Kraftwerk, at Auckland’s Spark Arena: impossible to define

Review by Enzo Giordani

What does a Kraftwerk crowd look like? I was curious to know. My wife and I ran into a friend waiting for the doors to open.

“So, you’re a Kraftwerk fan!” we asked.

“I’ve never listened to them, I’m here with friends.”

I wondered how many people were in that category. Were there groups of people standing around all over the forecourt pointing their fingers at each other saying “I’m just hanging out with you!” “But I thought *I* was hanging out with *you*?

The truth is Kraftwerk definitely have a lot of fans and they are IN TO IT. I overheard many of them wondering aloud why the whole arena wasn’t packed out instead of set up in an intimate configuration and only 80% full at that.

They had a point.

When I rack my brains, trying to think if I’ve ever heard anyone name Kraftwerk as their favourite band – I don’t think I have. Even though it’s almost certain that just about all the bands I have heard people name are heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. They are widely acknowledged as one of the most influential bands of all time.

I know that’s the case for me. Like the friend we bumped into, I had never listened to them but I was aware of them because my favourite artist, Neil Young, has named them as a big influence on his controversial experimental electronic album ‘Trans’. I was very keen to experience a major piece of its origin story.

But why haven’t I listened to these guys before? Just laziness in all honesty. It always seemed too much like hard work.

I did put some work in before this show, however. Enough to know that like a lot of people I was really looking forward to singing along with ‘Pocket Calculator’ in my fake German accent that gets worse every time I listen to the song.

It was like no other concert I have ever been to.

In some might say typical German style, there was no nonsense. There was no warm-up act and no encore. They simply marched up to each of their iconic four podiums, and stood there for two hours doing their thing in workmanlike fashion. There was no perceptible interaction with each other and none whatsoever with the audience – save four stiff bows as they left the stage one by one at the end.

In between, there were blips, beeps and boops accompanied by a wonderful 80s kitsch video show. A few times I think I could make out some toe tapping and very slight head bobbing which for them must have signified that they were utterly overwhelmed by a sheer avalanche of emotion that took hold of them like a tsunami they simply had to ride.

Highlights for me were Trans Europe Express which very cleverly felt and sounded every bit like an epic train journey through Europe. Tour de France, which pulsed with the effort and exertion of trying to pedal a bicycle up into the Pyrenees. And Autobahn which, having driven a car in Europe only a few short weeks ago, gave me post-traumatic stress disorder.

And in case you’re still wondering what a Kraftwerk crowd looks like, I think I found the defining characteristic – introverts. Folks who thoroughly identify with four people who are completely engrossed in their work and don’t want to be interrupted unless the building is on fire, and even then you’d best approach with caution. A group of individuals who fit together perfectly as a team, like two married couples who have known each other so long they no longer need to make any conversation.

It was something to behold.

My only real gripe is they didn’t play pocket calculator. I suppose that was probably for the best…

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