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Live Review: Kraftwerk

28 May 2013 | 9:21 am | Andrew McDonald

It may not have been built for them, but Kraftwerk sure made the Opera House theirs.

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The crowd in the packed-out hall were all distributed Kraftwerk branded 3D glasses for the show, which began with a pounding rendition of classic tune The Robots. Arguably as striking as the music was the immediacy of the eye-popping visuals; retro-futuristic blocky depictions of the band as robots reaching out over the crowd, montages of space, promotions of the band's own Kling Klang studio, sunny panoramas of German highways. All brilliant and all very Kraftwerkian.

The beauty of the band's music, played by the stationary foursome behind custom-built keyboard/computer stands, is the line it walks between worlds. Kraftwerk, at their best, slip between the spheres of high-brow intelligentsia art pop, menacing science fiction and utterly naff electronica. It speaks of the group's power as composers and players that minimal variation on the 30-plus year-old music is needed to maintain this balancing act and still sound relevant. Hell, when the band did twist it up and turn up the bass, many of the tracks would've been right at home in any modern club.

Autobahn itself remains as lush, meditative and cheesy grin-inducing as ever. Again, the visuals of a CGI road trip were perfectly suited to the 20-minute krautrock classic. Following this the band treated the audience to a more or less chronological greatest hits set. Trans-Europe Express, The Model, Computer Love, Numbers; to the clearly devotee audience the setlist was an absolute treat. Special mention is required of highlight, Radio-Activity, which received a thundering musical overhaul and newly-politicised lyrics lamenting the Fukushima disaster. Four Germans singing new Japanese lyrics to an Australian audience in a Danish-designed opera hall – let no one say this was not a multicultural evening.

As quirkily and inauspiciously as they first emerged decades ago, after an hour and 40 minutes the band bowed, bade us farewell in English and German, and left the stage. It may not have been built for them, but Kraftwerk sure made the Opera House theirs.

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