Two people said to me this week, "I never would have believed it if you'd told me five years ago that so many people would be this excited to see Kraftwerk." One was a music writer and the other my roommate, both fans of the group.
Kraftwerk has made a massive comeback. It's not like they were ever even a little uncool, but it's surprising that people were willing to murder each other for a ticket to their upcoming MoMA retrospective, "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8." Last night at Bayfront Park, Kraftwerk performed overlooking Biscayne Bay, just steps from where the Miami Heat play, at the 2012 Ultra Music Festival.
While Kraftwerk isn't the genesis of electronic music, the group is like the first fish that grew legs and danced. It's influenced most pop, hip-hop, and electronic music since and all of the EDM played at Ultra. It's safe to say that 98 percent of the crowd likely never saw Kraftwerk live before this show. It immediately became apparent why they've stood the test of time. They're fucking awesome. Everyone was just turning to each other saying, "Awesome!" And they were dancing.
The members of Kraftwerk have remained true to themselves, and what themselves are is progressive. Even last night, though not playing new content, they sounded fresh. They kept their early computer-graphic imagery in the stage visuals. Words from the songs flashed on the screen behind them. The four current members lined up next to each other mixing the best dance music heard at Bayfront Park that night. They wore bodysuits that probably had glowing graphs on them, but they might have just had neon lines. It was hard to see. "12345678" flashed on the screen behind them after they emerged, one by one.
Most of the visual elements were architectural -- as was the music -- and very meta. While Kraftwerk performed in front of us, there they were again as graphic images on the same podiums floating on the screen behind them.
"Computer World" was hypnotic and trippy. "The Robots" was a song that reappeared throughout the show. A house-sounding version of "Autobahn" was a crowd pleaser, and "Tour de France" was hard, fast, and ethereal at the same time. Things got dark with "Computer Love" transitioning into "Radioactivity." A montage with a loop from Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" kept people bouncing until "Music Non Stop," when the music stopped.
Though during New Order, the crowd members were over 30 and sadly sparse, Kraftwerk played after dark, and the amphitheater was full for most of the show. Timing is everything at these festivals. Timing and darkness, when things glow better.
The four left the stage, one by one, ending the night with bows and a "Thank you. Good night." Really, the crowd should have been saying thank you to Kraftwerk for the best show of the night.
Overheard in the crowd: "Awesome."
Personal bias: Being older than 30 helped make this extra special. It also made the Main Stage area virtually unbearable.