Next week Kraftwerk will be staging a series of appearances at the Tate Modern in London, a repeat of their MOMA residency in New York last year that saw the band do many of their albums all the way through. Kraftwerk will play eight of their classics over the course of nine days.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these performances will be cool events, but let’s face it, Kraftwerk don’t really play much of anything live anymore and there’s only one of the two main guys left. The visuals are incredible and sure, die roboter, are fun, but without all the flash it would just be four boring German blokes—three of them who could literally be anybody, can you name ‘em?—onstage with Sony laptops.
Do they really play anything live other than “Pocket Calculator”? It didn’t seem that way to me when I saw them at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan in 1998. It was just a “remix” show.
Nevertheless, if you listen to tapes of older Kraftwerk shows, from, say, 1975 when they started trekking around promoting Autobahn to the Computer World tour of 1981, way back when they were more or less an analog band, it’s very interesting indeed. Back then, they had to get it right onstage and the drumming was done on those electronic pad thingees. What makes the live Kraftwerk bootlegs of that period so interesting is hearing them make mistakes.
It’s only because of the mistakes that you can tell what great musicians they really were!
Kraftwerk in Budapest, August 14,1981 (an audience recording, but a really good one):
Kraftwerk in Amsterdam at The Paradiso, 1976:
Kraftwerk live at the Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, on July 9, 1981 (this one is great!)
Kraftwerk live on French TV, October 1978: