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Sonar 98 - Live in Barcelona - page 2

The Concert

I arrive a bit late, as I have had to meet a friend that has come from outside Barcelona. We arrive at the pavilion and inspect the long queue to see if we can join some of the fans with whom I have met hours before, only to find some e-musician friends in the queue. I have the feeling that I'm going to witness a show that I can either enjoy or find boring. The reviews that I have read sent by Kraftwerk-Mailing list members have been mixed. People who have seen the band several times have been disappointed by a show that has had almost nothing new to offer. And this is my 5th Kraftwerk concert.

Security doesn't allow to pass cameras even to the press. After having passed security, I face the merchandise stall, with some familiar goodies, like the cycling shirts with designs of 'Autobahn', 'Radioactivity', and the grey 'www.kraftwerk.com'. There is also the usual black T-shirt with the 'dancing robot' logo, and a new one: a black T-shirt with the 4 wire-frame kraftwerkers.

Inside the building, François Kevorkian is doing his mixing at the turntables to open the event. Nothing remarkable. Most people are here to see Kraftwerk and don't care about the dance tunes being programmed by the DJ. The stage is hidden under the usual black drapes. As the crowd is filling the hall, the usual subtle Kraftwerk noises start, a dialog from the film 'Blade Runner' is  played by Kevorkian and then the usual introduction: 'Ladies and gentlemen, heute abend, aus Deutchsland die Mensch-Maschine: Kraftwerk'. The sound of ‘Numbers' invades us all, 5500 people, while the black drapes uncover the machines and the four kraftwerkers take their place at Kling-Klang '98. The men are wearing black leather garments. The sound is deep and clear, and the little surprise is that I can hear an additional sound here and there, as well as some changes in the computer graphics shown in the four screens.

'Computer World' is next and then 'Home Computer'. I hear some noticeable embellishment noise effect on this one too. The machine shines. I can feel the vibes, we all can feel the vibes. In the crowd, I am beside friends and beside musicians whom I have admired for nearly 20 years, so I can feel a very positive vibe. We are all looking at the machines and the men with great expectation.

I notice one of the laptop screens shows a graphic motive about the song that is playing. Machine and men in perfect symbiosis. The audience is enjoying from beginning to end. No one dares to miss a detail. As for the human workers, Hilpert is the one who labours the most, and Florian the least. And as 'The Man Machine' is computed, some guys in the crowd say: 'do you realize this song is 20 years old???' It really doesn't age. This is the version with updated sound a-la ‘The Mix'. Remarkable vocal effects. It's a pity that this version has not been released on record.

Kraftwerk perform The Man Machine

Kraftwerk perform 'The Man Machine'.
Pictured left is Fritz Hilpert, on the right is Florian Schnieder
Photograph by Emma Villegas

I spot some Florian foot pedaling during 'Tour de France', with the usual vintage projections of the cycling tour. And it looks like Ralf is playing the melodies. This sounds updated, too.

For ‘Autobahn', some new images are used, the graphics of the old VW Beetle, and some humourous images of a dog inside a car with his head outside the window. (I am told that the dog has been already been shown in earlier tours, but I never saw it). This one sounds more speeding, with more exaggerated passing car effects.

Kraftwerk perform Autobahn

Kraftwerk perform 'Autobahn'
Pictured left is Henning Schmitz, on the right is Fritz Hilpert
Photograph by Emma Villegas

'The Model' proves to be very popular, in which I can also hear some updating. And time for the first new track, with 'Airwaves' as an intro. The screens show a green sine-wave moving to the rhythm of the music. During 'Airwaves', I spot Ralf is moving his leg to the rhythm of the music, almost dancing! No smile at all from the humans.

Fritz Hilpert, pictured during Kraftwerk's performance of 'The Model'. Photograph by: Emma Villegas'

Fritz Hilpert, pictured during Kraftwerk's performance of 'The Model'. Photograph by: Emma Villegas

'Radio-Activity', with its now usual intro from ‘Stop Sellafield', still is one of the favourites. I can hear a mistake during the performance of this one.

Time for ‘Trans-Europe Express', in a magnificent rendition, which sounds powerful and updated. A perfect synthesis of music, noise and images, with the old TEE running in the railway. These are new old images to match the song. Romantic and dramatic. The best of the night for me.

The drapes close, and next is ‘Pocket Calculator' Jimi Hendrix version, with the mini- instruments and a hilarious Florian.

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  Updated: 16 : 5 : 2010