The face behind the mask of technology: Kraftwerk comes to Seattle

I surprised myself by buying the last available ticket at the last minute to see an electropop group I had deliberately disregarded during my Guitar God childhood. But recently, I had acquired a few of Kraftwerk’s classic albums (ironically on vinyl). John Cook’s post at GeekWire alerted me to Kraftwerk’s presence in my town and it was music to my ears: 3D backdrops and surround sound! I had to go.

I knew what I was in for: four middle-aged guys swaying almost imperceptibly at their podium keyboards, not speaking to each other or the audience. There’d be no Jimmy Page-like histrionics with violin bows shredding against strings. But those synth-heavy songs that changed music and set the stage for the 80’s seemed curiously fresh — and charming. If they were still producing new material today, I’m sure they’d have a song about Wikipedia, but here’s a salient excerpt from their entry:

Kraftwerk’s lyrics deal with post-war European urban life and technology—traveling by car on the Autobahn, traveling by train, using home computers, and the like. Usually, the lyrics are very minimal but reveal both an innocent celebration of, and a knowing caution about, the modern world, as well as playing an integral role in the rhythmic structure of the songs. Many of Kraftwerk’s songs express the paradoxical nature of modern urban life—a strong sense of alienation existing side-by-side with a celebration of the joys of modern technology.

With the “second machine age ” nearly upon us, it’s not too hard to see how Kraftwerk’s focus on technology — both as celebration and alienation — is remarkably relevant in 2014.

As for the show itself: amazingly, the 2 hours flew by, despite having to wear those uncomfortable 50’s era cardboard 3D glasses. The audio quality was pristine, the 3D backdrop worked really well as a substitute for a connection to the audience (as none of the performers spoke to us, it was nice to see the custom images dropped in for this particular show: the Puget Sound on a map, an image of the Paramount Theater).

Standard issue 3D glasses for the Kraftwerk show

My fellow concert-goers were diverse: from chubby bald guys, to young couples (same-sex and mixed-sex alike), to fathers with their kids, to Eurohipsters in blazers and skinny ties. They were enthusiastic and clearly greatly appreciative of the profound influence Kraftwerk has had on popular music. And I didn’t once yearn for a guitar solo.

This article was also syndicated by GeekWire: 

Concert review: Kraftwerk’s 3-D show exposes the beauty and alienation of technology