Friday, July 03, 2009

Reich To Werk

Last night I went to the opening event of this year's Manchester International Festival, a double bill of Bang On A Can performing a new Steve Reich composition and Kraftwerk giving the most entertaining display by four static Germans I've seen since Bayern's 82 European Cup Final defence.

A hot and sticky evening in a poorly ventilated velodrome was kicked off with Reich's 20-minute piece "2x5" which, as you'd expect from a classical composer trying to write rock music, sounded like a rock band trying to play classical. A logjam of a prog jam if ever there was one, which failed to impress me. Still, spirits were briefly lifted during the interval by the sight of the never underdressed Sebastian Horsley in a cream daysuit.

Kraftwerk's set was split into three sections. First they played the better known material such as "Man-Machine," "The Model" and "Autobahn" in front of their standard video backdrop and peaked (Col De Beswick?) with "Tour De France" as four members of Team GB pedalled in formation round the Velodrome track between the fans in the seats and the band on stage. The cyclists probably got the biggest cheers of the night and as exciting as it looked, it was a little predictable. I'd have been much more impressed if they'd sent four Herbies hurtling round the track during "Autobahn" but I'm guessing there might have been safety issues preventing this from being possible.

The midsection, which allowed Ralf and the boys a chance to catch their breath after their arduous button pushing, saw them replaced for "The Robots" by four robots who were literally more animated than the real thing (though not The Real Thing due to a deficiency in the leg department).

Kraftwerk returned in person for the last section in their matrix-green glow-in-the-dark suits to play "Computerworld," "Radioactivity" and "Vitamin" in front of a screen projecting 3-D graphics for which the audience had been given the appropriate (and event specific) glasses on entry to the auditorium. They finished the magnificent spectacle (ahem) with their traditional walk-off song, "Music Non Stop."

I can't see how the festival can top this unless they can convince Lou Reed to do his show on a pogo-stick whilst Laurie Anderson rides laserbeams to Leeds.


cakes said...

I was on the other side of the "room" from Mart and can wholeheartedly endorse his comments. Re "Autobahn", my companion did suggest that an icing on the cake moment to top the cyclists would have been the 8.20 to Guide Bridge steaming through the auditorium during "Trans-Europe Express". My
3d glasses steamed up - now there's a title for an autobiography - such was the heat. The Reich thing backfired because of the sound bouncing off the walls; Kraftwerk werked for precisely the same reason. If you're on the Isle of Wight between 11th and 13th September, you could do a lot worse than attend the Bestival, where they among the headliners. It was a triumph, my friends, a triumph.

Will said...

That is all fair enuff.