Kraftwerk can be rightfully considered the “fathers
of all electronic musics” (perhaps together with Tangerine Dreams…) for
more than 40 years now …
The group of German origin, formed in 1970 in Dusseldorf , was already a
little known in certain environments, but these strange musicians that
they did move like robots and “emitting” strange sounds were the
forerunners of a multitude of musical genres. It is not a case that the
MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art) in New York is dedicating to them the first
“living exhibition” of their history …
In 1976 I was living in London and, knowing them, I would not miss their
performance of di “Authoban” and “Trans Europe Express” at the legendary
Roundhouse. Certainly a musical myth.
The following is an excerpt from an interesting research about the use
of backslide projection during their concerts from Andréas, a
friend from Goteborg, Sweden. The audience feelings during their
concerts are well described here.
After the massive tour of 1975 Kraftwerk just did a
few concerts in 1976. There is only about 20 known concerts from 1976
and most of them were performed in France, The Neatherlands and the UK.
The slides on these concerts were projected on a backdrop behind the
band. Unlike the later tours, these were static slide images and not
In an interview in the american magazin Synapse from 1976 Ralf say:
”We´ve worked three or four years with Emil Schult. He is a graduate of
the Düsseldorf Art Acadamy. We work together on the composition of
lyrics, poetry, sound poetry, and also visually. He does album covers
and things we discuss together and work at together, but he´s the one
who does this actually. And also, projection of pictures. It´s not a
light show but it´s rather static… sound paintings, we call them sound
When did Kraftwerk start using slides?
There are many indications Kraftwerk started using slide projections
during the tour of 1975. It seems however that they just used it on some
concerts and that it was used more frequently on the later European part
of the tour than it was in the US. For example in the german magazine
Bravo nr 24, 1975 there is a text about the concert in the Beacon
Theatre in New York on the 5th of April the same year and it doesn't
mention anything about projected images but it do say:
"... Kraftwerk dont care when it comes to stage effects. The music is
exclusivly in the center." - my own translation
And Todd Tolces review in Melody Maker of the concert in Berkeley,
California on the 11th of May 1975 doesn't mention any slides either but
"Using only flourescent and black lights at their feet and their own
names lit in neon in front of them to light the stage, the Kraftwerk
regalia in general was cold, even to the point of being perverse."
In an interview made by Karl Dallas in Melody Maker 27 sept 1975 he
describe one of Kraftwerks first British concerts like this:
"Like both Tangerine Dream and Faust, Kraftwerk begin their concerts in
semi-darkness. But as they play, a series of static messages are flashed
at the audience. The names of the four members of the band are flashed
up in neon in front of each of them: Rolf (through out the whole
interview Ralf is called Rolf) at the left on keyboard, Wolgang and Karl
in the middle on electronic drums... ...and, on the right, Florian, on a
sort of electronic woodwind, driven by a machine which makes a gentle,
rather melancholy continous sigh that is audible between numbers.
A slide is focused on a slightly billowing backdrop.
A semi-circular railing of flourescent lights comes on from time to
time, sometimes white and harsh, sometimes red and warm, always
backlighting the four figures crouched over their instruments, hardly
I asked if they hadn´t thought of using less static images, movies
perhaps, or video.
"We only use the visuals as a framework" said Florian. "Its like the
movie stills you see outside a cinema. When you see the movie you get
the whole idea. We want merely to give clues to the audience and leave
space in their minds for their own ideas of what the music is saying."
In this quote there are proofs that Kraftywerk at least used one slide
during this concert in september 1975 in the Uk. But since the texts is
somewhat vague you could also read it as if they showed different static
slides during the concert. So maybe Kraftwerk started using the slides
first when they came back to Europe after the American tour or perhaps
even on some of the concerts on the American tour.
PHOTO IS THE ONLY LIVE PHOTAGE FROM THE CONCERTS OF 1975-76 KRAFTWERK
HAS EVER RELEASED OFFICIALY. (and in this respect my photos are almost
unique, note of photos author)
The Setlist in 1976
The songs played during the 1976 concerts propably varied alot.There are
only three known recorded concert. One is just a part of a concert
recorded by French Radio in Paris on the 28th of february at "l'Olympia"
where they played:
Faust intro - kometenmelodie 1 - kometenmelodie 2 - Tongebirge -
Tanzmusik - ruckzuck
One is a recording from the venue Paradiso in Amsterdam on the 11th of
September where the setlist looked like this:
Heute abend...- europe endless - faust intro - kometenmelodie 1 & 2 -
radioactivity - airwaves - the voice of energy - radio Stars - die sonne,
der mond, die sterne - ohm sweet ohm - trans europe express - tongebirge
And the last is a recording from the Roundhouse (this one, note of
photos author) in London on the 10th of October where the setlist looked
kometenmelodie 2 - europe endless - geiger counter - radioactivity -
airwaves - the voice of energy - radio stars - die sonne, der mond, die
sterne - ohm sweet ohm - trans europe express - tongebirge - autobahn
(not recorded; Showroom Dummies played as encore)
The Outfits & Stage
On most of the photos from 1974-76 Ralf and Florian are wearing grey
suits and Flür and Bartos in black suits. But it doesnt seem to be a
rigid dresscode like the one they adapt later.
"They wear severe suits, white shirts, ties, the only concession to in
formality being the blazer and white jeans worn by Florian, which gave
him an atmosphere of Lords or Henley between the wars, rather than a
rock musician." - Karl Dallas, Melody Maker 27sept, 1975.
During some of the concerts during this time they used an electronic
percussion device triggered by body movements. This photo-electric
triggered instrument was operated by Wolfgang or Karl and looked like a
big metalframed cube.
This instrument is reported being used during the fall of 1976 for
example on the concert on The Roundhouse in London. "...they do offer
some innovation and creativity in performance - like using
photo-electric switches to control percussion sounds." - Dave Fudger,
Sounds 16 October 1976.
The neon-light name boxes were on display on all the concerts. The floor
level multicoloured strip light panels seems to have been used quite
often but not allways as seen on the photos from Enrico Pelos in London.
Here is the full research by Andréas Hagström for which I thank for the courtesy of publication.