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Live review: Kraftwerk, Vivid
Vivid Live | Sydney Opera House
May 26, 2013

They say in order to truly understand the English language you must first understand Latin. The same can be said about electronic music. In order to truly understand EDM, you’ve got to go back to where it all started and that’s with German masters Kraftwerk.

The indisputable pioneers of electronic music took up residency in the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House last week as part of Vivid Live, unleashing, in glorious 3-D, their ridiculously influential back-catalogue in eight performances over four nights. Eight years in the making, The Catalogue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 showcases the group’s multiple decade spanning career from 1974’s Autobahn to their latest (but by no means recent) offering Tour de France from 2003 with accompanying 3-D visuals, some remastered from original music videos, others created just for the show.

We chose to cover the sixth instalment, centred on 1986’s Techno Pop - also known as Electric Café. Bespectacled in our white cardboard 3-D glasses the house lights went down and the synths and came on with album closer Electric Café kicking things off. Testament to their timelessness, Ralf Hütter speaking about political art, synthetic images and the atomic age through that vocoder sounds just as sinister and unnerving today as it must have back in ’86. And current! Want to know where Daft Punk’s fascination with robots comes from? It’s undoubtedly these guys. And that vocoder being used in almost every party-pop track on the radio today? Kraftwerk were among the first bands to use them. Keeping with side two of the record, Electric Café was followed up with some makes-you-want-to-reach-out-and-touch-it visuals during The Telephone Call and the moody, string-heavy Sex Object.

But they didn’t just stick to tracks from Techno Pop. The serious lack of Autobahn t-shirt stock at the merch stand suddenly made a lot of sense once you got to hear the massive crowd reaction at the sound of a VW Beetle roaring to life and the accompanying retro animated visual, complete with Porsches and Mercs, meant we all got take a drive down the autobahn. The Robots, from 1978’s The Man-Machine, Radioactivity and The Model, the group’s only #1 single, also received big responses from the mixed crowd of middle-aged couples, techno punks and kids who’d tagged along with mum or dad.

Type the name of any Kraftwerk track from 1974 onward into your YouTube search bar and you’ll likely find a reasonably high quality recording of said track being played at a Catalogue show at MoMa in New York, The Tate Modern in London or in the group's hometown of Dusseldorf in Germany. But it’s just not the same as being there! The sound in the Joan Sutherland Theatre on Sunday night was immense and the 3-D effects were far better than any big-budget Hollywood blockbuster 3-D feature film. If you were unlucky enough to miss out, commiserations - this was one truly amazing show this country is not likely to see again.

- Amelia Parrott

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