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It's No More Fun To Compute! Kraftwerk Live Review By Wolfgang Flür
The Quietus , February 7th, 2013 07:39

In January the former robot went to the band's home town show in a power station in Dusseldorf and sent us this report, a longer version of a piece originally published in Germany earlier this year. Translation assistance by Melody Kometen

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It was early morning when I got into bed on Sunday 20 January. It had been many years after my last appearance with Kraftwerk in the summer of 1981 at Düsseldorf’s Philips Hall. But on this night, thirty-two years later, I had met up with some friends, one from the Netherlands, two from England, one from Cologne and Rudiger Esch, the bassist from the German industrial band Die Krupps. And we had gone to see Kraftwerk mark III. In a museum!

Rudiger had contact with the main sponsor of this concert, the Düsseldorf Stadtwerke power plant which produces our city's electricity. (Since when did Kraftwerk need sponsors, I thought? As far as I remember they function economically. Automatically!) Rudiger brought us into the gallery via a side door for VIPs – tres chic – so we didn’t need to queue in the long row of fans in that minus-degree-night. We got a desirable white all-access pass which allowed us to go anywhere in the hall – apart from the garage where the robots were. And inside the foyer, I immediately saw Emil Schult, my former friend and room mate at Berger Alley 9 [where Karl Bartos and Flür lived in the 1970s], crossing my path, looking very stressed and austere. He saw me – and looked away.

So, he was still in cahoots with Ralf. I understood why he didn’t want to be recognised by me after all the testimonies he had made against me, and all that had happened at the Hamburg land court [Ralf and Florian tried to stop Flür publishing his memoirs in 2000].

Inside the huge hall it was stinky and muggy – there had been a show that night already, and we were to see the second one. The midnight special. We Germans call it the ghost hour.

And then came Kraftwerk Mark III. The music they made was very loud – so much so that I got fears for my ears and a brand-new level of tinnitus. But the sound was brilliant, crispy and digitally clear.

To the left side of me and my friends were a group of English and Dutch fans, rampaging, drunk and bawling. The guys stunk like Schnapps and bawled Kraftwerk lyrics along with Ralf and his vocoder-device. While she was dancing, a female member of their party kicked me hard on my left foot, so I shouted at her to be calm and mannered. After all, we were in a museum, not in a rock-concert. She apologised, but soon went on with bawling. The smell in that area was such a ghastly mixture - disgusting! I know why I normally avoid such events.

But the graphic projections in 3D were a hit. Sensationally clear and near. During 'Kometenmelodie' if felt like you could grab the space capsules coming out of the screen. During 'Musique Non Stop' the music notes I knew from so long ago came flying towards us, beautiful and smooth. I was able to grab one and put it into my jacket as a souvenir.

But I certainly must report that there was nothing else for me to admire that night.

Remembering our appearances during the 70s and the 80s, so much had moved on. But I understand that today's Kraftwerk fans won't be able to sense this. We used to move; these robots don't. The non-performance of Kraftwerk Mark III made me yawn; the concert went on too long. Thirty minutes less might haved worked, perhaps. But performing as Kraftwerk seemed to offer no joy to the four people who had to be Kraftwerk.

They even didn’t look at each other. There was not one spark between the figures. No magnetism left. Coldness came over me. What had happened? Was it the effect of the two concert, one after the other? Were they possibly overworked, or overwrought? Can robots generally be overwrought? Ralf seemed to me like completely absent. His voice was thin, short of breath, and he looked broken. I have other images of Ralf in memory though - fortunately.

The lust seemed gone, the air was out. I can imagine why Florian took his farewell from the bondage and dictatorship of his original partner. He didn’t want this any more, that’s my view. One of my friends lent over during the show and said, “Listen Wolfgang, actually YOU should go and stand on the stage as the second figure from the right.“ Ralph from Cologne replied to him, in protest: “Are you crazy? Our Wolfi between those ghosts onstage? No question! He feels much better today than ever before – after all, he is free, right?“

I had to smile because he was right. Then another of my companions – one a little younger than me – whispered this: “Those neoprene suits on those tummies... they look awkward, right? On top of that, they sweat inside. And then they are standing for a long time. Two shows, one after the other... they could get varicose veins at their age.“

Now I had to laugh loud, and add: “Those plastic trousers already have the affect of surgical stockings. Maybe that’s why they wear them.“

Now we both had to laugh. Nevertheless, I find it pretty courageous that Ralf, one year older than me, goes on stages worldwide in a Spiderman costume. I can only hope that he has some [spare] for changing into during tours.

