Kraftwerk or Artwork?

Jared Schiller
Dec 12, 2012 11:31AM

I spent most of this morning with one finger on redial and one on refresh, in the seemingly futile attempt to secure myself tickets to see Kraftwerk at Tate Modern. Right now, I've decided to give up, and judging by my Twitter and Facebook feeds I'm not alone in my frustration.

It's no surprise that this is a hot ticket: electronic music pioneers paired with the industrial grandeur of the Turbine Hall is an irresistible combination. But as my phone clocked up 200, 300, 400 call attempts, and the Tate's website served up the umpteenth iteration of its "we're screwed" error message, I began to wonder whether it was all worth it. 

Certainly the ticket price, at £60, is steep compared to the charge for their previous outing at MoMA. The cost would be understandable if live Kraftwerk gigs were rare. On the contrary, despite their inaccessible veneer, they pop up on festival bills pretty regularly. I've seen them play twice in the last few years with very little trouble.

Neither of those times were at an art gallery though, and that's where a lot of my anxiety now lies. I've been concerned by Kraftwerk's recent tendency to define themselves as artists, selling ropey cover art, providing a flimsy 'project' for an art magazine... and doing concerts in galleries. Where's the joy in that?

When I saw them at the Brixton Academy a few years ago they were amazing: it was an energetic, exhilarating performance that did everything a good pop concert should do, which is basically make you dance. Only a few intense beard-strokers insisted on standing stock-still and tutting if you accidentally caused them to spill a drop of their pint - that didn't put my friends and I off, though - we'd gone to see a band, not Art.  

So what will the concerts at Tate Modern be like? More beard-strokers,  I imagine. Less dancing, perhaps. And the turbine hall's acoustics aren't much cop either. But whether they are framed as art or not, Kraftwerk always put on a good show. So if you were lucky enough to get tickets, promise me you'll make the most of it.

Jared Schiller