Kraftwerk Does the Man-Machine at Ultra Music Festival 2012

KraftwerkLiveUltraMusicFestival2012.jpg
Photo by Ian Witlen
Performance-wise, no Kraftwerk show is really more special than any other. The band's very German mastery of automation, precision, and repetation renders the men on stage as close to robots as their Man-Machine album would suggest. To say one Kraftwerk performance is really any better than another is to swear that the automated Pirates at Disney World seemed like they really were putting more effort and umph into the ride this time.

No, what makes a Kraftwerk performance special is the context.

The context last night: Kraftwerk, the band that's almost singlehandedly responsible for originally putting the E in EDM was playing for the first time at what has become America's permier electronic dance music festival.

Or as we overheard one young man in a fake mustache explain to a not-so-clued-in friend, "They're, like, where all of this comes from," while motioning with his hand to the rest of Ultra.

Seeing Kraftwerk at Ultra Music Festival was kind of like getting to see the Sex Pistols and Ramones at Warped Tour or the ghost of Bob Marley at a reggae fest -- just about every other band on the bill owes them a considerable debt. The crowd was appreciatively full, and the band drew the biggest concentration of people that the live stage at the Klipsch Amphitheater had seen all night. Not to mention its oldest. (The kids, well, you know, they were off moshing to Skrillex at the main stage.)

KraftwerkLiveUltraMusicFestival2012a.jpg
Photo by Ian Witlen

It made for a reverent, almost hypnotic mood complimentary to the band's minimal stage presence. Not much has changed in the world of Kraftwerk's oeuvre over the past two decades, including, apparently, the band's backing visuals. In particularly, the video accompanying "Autobahn" looked like Pixar's Cars if it had been made in 1980s Germany. Yet Kraftwerk doesn't fix what isn't broken, and we couldn't help being caught up watching a Benz overtake a Volkswagen on a pixelated highway.

The band took to its familiar setup: Four men dressed in identical Tron-like suits standing behind podiums while toying with buttons and knobs kept out of the view of the audience.

These days, Ralf Hütter is the only remaining member from the classic Kraftwerk lineup. (Though, remember we are talking about "robots" here and the personnel changes don't seem to matter much when it comes to performances.) And last night, he took the position furthest to stage right, supplying occasional live vocals.

KraftwerkLiveUltraMusicFestival2012b.jpg
Photo by Ian Witlen

Of course, besides context and audience reaction, the only thing that does differentiate one Kraftwerk show from the next is track selection. For Ultra, the band opted for a sampling of familiar tracks from all of its post-Autobahn album. (See the setlist below.)

But that also meant that a few fan favorites weren't going to make the cut for the hour-long set. Disappointingly, the band's most Miami-appropriate track, "The Model," didn't get a walk down the runway. Neither did other classics like "Pocket Calculator," "Neon Lights," or "Hall of Mirrors." Though, it's hard to complain considering what did get played, and the selection felt like a thoughtful curation of Kraftwerk's electronic legacy.

The music came to a stop during "Music Non Stop" (Kraftwerk's idea of humor?), and the band members began filing offstage, one by one, leaving the others to keep the beats going. Eventually, only Hütter was left standing on the stage. More than any other time during the night it really did seem apparent he was actually doing something behind that podium while putting the final touches on "Non Stop."

Maybe the ol' robot was putting more effort and umph into it this time?

KraftwerkLiveUltraMusicFestival2012c.jpg
Photo by Ian Witlen

Kraftwerk's Setlist
-"Numbers"
-"Computer World"
-"We Are the Robots"
-"Planet of Visions"
-"Autobahn"
-"Tour de France"
-"Computer Love"
-"Radio-Activity"
-"Trans-Europe Express"
-"Home Computer"
-"Music Non Stop"

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Location Info

Venue

Map

Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: General

Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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5 comments
jason
jason

you forgot it's more fun to compute. i know i was dancing my ass off to that song.

Josh English
Josh English

A few notes (the majority of articles on Kraftwerk are incorrect in some way):

"No performance is better than any other." - Not necessarily the case. The crowd was very stiff, and I'm sure the majority of people at the festival had no clue who they were, or really didn't care (too melodic or too old for them perhaps?). The band has changed their graphics a bit since the older days. Their show has been in 3D since 2009, although they don't do this at festivals or other outside venues because it doesn't really work. And again, their festival shows have always been shorter because most organizers only give you an hour or an hour and a half to play. Their normal set is about two to two and a half hours long, and includes the other songs that the author missed, except for "The Hall Of Mirrors", which hasn't been played live since 1981 (it's not considered to be a hit). Not sure how "The Model" is supposed to be "the band's most appropriate Miami track." I think the last time when they were in Miami in 2005 at what was then the Jackie Gleason theater, the people there "got it" because it was more of the Miami Bass and Electro crowd, which is where they are really considered to be legends (real Electro, not that bastardized "Electro House" category that was played at most of the festival). They killed at Coachella both years that were sold out in 2004 and 2008. And I don't get this dead horse quip from writers about them being so static and robotic onstage. How is a DJ or any other electronic artist different from how they move, especially since most of them have laptops now as well? At least Ralf Hutter actually plays his keyboard. Do you want them to pump their fists or wave their hands in the air? Not what I want to see from men in their mid 60's and late 50's (sans Stefan Pfaffe).

Billg
Billg

This comment was more insightful than the actual article.

Davidapike123
Davidapike123

Have you ever seen the band before?

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