The whole spectacle appeared to me like a farewell-tour for ever. The guy [Stefan Pfaffe] who replaced Florian three years ago has latterly been replaced with a figure whose name is hard to keep in mind [Falk Grieffenhagen], and the turnover of music-workers is becoming quicker and quicker. At Ralf’s age, if he has become Grot – the alerter of the machines in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – he may find it hard to get new cogs who agree to examination. In some ways, Kraftwerk's story has become a bit like Goethe’s Zauberlehring, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The sorcerer had activated something all those years ago, and maybe now he can't stop it. The musique is non-Stop. The Volkswagen runs and runs and runs and runs...

Last night, Kraftwerk Mark III certainly did something with effective technique. But does that always make things better?

After the concert, when the lights came on, things got crazy in the foyer. Quite a few people recognised and assembled around me, and wanted to have all possible sorts of things signed. Girls were there too – and these girls were young. Did we formerly have female fans ? I cannot remember this...

To conclude, I can genuinely see how this was a superb night in many ways, and I loved the 3D-video projections. But however brilliant and perfect yesterday's spectacle was, all in all, I still must say:

It’s no more fun to compute!

And it used to be fun. Onstage in the 70s and 80s, in that pioneering era, it felt good in our hearts as well as our heads. No visitor and fan could imagine it being that way yesterday. If the show was a film I'd think of it this way – as Jaws part III in 3D (without Florian Spielberg).

The remaining commander should at least replace himself with a new construction (“everyone is replaceable“, Ralf once said) and send these four new figures around the world (White Shark part IV). Then he would not need to suffer. In fact, he looked stressed on stage, sad, endlessly lonely. So hard without his Flori...

I met this Flori recently on a cross-road at Berlin Alley, when waiting to cross on the pedestrian green light. Florian was passing by in a tiny British car. Noticing me, he threw a smile through his side window. I waved to him. His face looked peaceful and relaxed. He had escaped from the Kraftwerk stigma. Just like me.

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Post-Punk Monk
Feb 7, 2013 2:15pm

Well, that was poignant. I was interested to find that Emil Schult had collaborated on the "Esperanto" album without incurring excommunication from Hütter.
For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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Feb 7, 2013 2:43pm

Excellent piece - doubtless made all the clearer by Ms Kometen's excellent translation.

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Mark T
Feb 7, 2013 3:08pm

> The White Shark part III in 3D

Was that the overseas title of "Jaws 3-D"?

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Feb 7, 2013 3:08pm

sour grapes, oder?

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Feb 7, 2013 3:49pm

In reply to DC:

I did wonder that on reading it but on reflection it sounds more like a disappointment than anything else. It must be hard to be part of something when it's a certain way but then see it again from the outside later and compare now with then. It must be said, especially after watching a lot of the old gig footage around, that it does seem like the newer shows are almost Kraftwerk exhibitions. It's easy to forget how much groove the old live shows had, with audience interaction, dancing around and an actually very human front to the band.

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Feb 7, 2013 4:26pm

Is there any link to the original German piece or was it print media only?

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Jim Dyson
Feb 7, 2013 6:22pm

I agree with Wolfgang about the fun element, when i last saw them in 1991 it was huge fun, Florian was a right old performer, and last night was sterile and dull, although the music was perfect. we also had drunken singing nobheads to contend with..... and even if there is an element of sour grapes, who can blame hime, i for one would like to hear some new 'Yamo' material.

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Feb 7, 2013 8:41pm

Ralf, Florian, Wolfgang and Karl - this was evolution. Mow you could install dummies and call them Kraftwerk. For me there was evolution again with Wolgamg's Yamo Project (I love Time Pie) and Karl's CAMERA experiments. This is evolution, based on Kraftwerk's revoluriomary ideas...

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Mr. Elizabeth Taylor
Feb 8, 2013 2:24pm

It's not Kraftwerk any more. It's Fatty Hutter & Friends. Like when these old soul bands play BB King's Bar & Grill with only a nephew of one original member as the link to the glorious past.

