I thought it would be fun to share some thoughts and observations I made in regards to the recent Kraftwerk Retrospective at the MoMA.
When I first read about these planned shows I got quite exited, I really wanted to attend at least a few of the concerts. They happened to be scheduled right around my 50th birthday, in the city where I was born in, but never lived for long. I always loved New York City, no other motivation was needed to book a trip there. But since I have been a Kraftwerk fan for years, these concerts sounded too good to be true, like a perfect bonus for a trip to the great city.
My wife and I talked it through and decided to book the trip at any rate, we would have a great vacation there, regardless if we were able to score tickets or not. New York City is such a fantastic place to visit, we saw plenty of things to do besides the Kraftwerk shows – art, occupy wall street, foodie adventures. And at this point we were still positive, that we could score at least two tickets…
The day came when the tickets went online, and as feared it turned out to be the debacle, that i described elsewhere. But even though we didn’t get any tickets, we still planned to check out the scene and visit the exhibitions at the MoMA and the PS1.
On our second night in NYC, which also happened to be the first of the eight Kraftwerk concerts – they performed Autobahn – we went to Brooklyn to an event called Krautwerk, where New York bands and musicians played their favorite Kraftwerk songs. It turned out to be a fantastic night, that motivated me to say this on twitter:
the #krautwerk gig last night in and of itself justified our trip to #NYC (sans MOMA tix). everything else from here on out is just bonus.
The MC made a few very good points, when he introduced the night. The band playing the MoMA, he said, wasn’t even really Kraftwerk, just a fourth of the original band. Just, you know, Ralf! The disdain with which he said “Ralf!” was funny, but also quite prophetic. I later came to a similar conclusion.
But at this point I still hoped to score tickets for at least one of the nights, why not for Man Machine, the one concert we got out of the queue for during the online sale, but then the website decided to not accept our credit card… We also started each day by listening to the Kraftwerk record that would be performed on the night. And I purchased 0462/2000 of the catalogue MoMA release, 04 62, get it? Yes, my birth month and year… But hey.
Kraftwerk Special Edition Box … Birthday present… Thx thx. pic.twitter.com/VH01kMos
I still was a little obsessed to get tickets, on twitter I wrote the following and was only half joking:
with #kraftwerk playing man machine at the MOMA tonite things are getting desperate. we’ll be offering sexual favors for tickets, and such.
On friday the 13. we visited MoMA during the day time. Yes, there were a few traces of Kraftwerk to be found, the robot installation (see video bellow), projections of some logos (see photos above), and a huge long banner above the stairways. We also saw the stage where the shows were being held during the night, which struck me as a very odd place for a concert. This “room” had no ceiling and the walls were painted all white, which for acoustics and for projections is a nightmare, ask any technician. The space was also really small, which explained why only 450 people could attend. And so I asked some attendant why the gigs where being held right there. He said, there were bigger auditoriums available, better suited even… but the band had insisted on this spot, right smack in the middle of the museum. Ralf! apparently went for the show effect…
Later that day we went to the PS1, where a Kraftwerk installation was being shown. This turned out to be one of the saddest multimedia installations I have ever seen. A white dome tent with some pathetic red cushions in the middle, cheap visuals projected onto the eight side walls, and a music piece for each of the eight albums, interspersed with a long robot voice countdown. After three songs we had enough. They played the newer versions of the songs, the remixed, cleaner stuff that they introduced since “The Mix”, not the old gritty Kraftwerk music, that we love. And the graphics were really sad and clumsy stuff. This all smelled of Ralf! so much that I wrote on twitter:
I am cured of my #kraftwerk obsession! how come? long story, short version: ralf! I think I actually hate the guy.
We still decided to try and score tickets that night, no such luck, but the scene in front of the MoMA was so hostile, that we did not regret one bit. The videos of the concerts, that we watched on youtube confirmed the same impression, it was all much too polished and sterile… They performed the polished remixed versions of the songs, and those cheesy 3D visuals…
So here is what I think. If you call something a retrospective, it could have been a fantastic opportunity to show some of the great history of this great and influential band – to show versions of the old art work, to demonstrate the samplers, sequencers and computers that Kraftwerk had to build to create their music, to display images of their studio space, photos of the former members, the history. Also some critical voices on the breakups and dramas surrounding the band. Instead they opted to show only the new Kraftwerk, the polished version Ralf! wants everyone to see, with their clean and pretty boring versions of music and graphics.
So I for one am no longer a Kraftwerk fan, at least not of the current incarnation. I still love and respect their older work, but Ralf! really has managed to take all the life out of it for now.