On March 23, 2014, I attended one of the most unique and enjoyable concerts I’ve ever experienced. The German electronic group Kraftwerk were in town at Oakland’s famous Fox Theatre. I’d been waiting months for this show, and the promised 3D experience made me even more excited. All in all, I’m more than happy to have had the chance to experience the music of some living legends. Read on for the full experience!
Kraftwerk are considered pioneers of the electronic music genre, forming in 1970 and making some huge innovations in the landscape of popular music over the decades. These guys are serious legends – they’ve been cited by groups as diverse as hip-hop/funk pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, stadium rock band Coldplay, and ambient music royalty Aphex Twin as a major influence in their respective music. Kraftwerk essentially spawned the creation of techno – the original godfathers of techno (the Belleville Three) combined Kraftwerk melodies with funk rhythms.
You could imagine my excitement as I scarfed down a sandwich from Ike’s thirty minutes before the concert. My friend and I were at Oakland’s Lake Merritt, enjoying the meal and lake view and talking about music and technology. It was an apt conversation because that’s exactly what we experienced thirty minutes later as we entered the historic Fox Theatre for the show. We grabbed 3D glasses at the door and made our way towards the front of the venue – we’d purchased standing area tickets and wanted to get as close as possible to the stage.
We ended up at a decent spot, about four rows behind the very front, and as the lights dimmed and the curtains lifted, we put on our glasses amid thunderous cheers and applause from the audience. The show had begun.
What an experience! Behind the curtains stood the four band members, each wearing Tron-like body suits that changed color based on the lighting. Without delay, Kraftwerk launched into one of their most well-known songs, “The Robots.” The 3D show and effects were awesome, evoking a retro-futuristic vibe that was fun without being too cheesy. As soon as I felt the bass and heard the music live, I knew that I would be getting my money’s worth.
Kraftwerk played all their hit songs, from “Computer World” to “The Man Machine” to “Autobahn.” I loved how they performed the music live (the old-fashioned way for electronic music), especially the parts where Ralf sang the lyrics into a vocoder, transforming his voice in real-time. The audience was amazing – everyone was equally into the music regardless of age, race, gender, or creed. The two older gentleman on my left were bobbing and dancing to the music just as well as the youngsters. There were excited gasps as the 3D satellite animation from “Space Lab” seemingly crashed into the crowd. The end of every song would be met with more cheers and applause.
My personal favorite performance of the night was Kraftwerk’s live rendition of the three parts of “Tour De France.” The band members were on point and played the songs flawlessly, which was interposed with clips of historic Tour De France races.
After 18 songs, the group did one of the coolest live sign-offs I’ve witnessed. While performing a mix including “Techno Pop,” each member of the group, starting with the right-most member, played his own improvised solo, bowed and walked off so the next person could solo. It was a great opportunity to hear what each member was contributing to the overall sound and also allowed the audience to cheer each band member as he bowed out.
After an encore performance of two more songs, Kraftwerk took a bow together and ended the show. As I walked out, I was speechless by what I’d experienced. What an amazing show, definitely one I’ll be able to share with friends and family many years from now!
Full setlist from the performance here.
Check out the video below for one of Kraftwerk’s live performances!