[KRAFTWERK] Toronto concert

Joe Schepis schepis2 at optonline.net
Thu Apr 29 03:20:11 CEST 2004


Hello all,

[I posted this earlier in the week but it never showed up. This is my first
post, but I have
been on the xmission list since 1996.]

I went to Toronto this weekend to see Kraftwerk, and wanted to add to the
collection of concert observations.

First, I should say I live just north of New York City, so for me Toronto
represented about a nine hour drive in each direction, but I decided to put
sanity aside and try to see them anyway. I couldn't find reasonably priced
Montreal tickets, so I bought one for Toronto. The distances were
comparable. "You're so close, but far away."

My drive to Toronto was uneventful. It was my first time in Canada. It's
funny, there have been exactly two times that I have left the USA, and both
of those times there was a Kraftwerk concert at the far end. (The other was
a trip to London for Tribal Gathering in 1997). Finding the Ricoh Colisum
was a little tricky, and I was surprised that no one I asked ever heard of
it.

The venue was just below the CN Tower, a tall needle type structure which is
the pinnacle of the Toronto skyline. I drove past this imposing, technical
looking structure just as Radio Stars (from Radioactivity) was playing in
the car. It was quite eerie. The sounds seemed to come from the tower.

I was disappointed there was no large Kraftwerk marquee or any
acknowledgement of the event outside the building. Just a sign with an arrow
indicating "Enter here for Today's Event" I walked around to see if I could
see further evidence of Kling Klang Produkt ouside the venue, such as a tour
bus, a truck, or a generator such as that which accompanied their 1998 USA
concerts. There was nothing to be found. There was a police car parked
outside the staff entrance. I started to head back to the front doors.

I had no intentions to go backstage or attempt a brush with my long time
favorite musical workers. Indeed today I had promised myself I was going to
just enjoy the show from a seat (not even standing up front) and then leave
at the end like all the normal concertgoers. This was a contrast to my
intense curiosity at the 1998 New York concert, where waiting a few hours by
the stage door at least led me to see Florian and get Fritz's autograph on
my ticket stub. So imagine how much fate tempted me when I walked past a
rusty metal door propped open slightly by a brick.

With great hesitation I decided to pop inside and see what could be seen. I
was now standing in a large dim room somewhere behind the stage. It was
filled with disassembled stadium seats and other debris. However taped up to
some of the walls were little colored cards with Kraftwerk font computer
print and arrows, such as Wardrobe this way, Catering this way, Stage this
way. They seemed to be color coded. I thought about taking one but they were
taped down pretty well and I didn't want to make noise.

It was quiet, but I heard voices and saw some crew members at the end of the
hallway. I thought they saw me, but they took no notice for some reason. It
may have been because I was dressed entirely in black. My heart pounded as I
explored just a bit further. Ahead was the back of the stage and lots of
road cases.

I wanted to explore but I didn't know what I was hoping to see. I wouldn't
expect Ralf or Florian to look upon my visit very favorably. I was really
beginning to fear getting caught, and the thought of getting arrested and
missing the concert after my long journey was too much. I'm sorry to tell
you I completely wimped out at this point and went back outside. I would
have to be content with my private two minute self tour of the backstage
area.

I was back on line in the front, and the doors opened about 7:20, 20 minutes
late. We were frisked upon entry but I am sure I could have concealed my
camera somewhere discreetly on my person had I brought it. There were
clearly dozens of others who did bring cameras in. I was looking to buy some
memorabilia, but there were only a few t-shirts for sale ($30 Canadian) and
no program booklet. I was disappointed.

I got to my seat. It was off to the right side, but at a good height and not
very far away considering the size of the arena. The crowd was mostly male,
perhaps about 10 percent female. There was one man in his 30s who brought
his son and daughter, aged around 9-12. As the concert went on I kept
thinking about what these youngsters must have been thinking of the show. I
was probably one of the older audience members (I am 41). I didn't see
anyone who looked older than I am.

Around 8:20 the "melting tones" began over the PA and everyone rushed in
from the concession area. As the lights went out the red outline motif from
The Man Machine appeared on the curtains to wild applause. The curtains
opened and so began another masterful performance of the Kraftwerk 2004
Tour. I spotted some empty seats in the front row of my section and moved
down to occupy one. Score one free seat upgrade. There were easily a few
hundred empty seats.

We all have heard the set list and detailed descriptions of the audio and
visual experiences that were to unfold, so I will just say "ditto" to all
that's been said. It seems the performance I saw matched the descriptions of
previous ones very closely. The sound was loud, but not too bad from my
vantage point. It sounded rather good, with thudering bass drum and
shimmering high end. There were no problems or mistakes during the show that
I could detect.

For me, the highlights of the evening were those that harkened back to the
older songs and images, such as the red shadow motif from 1978, and
especially the redition of Neon Lights. I was totally consumed with the
authenticity they applied to their performance of this tune. Maybe Kling
Klang sat in a dark studio somewhere in Dusseldorf, but all the musical
goodness of that track was faithfully reproduced from the Sony Vaios. As
Ralf concluded the song's final synth solo, I cheered with appreciation not
only for their excellent rendition of the song, but for the feat of
capturing all their sound in such a streamlined equipment lineup. There was
nothing substandard about their sound. It was as warm and expressive as I
have ever heard.

I was also impressed by the drum treatments given to the old songs such as
Autobahn and The Model. Each had just the right balance of punch and top end
sizzle. These songs still sound great today. Of the new songs, Vitamin was
great, with the new video to go with it, and so was Aerodynamik. In
Elektrokardiogramm, I noticed Ralf was playing a new chord progression which
was slightly different and better than on the version they released on TDFS.
I can't recall exactly what was different, but it really improved the song.
I look forward to hearing some of the recordings of this week's concerts if
any surface. Then I can get a better handle on what has changed.

The first half of Radioactivity was performed close to the original style
from 1975 for the first verse before breaking into the dance treatment they
gave it for The Mix. It was fabulous to hear it played in the older way for
a change.

The audience seemed frozen in amazement as the concert progressed. Very few
heads were bopping, and only one or two on the floor were dancing. That
changed during the Numbers/Computer World encore. By this point, the
audience was reacting more to the irresistable beats. Even some of the
security guards were dancing by then. Pocket Calculator was well received. I
miss the days when they played that song at the front of the stage and let
the audience members press some of the special keys. During The Robots,
there was a distinct look of amazement on nearly every face as they watched
the four robotic performers on stage. There was lots of energy by the final
encore, and the wireframe suits were well received.

In general, it was every bit as enjoyable as I expected. As the curtain
closed the lights came up, and everyone began to leave. It was 10:45. I
didn't listen to any music in the car on the way back to my hotel, because I
didn't want to disturb the audio impressions I had just been supplied with.

I went right to bed to rest up for the long car ride home the next morning.
It was neat to think about being in the same city as Kraftwerk for at least
several more hours. This concluded my fourth Kraftwerk concert (1981 NYC,
1997 Tribal, 1998 NYC being the first 3). If Kraftwerk are ever playing
within nine hours of me, I would see them again in an instant.

I look forward to hear more stories from this tour. Thanks for reading.

Joe Schepis



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