It's more fun to compute: Kraftwerk in 3D at the Electric Factory
Kraftwerk | Photo by Eric Schuman

Allow me to get something out of the way: I can’t see 3D. I think it has to do with my lousy depth perception, which is just one of the reasons I’ve worn glasses since second grade. But even my blurry-ass vision couldn’t keep Kraftwerk‘s Electric Factory stop from being anything short of a masterpiece of multimedia sensory overload. As excited audience members filed in, they were presented with bookmark-sized paper sleeves containing a pair of Kraftwerk-branded 3D glasses. Bearing the icons from the band’s golden era-collecting box set The Catalogue, the accessories were an early indication that we’d be in for a night of classics.

Sure enough, when the curtain opened to reveal the four members of Kraftwerk planted stoically behind matching podiums, a synthetic voice blurted out digits in German to signal the start of “Numbers.” Segueing into more songs from 1981’s Computer World, the visuals that flooded the stage (and its nearly motionless inhabitants) morphed from digital noise to snippets of Emil Schult’s iconic album design. The next album to be highlighted was The Man Machine, with its title song becoming a kind of mantra for singer (and lone original member) Ralf Hütter. A brief silence after “Neon Lights” was broken by a sound instantly recognizable to fans of the pioneering group: a synthesized replication of a car turning over. This signaled the beginning of the set’s thrilling centerpiece, the title track to Autobahn. As the album’s cover artwork raced behind them, the band conjured each of the epic track’s shifting sections. Even the most well-oiled ‘mensch-maschine’ has a gremlin here and there, and this night it came in the form of a few brief audio dropouts during “Radioactivity” and the sprawling “Tour de France.” Of course, when you’re being bombarded with names of nuclear reactors and vintage cycling footage, it’s easy to forgive those miscues.

After a run through of selections from Trans-Europe Express, the curtain closed for the main set. A few minutes of cheering later, bright lights began to flash beyond the still-drawn curtain. Familiar mechanized sounds blurted over the PA, and the stage was finally revealed. In the place where the four (mostly) human musicians once stood were the band’s signature robotic doppelgängers (as seen here). These android impostors, um, “performed” a crowd pleasing rendition of “The Robots,” all the while raising and lowering their arms in chilly synchronization. The curtain closed and opened again after the one song, and the human counterparts returned for a closing set of songs from Electric Cafe. I know it sounds crazy, but watching these four men standing still for two hours made for one of the most memorable concert experiences.

Computer World
It’s More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
Pocket Calculator
The Man-Machine
The Model
Neon Lights
The Voice of Energy
Electric Café
Ohm Sweet Ohm
Tour de France 1983 / Tour de France 2003
Trans-Europe Express / Metal On Metal / Abzug

The Robots

Encore 2:

Aéro Dynamik
Planet of Visions
Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop

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