Positivus, in words and photos (part two: Kraftwerk)

Maybe I’m becoming more like my father, maybe my memory is more unreliable than I care to believe and perhaps I’m simply growing older. During the course of this trip to Berlin and Latvia I’ve been drinking beers that share an aroma with the kind of brews my dad used to drink when I was growing up. Not that I used to join him in their enjoyment for my age was but in single figures, but it’s a bitter smell and taste that I’ve not become accustomed to, yet. Plenty of time to investigate further of course.

Step two in this generational time shift was made real on Sunday night at Positivus with Kraftwerk headining. My understanding has always been that dad was a fan of this band, but I’m not sure if that came from him or from other people or simply my over active imagination. He spent seven years in Germany during his youth… ‘ergo he must be a fan of all things German!’ Well, it’s taken a while but in the past six months I’ve become a fan myself, largely thanks to my renewed subscription to a popular online music streaming service. The 21st century youths of Positivus proclaimed their enthusiastic support, so that’s the generations united then. Fantastiche.

This performance was part of Kraftwerk’s ‘3D’ experience, which has been taken to many an interesting location around the world. In the post-MTV world of experience economy live performances and unique happenings, it’s quite something to turn four stationery men into the most engaging two hours of a festival. As we dribbled, then streamed, then flooded towards the main stage a rapid logistical exercise went into action to fashion everyone with 3D glasses. These had all been personalised for Positivus: it’s all in the detail. The clocked ticked around to 23:00 and we all enjoyed playing with the glasses, taking selfies and feeling the crowds swell behind us.

Then the show. Four men, each with a standing desk (very zeitgeist), who barely moved through the whole two hour set. One had a headset microphone, over on the far left: he ‘sang’, to the extent that Kraftwerk tracks involve much singing. Everything was very controlled, ordered, planned and beautifully executed. The sounds swelled, the melodies built and it sounded as though you were listening to the CD (or your streaming service of choice). It was brilliant. I loved it.

The visuals stole the show at times though. Satellites that swept over your head; lines and shapes and colours that held you transfixed; footage or models and Le Tour de France (to go with the music in question); a cartoon Autobahn that seemed to pit a VW Beetle against a flashy Mercedes (though I’m not sure if we were supposed to be taking sides). Kraftwerk tracks do not make use of a complicated vocabulary, they have no need. It didn’t take much to put them up on the screen therefore, so we could all sing along: track one emphatically confirmed that we were, indeed, the robots.

They played for two hours. That’s a lot of standing around for the crowd, if not the performers. All around me were people simply thrilled to have seen it all, from the teenagers getting a history lesson in the basic tenets of modern music, to those original fans from the first time around, wearing their matching Kraftwerk T shirts.

I’ll get back to the streaming once I’m home, reliving the performance and delving deeper into a back catalogue that sounds fresh, innovative and anything but static.

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