Kraftwerk to perform its work at retrospective at New York's MOMA
It's been said that what the Beatles are to rock music, Kraftwerk is to electronic dance music: the group that changed everything that came after it. Now, the German robotic quartet -- or at least some version of it -- will perform its eight classic albums at New York's Museum of Modern Art in April.
Best known for its defining album "Trans-Europe Express," which helped usher in the hip-hop era as well as the techno era, Kraftwerk for the last 42 years has pushed music made on computer into new realms. From the gentle ode to cosmopolitan beauty of "Neon Lights," the wry comment on beauty "The Model," the epic 20-minute journey of "Autobahn" and the genius love song to a bicycle race, "Tour de France," the group's breadth is astounding.
Founded in Düsseldorf, Germany, by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, the band released two visionary records before breaking out with "Autobahn" in 1974. Alas, the group has long ignored those masterpieces -- "Kraftwerk" and "Kraftwerk 2" -- and won't be performing them. (Though there is a rumor that those two records, along with the "Ralf and Florian" album from 1975, will finally see reissue as a box set after years of mediocre bootleg recordings tarnished the records' legacies.)
In fact, one of the ironies of the Kraftwerk project is that of the robotic personas who perform onstage, only one original member, Hütter, remains. Schneider left the group a few years ago, and other important early players such as Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother, who left to form Neu!, haven't been with them in years. But given the ways in which Kraftwerk has long attempted to remove the appearance of human involvement in its music, the fact that the majority of the band has little connection to the music it originally created seems appropriate, and part of its art.
MOMA's Kraftwerk retrospective, called, simply, "Kraftwerk -- Retrospective 12345678," will feature one-per-evening performances of each of the group's full-length albums, starting with "Autobahn" on April 10 and continuing through "Radio-Activity" (1975), "Trans-Europe Express" (1977), "The Man-Machine" (1978), "Computer World" (1981), "Techno Pop" (1986), "The Mix" (1991) and concluding on April 17 with "Tour de France" (2003).
Tickets to all performances are $25, and go on sale Feb. 22 at noon Eastern time at MoMAKraftwerkTickets.showclix.com
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Kraftwerk performs at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2008. Credit: Peter Boettcher.