic Music.
    Yes, there are exceptions, but most people here seem to have the prejudice that Electronic Music is an oxymoron. They want rockers with rockin guitars and sweet vocals and kickin drums. I’ve called out my friends on it many times. The Strib is just a mainstream publication so the reviews it gives are reflecting that.

    2). Kraftwerk ruled, but…

    3). This was by far the worst venue I have ever been to. Myth tried at every turn to stymie my experience of Kraftwerk, from forcing me to park in a Kohl’s Parking lot (right next to Toys ‘R Us), crowding me in with too many people, and having all the guards yell at me non-stop. People sucked too.
    Worst. Venue. Ever.

  16. To everyone: You’re all missing the point! It’s Kraftwerk for **** sake. It’s what they do and what us fans expect of them. I don’t want them to dance around throwiing their instruments around, it wouldn’t be right.

    Kraftwerk are one of the most enigmatic bands ever and It is enough to be in the same room as them.

    Also, if they were a bit off that particular night, who can blame them. It was Miniapolis after all!!!

  17. They are the robots. What were they expecting? This quote, in particular, cracked me up. “…built in intensity like a good rock song does” Um, rock? Who said they were rock? maybe some of their early 70’s stuff could draw a comparison, but really. I saw them in Toronto, a few years ago, and frankly the show was amazing. Shit, part way through, they were replaced by robots, (or mannequins), and there was hardy a difference. Obviously, this critic’s view is tantamount to ALL critic’s reviews. Uneducated, bullshit opinion from people who can’t do better themselves. Anyhow, considering they are breaking up, and this is going to be one of the last appearance of these highly influential legends, i feel compelled to say fuck minneapolis, hippie, screw~head, and watch them if you get a chance. They still beat the sweet bejeezus out of the majority of the laptop scene, hiding behind their mac screen glows and who frankly, would be nowhere without them. ‘Coughs in autechre’s general direction.

  18. And our brilliant journalist also completely missed the old tongue-in-cheek joke of the band members replacing themselves with robots. Do you really think they don’t know what they look like on stage? Come on. They *want* it like that. Besides, what do you expect 4 guys with computers and MIDI keyboards to do? Set fire to them? Smash them into the video screens? Ralf Hutter flinging the microphone stand into the audience? Florian Schneider stage diving? Get real. This isn’t Nine Inch Nails.

  19. These guys aren't Daft Punk! They're a bunch of old men used to doing things the same way they've been doing it for forty + years. I don't know what's involved to make the kind of music they do but I'm sure it isn't easy to keep track of all the cue changes and such on so many systems.
    This is a band best heard on record than in person. And yeah I agree they stand stiff on stage for a reason. The whole aspic is supposed to be cold, metallic, and bleek. You guys create your own fun yourselves regardless of what the band's doing on stage. The party is in the audience anyway. Bitching about stiffness on stage? -who pays attention anyway?

  20. These guys aren't Daft Punk! They're a bunch of old men used to doing things the same way they've been doing it for forty + years. I don't know what's involved to make the kind of music they do but I'm sure it isn't easy to keep track of all the cue changes and such on so many systems.
    This is a band best heard on record than in person. And yeah I agree they stand stiff on stage for a reason. The whole aspic is supposed to be cold, metallic, and bleek. You guys create your own fun yourselves regardless of what the band's doing on stage. The party is in the audience anyway. Bitching about stiffness on stage? -who pays attention anyway?

  21. I think you look too deep into this. Kraftwerk is music and is just that simple. I like it because I feel it, because I get a feeling with what they do. May others not feel the same. The sounds they do are like no other sounds and that blow my mind. The sounds are clean, strongs and full of power. the lyrics do not talk about love (almost all lyrics) like most of songs in the world, lyrics make me think about other things, discover further.
    For me Kraftwerk is the most innovative band of all times. period

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