Throwback: Kraftwerk Live

Formed in 1970 by founding members Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, the legendary, Dusseldorf, Germany-based electronic act Kraftwerk initially released three experimental-leaning, krautrock albums before embracing electronic instrumentation, primarily in the form of synthesizers, drum machines, vocoders and even self-made instruments, including Schneider’s electronic flute. And with the release of their first three commercially and critically successful electronic-based albums 1974’s Autobahn, 1977’s Trans Europe Express and 1978’s The Man Machine, the Dusseldorf-based act became pioneers of entirely new genre of music — electronic music, developing an imitable sound featuring the heavy use of vocoders, deceptively simple melodies around sparse arrangements and a repetitive yet propulsive rhythm. Paired with relatively simple lyrics sung in German and German-accented English (they typically recorded and released German-language versions of their material and English-language versions — although some album material is sung in German, English and Russian) frequently repeated as catchphrases and slogans, the act’s material typically marveled at the wonders of technology, focusing on robots, computers, trains, speeding along the Autobahn, bicycling across Europe during the Tour de France and more. Along with that, Kraftwerk developed an incredibly stylized imagery that included the members of the act dressing in matching outfits and appearing to move as though they were robots, complete with a lack of any expression whatsoever. Not only was their sound and their look futuristic and extremely strange for their day, in the years since I’ve been to Germany, it’s also struck me as being — well, profoundly German.

However, unsurprisingly, because of their sound and their imagery, the Dusseldorf-based electronic act have managed to exert a rather profound influence across a wide and diverse array of modern and contemporary music including synth pop, hip-hop, ambient electronic music, post-punk and electronic dance music in a way that rivals that of the likes Miles Davis, John Coltrane and The Beatles. And yet, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame have shamefully neglected Kraftwerk’s towering influence on music and pop culture. Now, this particular is actually influenced by a conversation I had with a dear friend while at Clem’s in which I had showed her the video for “Robots” off The Man Machine — and as every year, comes to a close, there’s a part of me that looks a bit in the past, at things that have influenced me in some way or another. To that end, check out some fantastic live footage of Kraftwerk from DVD version of their first live album Minimum Maximum, which features live footage of the act during their 2004 world tour recorded during shows in Warsaw, Poland; Moscow, Russia; Berlin, Germany; London, UK; Budapest, Hungary; Talinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Tokyo, Japan; and San Francisco. Along with that, I stumbled across some live footage of the act’s original lineup performing “Robots” and “Radioactivity” on a French music program, shot in 1978.