Kraftwerk went beyond the 3D presentation for the 2022 Red Rocks show. Seemed like it couldn’t work when the light was still strong well into the evening but apparently it was oddly effective and surreal if you got a pair of the glasses to fully take in that aspect of the performance. But even without the glasses whoever set up the sound for this night managed to give the renowned amphitheater a robust level of sonic fidelity adequate to one of the greatest and most influential bands of electronic and popular music.
On stage Kraftwerk walked on to a platform on the stage that gave the impression that we were watching the quartet on a television lending the whole show a meta quality that enhanced the group’s own implicit commentary on society, media and technology by employing the simple prop of a familiar cultural artifact write large from which to project the music to the audience. Behind the four members of Kraftwerk was one projection screen and when 8-bit graphic numbers counted to eight it was clear the concert would open with “Numbers.”
Across the evening with so many of Kraftwerk’s great songs from the breadth of its recorded catalog one thing that had to have struck anyone close enough to see the expressions on the faces of the band and their movements is how much they put themselves as humans into the music even though they appeared to be standing at consoles simply pressing buttons and looking impassive. But Ralf Hütter looked impassioned at points and with the projections flowing depicting the settings and actions of the song it was the members of Kraftwerk that kept this music grounded in a shared human experience of music made using science seemingly written for cyborgs but performed by physical people and not an A.I.. Not that Kraftwerk might not find that a useful element of its compositions going into the future.
It’s easy to think of songs like “The Model,” “Autobahn,” “Trans-Europe Express,” “Tour de France,” “The Robots” and “Spacelab” as existing and best enjoyed purely in the mind but the low end and the broad frequency range of the music hit strongly and moved through you in this environment in a way that made it feel like the most transcendent music in the world. This music many of us have heard for most or all of our lives but maybe weren’t fortunate enough to witness other times Kraftwerk made a stop in Colorado came to life as day turned to night and even when the wind rose precipitously and the group left the stage for an intermission and came back it seemed to accentuate how Kraftwerk’s sounds and ideas have weathered well the decades and still sound fresh, unusual and strikingly original.
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