Kraftwerk kick off Tate Modern retrospective
- 7 February 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
German electro pioneers Kraftwerk have played the first of their eight-night retrospective at London's Tate Modern.
The quartet played their 1974 number one album, Autobahn, to 1,250 fans in the gallery's Turbine Hall.
Fans described the two-hour show, Kraftwerk's first in London since 2004, as "mesmerising" and "phenomenal", and one which "lived up to the hype".
The 16-track set also included the single The Robots from their 1978 album, The Man Machine.
The mostly middle-aged, male fans cheered and clapped as they began the show with that six-minute track.
Friends Jamie and James said it had been worth the effort and the £60 ticket price.
"They hardly ever tour, so you've got to take the opportunity," said Jamie.
James said: "You can see the meticulous nature of every aspect from the ticketing to the merchandise.
"The 3D graphics were very impressive, while the surround sound helped to pull the entire show together," he said.
Founded in 1970 by Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, Kraftwerk were notoriously secretive, operating out of a Dusseldorf studio which was said to have had no telephone, fax or reception.
Their pioneering music reflected upon the relationship between humans and technology and they are credited as influences on everything from hip-hop to chill-out, via drum and bass and house.
By 1975 they had settled into their "classic" line-up, with Hutter and Schneider joined by Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur. However Flur left the band in 1987, with Bartos following suit in 1990.
Schneider's departure in 2008 left Hutter as the group's last remaining founding member.
They are best known for their 1981 number one hit The Model and the 22-minute track Autobahn which, in edited form, reached number 11 in 1975.
Among the bands inspired by the German group were the Liverpool electronic group, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, who were influenced by their experiments with tapes and synthesizers, which later became predominant elements of pop music.
OMD member Andy McCluskey, who attended Wednesday's opening night, 28 years after he first saw them play live at the Liverpool Empire, said it was "the best multimedia arts project on the planet".
"I saw them three-and-a-half years ago at the Manchester Velodrome and now that the whole show is in 3D and with surround sound, it's incredible. It's amazing that 40 years into their career, they're still relevant," he said.
During the two-hour set on Wednesday, Kraftwerk played a new version of Radioactivity from the 1975 album of the same name, updated to include a reference to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.
Sisters Jane and Louise Wilson described the track as "epic".
"When radioactivity came on it did feel extraordinary emotional. It was just brilliant to hear a piece that's been reworked from the 1970s - at a point when there was such an optimism - and then to see the reality of it now, in hindsight, was incredibly moving," said Jane.
With just 10,000 tickets available for the series of eagerly anticipated shows, the Tate website crashed as fans rushed to buy tickets last December.
One couple from Sheffield said they felt "lucky" to be in the audience, describing the Tate as the "perfect" venue "because of the history and simplicity of it".
"I'd like to see them anyway, but because it was here was a massive reason for coming to see them," said Steve.
Celebrities that attended the opening night included Boy George and Imogen Heap.
The show drew mainly five-star reviews from critics, with The Guardian's Alexis Petridis praising the group's "utterly captivating" performance.
"The quality of the music is beyond question, the spectacles are genuinely spectacular. Somehow, in a world packed with heritage acts playing their back catalogues, Kraftwerk still feel unique," he said.
The Independent described the on-stage animations as "like seeing a futuristic vision rising out of the past".
Paul Morley of The Telegraph wrote: "As a work of art, part of an abstract history lesson set to music, ghostly echoes of the 20th Century, it is mesmerising."
While The Times's Will Hodgkinson said the opening night "demonstrated that it is imagination and the power of art, combined with ruthless technological efficiency, that is at the heart of Kraftwerk's magic".
Kraftwerk's retrospective at the Tate, dubbed The Catalogue, is described as a "chronological exploration" of the reclusive group's "sonic experiments".
It was first performed at New York's Museum of Modern Art last year.
The group will play a series of albums from their back catalogue over the next seven nights, including Radio-Activity (1975), Trans Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986), The Mix (1991) and Tour de France (2003), along with additional compositions from their back catalogue.