May 4, 2013

Die Roboter von Kraftwerk

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I can't believe it's been nearly two years since my last concert.  I guess these days its easier for me to find a group of people to eat and drink with, and much harder to find people who share the same taste in movies and music.  When I first found out that Kraftwerk was coming to Hong Kong, I wanted to go but really didn't know who I could go with.  They're kinda esoteric… and probably unknown to many under the age of 30 to 35…

So I resorted to a little trick I've been employing lately: posting about it on Facebook and see if anyone would respond.  Luckily, someone did.  My friend Susan and her husband already had tickets, but since they were standing tickets on the floor, there wouldn't be any issue for me to buy an extra ticket and join them.

Before the concert, Susan very graciously invited me over for a quick dinner at their home.  After a quick round of delicious Thai food, involving just enough heat to get my blood flowing faster, we crossed the harbor to the Kowloonbay International Trade and Exhibition Centre for the event.

Since we're in Hong Kong, the band mostly performed the English versions of the songs.  I attempted to write down the order of the set, although since some of the songs are mixed together I may have missed a couple as they may be mere segments in the show...

The set started with The Robots from Die Mensch-Maschine (1978).  They had given us 3D glasses at the door, and right off the bat we were able to see the 3D effects in the videos and graphics.  The four robots were rendered and I could see their outstretched arms coming towards me.  Pretty cool!

The graphics from Spacelab showed views of the Earth from space, and we see the spacecraft orbiting the planet and at points flying towards us, almost "skewering" us with its antenna.  Interestingly they showed a segment where it looked like we were passing over Hainan Island and Hong Kong.  Guess they adapt this segment to their local audience?

Metropolis featured graphics showing blocks of buildings next to each other, much like the topography of Hong Kong...

With Numbers we move forward to Computerwelt (1981).  As Ralf started going through the list of organizations, it suddenly dawned on me that one of them is a former employer of mine...

Here a few of the songs were put together so I started to lose track of which was which… I think Home Computer and It's More Fun to Compute kinda went together...

Pocket Calculator was performed both in English and Japanese - as Dentaku (電卓).

Computer Love was always a classic for me...

Die Mensche-Maschine - we're going back in time now, and here's where the funny thing happened.  I was trying to snap pictures of the words "Mensche Maschine" but, since I didn't bring my real camera, I had to contend with the slow reaction time of my iPhone camera… When the picture was finally taken, the word I ended up snapping was… DING!!!  Of course, this simply means "thing" in German, but is somewhat of a profanity in Cantonese… So what did I do almost immediately?  I posted this picture for the first person that comes to mind… ILoveLubutin.

Das Modell - another song from Die Mensche-Maschine, showing vintage videos of lovely models.

Neolicht had an interesting selection of neon signs floating around, with images implying both girlie bars and family-friendly establishments...

Autobahn - rewinding the clock further now, back to 1974 and the band's first real success.  The CGI showed a vintage VW Beetle driving along Germany's famed autobahn, traveling across the country like other people, rich or poor.  A constant companion on the road was an old Mercedes E-Class, but there were also others like VW vans, Porsches and even Trabants.  The license plate on the Beetle featured 1970, the year the band was formed, while the Mercedes' plate number was 1974, the year this album was released.

Tour de France - this song from 1983 has to be my all-time favorite Kraftwerk number.  When I first got into Kraftwerk in college, I always lamented that this song and all of its remixes were never released on CD, and it took me a long, long, long time even to find the 12-inch vinyl with all the original mixes.  I dunno why, but I always found the opening segment very "Oriental", even though it definitely took more than a few notes from Paul Hindemith's Heiter Bewegt...

Years later, though, I finally found the Tour de France Soundtracks on CD featuring additional songs after it was finally released in 2003.  Yay!!!  Anyway, the band started with the original Tour de France - with vintage and modern footage of the tour - then went into Tour de France Etape 1 (showing some graphics overlaid on top of tour footage), but I'm not sure if Etape 2 or 3 were also played…  I suspect not.

Vitamin - while graphics showed pills of all shapes and sizes falling/floating around the screen, names of different vitamins and nutrients were also flashed across the screen.

With Radio-Activity we again rewind the clock back to 1975.  However the version performed tonight has been updated to include later nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl and even Fukushima.  The song calls for nations to stop developing nuclear power.  Almost 40 years later, the Kraftwerk maintains their relevance.

Trans-Europa Express takes us to 1977, and the graphics show both high-speed trains zooming around, and also from the point of view of being at the front of a train traveling along the tracks.  This definitely had the industrial sound that quite possibly led to the development of industrial music.

Planet of Visions was the most recent piece from Kraftwerk - an updated version of Expo 2000.

Aéro Dynamik goes back to Tour de France again.

Boing Boom Tschak now brings us to Electric Cafe, the album from 1986 that was the first work from Kraftwerk I ever owned.  I've spent a few nights listening to this album while pulling an all-nighter doing some term paper I started past midnight on the day it was due...

Techno Pop follows Boing Boom Tschak on the same album.

Tonight's rendition of Musique Non Stop was especially long, as it was the final song of the evening and the band members took turns exiting the stage after individual segments.  Frontman Ralf Hütter was the last to take a bow, to great applause from the audience.

I had a lot of fun tonight, as this was the first Kraftwerk concert for me, and I got to listen to live performances of all my favorite Kraftwerk songs - although a "live" performance by this band probably doesn't deviate much from any of their recordings… This was something I was keenly aware of before coming to the concert, as I own a copy of Minimum-Maximum, the concert film from the 2004 tour.  No surprise, then, that the four members up on stage barely showed much movement during the nearly two-hour set…  Robots, indeed…

Now I'm hoping that the band will release a new concert film with the 3D elements, so that I can watch them on my 3D TV at home… in Taipei, that is…

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