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Concert Reviews:
Kraftwerk delivers dazzling 3D "Techno Pop" at Masonic Temple
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT: There's eye candy. And then there's visual caviar.

Guess which one Kraftwerk served up on Monday night, Oct. 5, at the Masonic Temple?

The pioneering German electronic quartet doesn't tour often; this was, in fact, its first Detroit appearance since June of 1998 at the State Theatre. But Kraftwerk made the wait more than worthwhile on Monday with a jaw-dropping two-hour and 20-minute feast of 3D images that redefined the idea of what a concert can look like. It also complemented a greatest hits selection of music that provided much of the inspiration for the techno scene that was birthed in this area during the mid-90s. (Detroit's Kevin Saunderson, in fact, watched Monday's how from one of Masonic's center floor sections.)

Kraftwerk didn't waste any time building into the highlights, either. Within seconds of the show's starts fans had "Numbers" popping and swirling in front of their eyes as if they were physically part of The Matrix. A giant calculator and hand made computations during "Pocket Calculator," while lyrics danced across the screen for "Man Machine." And "Autobahn" offered an highly experiential road trip, often from the dashboard point of view, as Kraftwerk played the 1975 hit.

It went like that all night. "Spacelab" took the Masonic crowd into orbit -- complete with a space station whose antenna seemed to shoot right into the seats -- while vintage fashion footage accompanied "The Model." Bicycles and trains rolled by during the "Tour de France" and "Trans-Europe Express" suites, respectively, and during "The Robots" four choreographed avatars stood in place of the actual musicians.

Kraftwerk's music, meanwhile, was sturdy enough to hold its own as more than merely a soundtrack for the arresting visuals -- "perfection mekanik" in the group's terms. With the four body-suited group members manning their work station and founder Ralf Hutter providing periodic vocals through a Vocoder, the troupe explored a range of synthetic styles from the electro pop of "The Model" and "Boing Boom Tschak" to the techno throb of "Computer Love" and "Spacelab," the industrial flavor of "Man Machine" and to the four-on-the-floor urgency of "Home Computer" and the anti-nuclear protest piece "Geiger Counter."

"Planet of Visions" paid tribute to the electronic ties between Detroit and Germany ("We're so electric," Hutter intoned), while "Musique Non Stop" celebrated "Synthetic electronic sounds/Industrial rhythms all around." Nobody at Masonic wanted that music to stop on Monday night, and they certainly don't want another 17 years to pass before Kraftwerk plays here again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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