Recap: Kraftwerk at MoMA

Tickets for Kraftwerk’s eight-night retrospective sold out almost as soon as they were announced. Why wouldn’t they? Eight nights, eight albums, one a night: a chronological showcase of their entire electronic period. I knew about it, but entertained no dreams of attending. I wasn’t fast enough; besides, I was broke. But a friend won a pair of tickets to last night’s show; when he offered me one, I couldn’t refuse. That would be beyond rude. It would be insane.

We arrived early at the Marron Atrium of the Museum of Modern Art, normally home to travelling exhibits. Each concertgoer received a seven-inch by seven-inch program providing a brief biography of Kraftwerk and explaining their influence. (Suffice it to say that contemporary music owes them a lot.) My companion and I also each got a pair of 3-D glasses in a sleeve specific to that night’s performance: 1977’s Trans-Europe Express. As crowds filtered in, we surveyed the merchandise table, where one could buy limited CD box sets and coffee table books on the group’s history. Around me I heard the clipped sounds of German from both event staff (the residency is sponsored by Volkswagen) and from guests. It felt … comforting. This was the right place to see them.

At precisely 8:30 PM, the lights dimmed as a series of booms emanated from the speakers. Black and white pixilated figures danced on the screen hung before the stage. I slipped the 3-D glasses over my own and shut up. Suddenly, a Vocoder-distorted voice spilt the air: a railroad station departure announcement. The curtain dropped. Kraftwerk launched into “Trans-Europe Express.” The crowd erupted into cheers.

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