Kraftwerk : Live at The Myth : Minneapolis, MN

The mighty Kraftwerk descended upon the Twin Cities Saturday evening for the first stop of their heroic four date U.S. tour. Reportedly, the band was hoping to perform at First Avenue, but a scheduling conflict forced them to The Myth, a converted sneaker superstore in far-flung Maplewood that typically hosts hip-hop and nu-metal shows. On Saturday, the venue still smelled vaguely of the stale beer and the cougars who threw themselves at Bret Michaels during his Rock of Love 2 tour just a few nights earlier; however, more shocking was the club’s Guantanamo-worthy security detail and the bemused looks they exchanged while padding down a few thousand hipsters, shut-ins and well-fed representatives of the tech industries, most of whom needed GoogleMaps just to find Maplewood.

The band (mysteriously sans-Florian) took the stage at exactly 8PM, just as was printed on the tickets! Is any band but Kraftwerk capable of accomplishing something so avant-garde? Furthermore, Ralf took his final bow, barked something at us in German and exited stage left at exactly 9:40PM; 100 minutes from soup to nuts. That, my friends, is German precision exemplified. It’s amazing how tight a show can be once instrument tuning and stage banter are removed from the equation.

The show was classic Kraftwerk; equal parts iconic and ironic, and the setlist was hit heavy, as to not disturb the precision of the experience. Visually, I just can’t do it justice. Try this: after lunch, follow the most introverted male IS/network/developer guy in your office back to his desk and spy on him for five minutes while he works. Now visualize him in a shiny, slim-cut suit with his three best (and most boring) friends, all wearing the exact same suit. Imagine 100 minutes of that with an Atari 2600 and a Speak & Spell providing background music, as well as a massive projection screen displaying endless low-resolution vector graphics, animated pharmaceuticals and Tour de France newsreels. I believe wunderbar is the only appropriate word.

Boing Boom Tschak, Radioactivity and Tour de France were among the highlights, largely due to the fact that the music’s pulse was so prominent that even the most rhythmically challenged audience member (likely, me) was able to find the beat. But the loudest applause of the evening was reserved for the first encore, when the band was replaced by four animatrons who performed The Robots with slightly more feeling than their human counterparts could conjure. Not to be outdone, the band returned to the stage for a second encore clothed in form-fitting fiber-optic trimmed costumes that appeared to have been purchased at garage sale somewhere in Clu and bid the collective final adieu with a hygienic version of Music Non-Stop.

A magical evening, best captured by my friend Matt, who, during the applause following The Robots, turned to me and suggested, “It feels kind of weird to be applauding robots.”

Does it, Matt? Does it really?

Kraftwerk – Radioactivity (live)

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