In today’s day and age, technology plays a huge role in almost everyone’s everyday life. Most of us rely on technology to achieve simple everyday tasks. The evolution of technology has allowed us to get to this point, and it’s hard to imagine a world without our reliance on technology. The music industry has taken advantage of society’s advancement in technology, using it to render beautiful sound, and produce music in the most professional ways possible in years. With all of today’s advancements in minds there has been only one band that has taken full advantage of the advanced technology at their disposal. Not only has this band taken advantage of the technology available to them todays in the year 2015, they have been doing it since 1970. Kraftwerk is a German electronic music band that has been defining their sound through technology for decades. Kraftwerk, although not a widely familiar name, is one of the most influential bands to the electronic scene as The Beatles are to rock. Kraftwerk brought over 1,500 people to The Midland Theater on October 9th to witness a three dimensional music experience that was sure to make those who haven’t heard of them never forget.
Kraftwerk came back to Kansas City after 40 years since their last visit. Through the changing of the guard Kraftwerk came back to bless Kansas City with all but one original member. Ralf Hütter the remaining original, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz, and Falk Grieffenhagen, manned their podiums friday night wearing neon striped suits that reflected whatever color shined on them. Many have claimed that technology has finally caught up to Kraftwerk allowing them to fully express themselves and their sounds in the way it was intended to be. This claim may as well be considered a fact. Kraftwerk lit up the Midland from the get go with their three dimensional visuals that immediately captivated the audience. Every member of the crowd was wielding custom Kraftwerk 3-D glasses and it didn’t take long to forget that you were wearing them. It was easy to get lost in Kraftwerks melodic trance accompanied by themed visuals that corresponded to every song.
When Kraftwerk began to play “Spacelab” a Google Earth like image of the United States with a pinpoint on Kansas City came up on the giant backdrop. As the image of Kansas City started to become bigger and bigger, a satellite started to come into the picture and drew closer to the crowds faces. At one point the satellite was so close to your face you would think it was going to poke your eye out. Once the satellite was gone the pinpoint of Kansas City reemerged and much like Google Earth, started to zoom in directly on top the city. While the images of Kansas City started to become clearer Kraftwerk continued to play with everything they got and the crowd showed their appreciation. Images of downtown Kansas City’s Power and Light District replaced the Google Earth like image on the screen and the crowd really started to lose it. Before you thought the song was going to end and Kansas Cities images were going to disappear, a UFO came onto the screen and started to soar into the crowd. The UFO was your stereotypical oval shaped hovercraft and despite the slight cliche you couldn’t help but be enthralled when it started to replicate an abduction of some sort. It really was as cheesy and awesome as it sounds.
Before the show I had an opportunity to talk to some die-hard Kraftwerk fans. I was super pleased when Tamara and her partner from Austin said they made a flight up here just to witness what Kraftwerk had to offer. Tamara was super stoked to finally see synth-pop in all its greatness. Everyone, including myself, was excited to experience the history Kraftwerk has to offer in it’s 360 degree sensory experience. Every song came with it’s own ambiance and primary color on stage. The first song on the set was accompanied by green visuals which contrasted the green lights on the stage illuminating members of Kraftwerk in their neon suits. From green to blue to yellow and so forth, every song was more than just beautiful electronic synths and beats. The color added mood and the visuals enhanced the minimal lyrics Kraftwerk works into their music. Some visuals included black and white film clips of beautiful women, a giant calculator, and text in multiple languages from around the world. The global influence that comes with this band is truly apparent in their performance.
Kraftwerk is one of the most under appreciated bands by the mainstream music industry today, but their mark on history will never go unnoticed. Kraftwerk’s sound is revolutionary in its rawest form. Kraftwerk can be defined as the orginal life blood of the electronic music industry and they don’t stop there. They will always be defining their sound and I don’t see an end to their reign even long after the original band members pass. Kraftwerks performance at the Midland only reassured these cold hard facts. Many of the 1,500 in the audience may had never heard of Kraftwerk before the performance, but every person who walked away from the theater that day was a fan.
Photos by Josh Chaikin
Words by Kyle Scranton