From The Nanny to the Zulu Nation, it seemed like the whole city was craving a cut of Kraftwerk over the electronic quartet’s eight night run at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. After every show sold out instantly, leaving thousands stranded, tickets began toppling the $500 mark on the secondary market. Keeping a close watch on Twitter would have told you just how easy it was to find a way into these Volkswagon-sponsored shows. I was shut out in the initial on-sale and wound up winning three contests to attend the nights of full album runs through “Trans-Europe Express”, “The Man-Machine”, and “The Mix”.
The band’s setlist remained practically unaltered for the last hour of each show, getting through the hits, but it was the first hour that showcased music played live exclusively in MoMA’s series. Playing “Trans-Europe Express” forced the band to confront a trio of tracks not normally performed live: “Europe Endless”, “Hall of Mirrors”, and “Showroom Dummies”. These, like everything they played, were accompanied by 3-D visuals put into action using the glasses handed out upon entering MoMA’s Marron Atrium. Whether it was plates of glass being punched out, with shards sent towards you on “Showroom Dummies”, or a spaceship straight out of “Tron 1” seemingly soaring over the crowd on “Spacelab”, the crowd “oohed” and “aahed” at the more impressive among the graphics. The four players remained tight and focused, keeping with the robotic aesthetic the band has played up since its inception. Still, this allowed for each member to express music-influenced movement (not quite dance) in their own subtle way. Only once were a couple wrong notes hit, proving that the Kraftwerk four are more man than machine, and were certainly playing live instruments.
This marriage of pop music to a home of pop art is one that has been happening more frequently in the city. The ongoing Divine Ricochet series will soon see Cold Cave and Zola Jesus both performing at the Guggenheim, and MoMA last year held shows from St. Vincent to Kanye West in their garden. This Kraftwerk series has been the most ambitious yet and it’s nice to see museums headed this way in terms of what can be done with their funding and bringing bands like this to spaces so fine-tuned to their style. Nowhere else would this kind of performance have been able to happen working as well as it did in MoMA. Performing eight consecutive nights in one city is a bold move for both artist and promoter, but all parties came through in an event that won’t soon be forgotten. The demand was high and the high bar set by hype was met. Not one Kraftwerk track went unplayed and not one showgoer went home unhappy.