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Clive Pierce
Feb 8, 2013 4:07pm

Clive Pierce · London, United Kingdom
I think Ralf and Florian underestimated how well loved and important Wolfgang and Karl were. When they left it felt like the soul had been ripped out of Kraftwerk. Wolfgang and Karl supplied the link between Kraftwerk and the fans allowing Ralf and Florian to play out their aloof and distant act. They supplied the balance and the bridge that stopped the audience thinking they were just watching four elitist and arrogant individuals but some thing that we could all aspire to and imagine that we we either Wolfgang or Karl ourselves up there on stage. Now it just is a hollow experience however clever and technologically advanced the show is....for me I lost real interest in 1982....I also read the fantastic "I was a Robot" book by Wolfgang....There is a story about some expensive watches that the record company gave to Ralf and Florian as presents but not for Woflgang and Karl. They came back to the hotel showing them off..that to me illustrated how single minded and selfish they were. If that was me...I would have sold the watches and bought four cheaper ones and given one to Wolfgang and Karl to show unity and save feelings being hurt. All for one and one for all. Kraftwerk to me is Ralf, Karl, Wolfgang and Florian. Period.

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juan manuel jones
Feb 8, 2013 4:49pm

Well, Kraftwerk was always a concept act, more mechanic = better, thats Kraftwerk. We want robots, if we want some more "human" we can go to a Bob Dylan show...

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Feb 8, 2013 4:53pm

In reply to Mr. Elizabeth Taylor:

Yes, but in the end they still open with "ladies and gentlemen...die Menschmaschine: Kraftwerk"
Wasn´t being (part of) a machine the whole idea?! The original kraftwerk-idea since they thought up the robots was to program their stand-ins to do the live shows all alone.
Reading Flür´s book back then was such a disappointment for me since i had to realize that he was so against that whole concept.

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Feb 9, 2013 11:30am

i don't know... to me wolfgang sounds like someone who has left his lover and years later is still trying to convince himself he did the right thing when e's never found someone better... and even projecting his feelings onto florian.

i have seen hutter walk around backstage, and he seemed just a normal friendly chap. whoever i have spoken to that actually has worked with the band in the last years says how relaxed and charming all of them are. and no limousines or bodyguards or any of that usual show of bling and importance.

maybe fluer is just oversensitive, who knows. the duesseldorf shows weren't very loud at all, and the smell inside the venue was nowhere near as bad as i know from "regular" rock shows... i mean, they only put 900 people in a very high room that could have easily held 1300 people.

someone who was standing near fluer at this show said that he sounded a little bitter. it's all a bit sad, really.

oh, and one last bit, about how lifeless the band are on stage - look at this clip from the very same show and tell me this band does not love what they do:

anyway i guess you can tell I love what they do :)
some of the best shows i have seen in my life these were, and i've been to hundreds....

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Feb 9, 2013 1:07pm

In reply to Mr. Elizabeth Taylor:


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Mr. Elizabeth Taylor
Feb 9, 2013 1:57pm

In reply to stellaVista:

The man machine idea and concept was fun because it was a fantasy grafted on to sublime music that was clearly made by creative human beings. By taking this bubbly idea to extremes by actually making robots (or hired workers) play the music live in stiff, massive shows in museum halls misses the original charm of it all and drains the effervescent feeling the performances used to have when Kraftwerk was an actual band.

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Feb 9, 2013 9:52pm

pathetic bitter little review.and the comments about noise and smell just prove it - utterly ridiculous - also the guys were constantly grinning and chatting to each other between tracks - let alone the lovely moment at the end - a brilliant night

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Feb 9, 2013 9:59pm

In reply to Mr. Elizabeth Taylor:

when did you actually see them last?

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Wolfgang Flür
Feb 10, 2013 5:59am

In reply to Jim Dyson:

Hi Jim Dyson,
come to my MusikSoldat music & visuals presentation shows and you will listen to new Yamo tracks inside of repertoire, even if remixed for dancing. Watch snippets on YouTube (musiksoldat)

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Mr. Elizabeth Taylor
Feb 10, 2013 2:52pm

In reply to :

In New York, Hammerstein Ballroom, 2005.

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Petty Blue
Feb 10, 2013 10:41pm

This frustrates me so much!!! Argh, I want to slap that bitch, Wolfgang, for being such a base, attention seeking person. I should go and punch a pillow right now, because I really can't stand him.

