Everything and everyone we saw when Kraftwerk landed in Orlando
By Jim Leatherman and Matthew Moyer
German electronic-music legends Kraftwerk landed — via a flying saucer, suggested their 3-D backing projections — in Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center to play before a crowd of rabid heads (including David Sanborn and Jennifer Huber — Mr. and Mrs. Kraftwerk — in full regalia), both old and young on Wednesday night. The quartet, led by singer/keyboardist Ralf Hütter, donned Tron-esque bodysuits and remained largely stoic and still (except to make minor adjustments to electronics hidden in LED daises) throughout their set, but the music they created was vibrant and kinetic. Old favorites like "The Man-Machine," "The Model," "Tour de France," "Pocket Calculator" and "Trans-Europe Express" sounded somehow timeless as classical music and absolutely new all at once ( a paradox, but trust us).
Inveterate tinkerers going back to their start in 1969, the band restlessly tweaked old favorites, kitting them out with gigantic drums, squiggly detours and industrial flourishes for a (more) modern age. And despite a severe reputation, Kraftwerk's sense of playfulness really shone through on this night, whether in incorporating Lake Eola and a map of Florida into their projections, 3-D musical notes flying out of a car stereo straight at the audience, taking over the house lights to add immersive flashes, or bringing out the iconic, red-and-black attired Kraftwerk dummies to "play" a song all on their own. And as the foursome left the stage one by one after the physical body-music of "Music Non Stop" — with Hütter the last to go after a few last keyboard lines — the audience roared in approval. Machines? No, this was all pumping blood, sweat and vibrant heart. - Matthew Moyer