Kraftwerk at Riviera Theatre, Chicago, 3/27/2014
Ja, ja, ja, mach schnell mit der art things, huh? I must get back to Dancecentrum in Stuttgart in time to see Kraftwerk.
Baron von Wortzenberger (that quote's from a Simpsons episode, in case you didn't know) had it easy. For us American Kraftwerk fans, getting to the legendary German electronica group's serially infrequent shows can be a chore, especially for those of us in the South. The band has hit the States a handful of times in the last decade, but only ventured below the Mason-Dixon line once (to Miami in 2011) and never closer to Houston than Denver (in 2008). In fact, I don't know if they've ever played a gig in H-Town.
Lead singer/keyboardist Ralf Hütter is the sole remaining founding member of the group, and he's pushing 70, so when I heard they were playing the Riviera in Chicago, I said, "Fuck it," sold a bunch of plasma, and bought tickets for the show. And because I love you people so very much, I decided to review the show for Rocks Off.
We'll skip a lengthy intro. If you're not familiar with Kraftwerk, well, sorry about that. For while I freely admit the sound may not be everyone's cup of tea, their influence simply can't be denied. Everything from hip-hop to EDM, from Bowie to Daft Punk, owes much to that Dusseldorf sound.
Late March is technically spring in Chicago, not that you'd notice this time around. On the day of the show, I was treated to rain, 25-mph gusts off Lake Michigan, and snow on the ground. In other words, perfect weather for some cold, impersonal Krautrock.
The Riviera is on the city's north side (about two miles north of Wrigley Field), and holds roughly 2,500 people. For local comparison, think the old Maceba Theater without seats, or the House of Blues without the corporate miasma lingering over everything. Thursday's show sold out within hours, and it was a fairly tight squeeze inside, though not so much you couldn't access one of the venue's many bars.
If you wanted to, that is. Aside from the aroma of marijuana as someone sparked up at the beginning of the show, the Rivera's crowd was one of the least inebriated I'd seen at a concert in years, with bartenders standing idle for much of the show. Maybe that's owing to the nature of Kraftwerk's "Nerdlinger" fanbase, or maybe we're all just too damn old.
Review continues on the next page.