Live Review: Kraftwerk - 3D North America Tour 2022 - Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom - Chicago - Thurs 6/2/22
Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk return to North America for their immersive 3D concerts with a stop at the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.
Bringing together their sophisticated electronic music with performance art is quite the accomplishment, considering how easily this whole thing could go sideways without the right equipment, the right budget, the right people to man the controls (both onstage performance wise, and also at front of house as well).
We all know that Kraftwerk's music speaks for itself, and can sustain longevity without added fanfare.
But what if you think big, as obviously sole survivor Ralf Hutter of Kraftwerk must've done?
Well the visuals, 3D or otherwise should overwhelm, so that's why you have a white backdrop that's gargantuan, that can easily absorb the bright and colorful hues from the 3D projectors up in the balcony at the back of the house.
So let me tell you now that this works on many levels, from the first song- "Numbers / Computer World / Computer World 2", to their last song- "Non Stop / Boom Boom Tschak / Music Non Stop".
Even their display on center stage, four clean podium standing synthesizers and samples, from right to left, all even, and centered, with the giant white backdrop directly behind.
Simplicity in design, production wise, with no fuss and clutter.
And the audio- the PA was top notch, immersing you in their mechanical world, specifically with musical nuggets such as "The Man- Machine",
"It's More Fun to Compute / Home Computer", let alone more popular electronic tidbits such as the innocent "Autobahn", and "Trans- Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Azbug".
These songs may come off simple, but like any musical genre, simple is not as easy as it sounds to create songwriting wise, and hold you captivated, and have you hum specific identifiable refrains on repeat- you know, like the good ear worms, not the nauseating ear worms.
Kraftwerk were to originally bring this sophisticated production to our shores back in 2020, but like most shows in the books at the time - derailed by the pandemic reared its ugly head, coinciding with the group's 50 year anniversary.
So when you wait, and hunker down during Covid 19, you know full well that you're gonna come out the other end, somewhat unscathed, and enjoy the finer things when given the chance- such as witnessing Kraftwerk perform live and in person yet again.
Having seen many incarnations of Kraftwerk over the years, even now with one soul survivor remaining, that being lead singer and keyboardist Ralf Hutter- have to say how much I enjoy how Ralf pivots accordingly to the times we are in, modifying songs to fit a mood, whether it be "Autobahn" of course, or even the conscientious "Geiger Counter / Radioactivity", with visuals of names such as Chernobyl and Fukushima (amongst others) keeping you immersed in such disasters, and the consequences that they bring.
It's refreshing to see their music changing to the times, without being outright reconstructions, and the visuals related like minimalistic filmstrips of current thought and meaning brought on by fresh and new technology.
That's the beauty with bands such as Kraftwerk- you don't have to be dated, or stuck in a rut to perform- you obviously have technology on your side, and you either do your best to adapt, or whither and die in the vines.
So throughout their set, it's a constant sonic push and pull, done with subtlety in thought- not meant to bash you over the head with shocks to the system, but the exact opposite- the trance inducing music speaks for itself, and immerses you on a level to embrace the visuals, without giving much thought to the four men standing behind their synthesizer pedestals.
And when you think about it- how keen in observation from the men in Kraftwerk to immerse themselves in the production, the whole concept being as one.
It's shows like these that leave an indelible mark in your head- groundbreaking yet again, witnessing guys in their seventies who still come off as anything but.
So yes- their setlist, their production, their visuals, the setting at the majestic interior of the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago- all of it- a total work of art.
For the remaining dates- heading a bit east, then west, ending their tour in early July in Vancouver - a definite must see.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago