Kraftwerk | PETER BOETTCHER PHOTOGRAPHY
How does a band with a reputation for icy and emotionless detachment maintain such ardor among fans for four decades? The precisely measured synthesizer tones of Kraftwerk may not get the blood boiling like a hot tango, but the influential German quartet is sure to engage a crowd of intensely focused “krautrock” enthusiasts at the Riviera.
The pioneering electro-pop group received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Academy in January, recognizing Karftwerk’s influence upon generations of popular musicmakers ranging from Depeche Mode and David Bowie to Daft Punk and Franz Ferdinand.
Typically appearing in matching attire behind four identically designed workstations, the players are silhouetted against a screen that displays low-resolution digital iconography and audio waveforms as well as cutting-edge visualization. The impact is hypnotic and dehumanizing. The deliberately repetitive pulses to songs like “We Are the Robots” trace clear links to dance music and club culture.
Kraftwerk’s use of vocoders in material including “Radioactivity” further gives the impression of a musical collaboration between a first-generation Cylon centurion and R2-D2. Oddly, updated inclusion of Eastern monk-styled chants fits perfectly.
The fact that the results are so full of intensity and life is a great paradox, and testament to the vision of founding member Ralf Hütter, who remains with the group. Hütter has named experimental German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and The Beach Boys among Kraftwerk’s enigmatic influences.
The band performs a chronological string of full-album shows this week in Los Angeles, beginning with 1974’s Minimoog showcase “Autobahn” and concluding with their 2003 comeback project “Tour de France.” In Chicago, Kraftwerk will perform a career-spanning set including tracks like 1981’s retro-futuristic “Computer World” alongside chart-topping 1986 dance track “Musique Non-Stop.” The concert will feature innovative 3D projection.
When the machines finally take over and recognize the need to placate their human captives with new amusements, the music defined by their computer programs may sound eerily similar to what Kraftwerk has created since 1970.
♦Kraftwerk, 8 p.m. Mar. 27, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N Racine, (773) 275-6800. Tickets $51 (ages 18+over); rivieratheatre.com.
SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/1qyj5GH