After a sell-out (and computer crashing) run at the Tate Modern, Kraftwerk brings its catalogue retrospective to Tokyo: 8 consecutive gigs at the intimate Akasaka Blitz.
It’s raining heavily in Tokyo. Outside a venue in one of the city’s central business districts, lines of people are waiting patiently, colourful umbrellas hoisted in the air. An almost fittingly minimalistic hand-drawn sign is taped to the door: KRAFTWERK. STARTS 5PM.
Inside, you are immediately struck by the intimacy of the venue. You can casually walk to the front and sit on the floor mere metres from the stage. There’s no pre-show background music and a tiny merch stall. This place is small, and the silence and darkness only adds to the excitement. Soon enough, the curtain drops and four men, pushing 60 and above, stand robotically on stage. Dressed in one-piece bodysuits behind synths encased in neon boxes, Kraftwerk has landed in Tokyo.
They open with the album’s closing track, before journeying through the pulsating Spacelab and The Model. The 3D imagery is a stroke of genius – an immersive journey through Kraftwerk’s obsessions with trains, electric lighting and bicycle rides. Lift the specs off your head and you are taken back to earth with a bump, and indeed a regular gig. Flip them down and you are transported back to the future, flying alongside roving satellites and hurtling down the autobahn in an off-white VW Beetle.
Musically, it’s all still relevant. The beats are crisp and some tracks are verging on proper dancefloor material. Radioactivity was sung in Japanese which was a nice touch, but the crowd cheering when Hiroshima and Fukushima appeared on the visuals was a bit odd. Other tracks such as Tour De France, Trans Europe Express and Autobahn rounded off the set nicely – but at two hours long, some might argue it was almost too much of a good thing. Then again… when are you likely to see this motley crue again?
All in all, a blast from the futuristic past and truly a show to remember.