It's so obvious that he could only wish to be a part of Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk has always been Ralf and Florian. And from all bandmates, Wolfgang gave the least - never wrote a melody, or contribute a concept. Yet he is the bitchiest one, always so fucking sour about everything. I mean, before I knew them all better, as seperate persons, to me Wolfgang looked like a decent guy... But after I've read what he says... he is such a little person in my eyes. If he dislikes Kraftwerk so much - and he's been saying it for the last 20 years - then why on earth he goes to their concerts. Actually forget it, nobody would even know him, if it wasn't for the time he spent playing in Ralf's band.

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Aidan Cross
Feb 11, 2013 1:17am

I'd love to hear what Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmidt's thoughts are on Kraftwerk. Ralf is portrayed so much as a sadistic dictator while his new bandmates are nothing more than his 'robots' but it's rarely acknowledged that Fritz and Henning have now been in Kraftwerk for over 20 years- in Fritz's case he's been in the band for 26 years, so they've both been part of Kraftwerk for longer than Wolfgang was and they sure seem to enjoy themselves on stage whenever I've watched them perform. Can it really be so bad being part of Kraftwerk when these two musicians have loyally accompanied Ralf for such a long period of time? I'm sure Wolfgang has good reason to feel a degree of resentment towards Ralf but I do have trouble believing things are really all that bad in the internal working of the 'Man Machine'.

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Stefan Persson
Feb 11, 2013 10:27am

When Wolfgang and Karl left I felt that Kraftwerk was over. The absolutely horrible album "The Mix" confirmed my expertations. After that album I felt that any nightmare was possible. Maybe Kraftwerk's next album would feauture MC Hammer? Ralf and Florian wearing adidas apparel and heavy gold chains on the cover? Then an eternity passed before "Tour De France Soundtracks" was released. I must say it has its moments. Not anywhere near "Radioactivity" or "Computor World", but still. The question is why Ralf doesn't go solo instead of continuing as Kraftwerk? He must realize that he alone is not Kraftwerk. Even though his influence has been huge.

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Feb 12, 2013 4:50pm

Mr. Flür, why did you go away onto the concert?

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Feb 13, 2013 9:31pm

In reply to activer:

as you've read in my report, I liked the 3D projections all too much, was kind of paralyzed like most others in the audience...

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Mar 5, 2013 5:20pm

Well, that's no surprise. Indeed, perhaps Ralf acoknowledges all this by the fact that recent gigs are in Museums.

I saw Kraftwerk at the Ritz all those years ago, and then again in the early 2000s, and there was a clear difference. If that "arrow" has pointed even further since the departure of Florian, well a museum is the right place. Actually, they don't even need humans to perform and, should everyone in Kraftwerk quit, anyone who goes will still say that saw "Kraftwerk".

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Mar 6, 2013 4:09pm

Actually I quite like Wolf's appreciation, he is still affectionate of the past, and he knows deep down that he is persona non grata with Ralf. The mystique is what keeps Kraftwerk going, and possibly the vain hope that they may produce another album. But as someone more eloquent than me put in earlier, Kraftwerk is/was Ralf, Florian, Karl and Wolfgang. It's not that their newer stuff ain't good, it's just that it was BETTER with the classic "fab four" line up. Lets face it - long gone is the elegance! But I still remain a fan.........

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May 26, 2013 2:05pm

In reply to Wolfgang Flür:

Dear Wolfgang Flür,
I sincerely hope your Yamo album (Eloquence) is going to be released eventually... I've heard snippets on your then-MySpace page and have collected tracks on the Homme Beige, Maki Nomiya, Giorgio Li Calzi etc. albums... but please release the originals as an album! I know Bureau B would be interested...

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Nov 24, 2013 1:51pm

I don't know what you thought you were watching, but I was at exactly the same concert you claimed to be at, and from where I was standing (right at the front between Ralf and Henning), the band appeared to be having great fun throughout the show.

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Jan 17, 2014 6:39pm

Hmm, I still love Kraftwerk despite seeing that time has not spared them. For me, a huge chunk of my earliest and profoundest musical experiences were tied in with Kraftwerk's albums of the mid 70s to early 80s. It's sad for me to see that Kraftwerk have become just Ralf with temps from an agency. It's a bit like looking at the line up of The Fall. For me, I can't feeling from the review that it might still be hard for Wolfgang to separate his own feelings of what Kraftwerk were from what they have become. Wolfgang Fluer reviewing them is very interesting though, cutting both ways: He knew the group totally when they were (arguably) at their greatest. It's a great, very telling and poignant review the more I think about. I get the feeling he still loves the group, and there's a sense of sadness there which I can't help identifying with.

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