On a weekend when some of the world’s top electronic artists were playing at the Forbidden Fruit festival in Kilmainham, the likes of Orbital, Aphex Twin and Hot Chip should all have been doffing their baseball caps to the act performing across Dublin at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.
Kraftwerk are the grandaddy of them all. Ralf Hütter and his various collaborators were producing sounds on Minimoogs and other primitive synthesisers back in the early 1970s, and really deserve their place in the pantheon of the most influential groups in popular music.
So are the four middle-aged Germans standing on stage a heritage act? No chance. Any questions about relevance were settled by the second track, ‘Computer World’, with its lines about how the CIA “control the data”. You can just imagine Edward Snowden humming along.
From there, the 2,100 people who snapped up the tickets to the first of two gigs in the capital were largely treated to a greatest hits set. ‘Computer Love’ — arguably their finest track — was given the four-to-the-floor treatment from the 1991 remix album; while their international No 1 hit, The Model, remained largely faithful to the original, with Hütter deadpanning those familiar lyrics.
The 70-year-old’s vocals added to the ‘live’ feel of a concert that would probably have been easier to deliver as a pre-recorded offering.
Visually, it was also a treat, as might be expected from a gig where you’re given 3-D glasses on the way in. They were never going to shout ‘We love you Ireland!’, but they made a connection when a view of Earth from space zoomed in on Dublin, with the Evoluon space-ship even taking a trip along the Liffey.
At times, the energy in the room did flag, but ‘The Robots’ came to the rescue just in time, with the men on stage replaced by automated versions of themselves. Suddenly we were being entertained by younger-looking and more lively machines. A perfect Kraftwerk moment.