July 7 at Roskilde Festival, Orange Stage
To say that electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk are a band whose influence on modern music has been tremendous would be a gross understatement. The German quartet have inspired acts such as Blondie, Joy Division and Depeche Mode in a 40-plus year career that has seen them carve a name for themselves in the annals of electronic music. They had the honour and challenge of being the last act to grace the Orange Stage at Roskilde this year.
Kraftwerk stepped onto Orange for what would be an engaging two hours through some of their best known content. Cementing their unique form of musical artistry, their live show was aided by free 3D glasses that were worn by most of the 60,000 or so revellers who showed up for the festival's final big show in a scene that resembled a cult gathering of anonymous cyborgs gathered before the four stage silhouettes of the Kraftwerk quartet. The show began in a modest manner as a series of robotic tracks performed in the backdrop of a bewildering 3D show that added a creative interactive element to the performance.
As things progressed and the sky turned dark, Kraftwerk stepped up their game and delved deeper into their repertoire of driven, repetitive tunes, all the while backed by 3D visuals that contained numerous references to European culture and history, such as the Cold War conflict. A welcome break to the generally monotonic drone of beat sequences and synthesiser stabs came in the form of a lengthy performance of their ‘Tour de France’ track, which was flanked by excellent visuals that highlighted the cultural symbolism of the annual cycling event. Lighter, more ephemeral beat foundations ousted the heavy, structural patterns that punctuated the better part of the show. This was a short-lived occurrence, however, as the robotic, alienated structuralist beat patterns returned all too quickly. In fact, whilst the show did indeed play on the themes of human alienation through technology, it appeared that Kraftwerk themselves seemed too alienated from the audience during their performance.
A lack of footage of the musicians in action behind their instrument panels was partially to blame for what seemed to be an unfortunate lack of interaction between the artists of stage and the crowd. Similarly, Roskilde’s bizarre decision to choose Kraftwerk as their closing act must be queried. Having seen the likes of Coldplay and Björk do their bit in the past to leave Roskilde Festival attendees with an emotional overload of epic, memorable moments, It was something of a disappointment to leave the Orange Stage after a performance that left many in search of the essential elements expected of a closing act.