(Short answer: no, they aren’t.)
So, the thing about Amsterdam’s Paradiso is, there are balconies. And the thing about being in a balcony above Kraftwerk is, their once-secret live rig for their 3D show is now fully exposed.
The next question: what’s happening?
I have been squinting at this live video for some time, and I’m not sure. Some things are obvious: definitely MK I Maschine drum machine controllers from Native Instruments, definitely a MIDI keyboard for the odd solo, fairly certain I also spot a Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL controller (encoders and faders and red lights) and the display for Steinberg’s Cubase which appears to hold backing tracks.
Someone is reading … well, something. It appears to be an iPad UI, maybe, pre-iOS 7. It involves text. Is it an email?
What’s happening musically and extra-musically here? I could say more, but I think it’s time to crowd-source CDM Nation’s incredible eagle eyes and superior technical knowledge. Let us know what you think (I’m also getting some feedback via social media), and perhaps we can arrive at a final conclusion.
See the images below. To me, the most interesting thing is that there’s an iOS-style app launch screen inside the display that previously had the text. That suggests maybe there’s some solution for seeing the iPad screen larger – possibly an AirPlay display or something like that. Or, that’s an iOS Simulator, and Kraftwerk are showing up all of us not by checking email during a live set, but by doing app development during a live set.
I hate to burst anyone’s Kraftwerk-hating bubble here, but I personally think it’s a set list or lyrics. Wait – scratch that. It might be more embarrassing to learn Kraftwerk can’t remember their own lyrics than it would be that they’re checking email while they play. (Seriously, guys, the words are “Tour de France, Tour de France.” You made it really easy on yourselves.)
Via FAZE in Germany, who complain about the ticket prices, etc. (Come on, what did you expect, a wailing drum solo? They’re Kraftwerk. I would assume I might pay 50€ to watch them check their email while standing up and dazzling me with a 3D show with a Volkswagen.)
“von sich selbst gelangweilt?” – they’re asking, essentially, “what, are you boring yourself?” … but it sounds somehow far crueler in German.
Willy Billiams shot the video on YouTube, you rule-breaker, you.
UK’s Electronic Sound provides English-language commentary.
Thank you, Настенька Иванова, for sending this my way.
Update: I’m poking some fun at Kraftwerk, of course – I mean, it’s a bit hard not to, with a band this legendary.
But closer examination reveals in fact a lot of what’s going on. Part of the value of this to me is that the band has been secretive about their live performance and tech. That’s their prerogative – but part of our job is to inquire into what’s really happening. And unlike a magic trick, I don’t think that technical knowledge of a performance has any impact on your enjoyment. (Music isn’t a trick.)
Sequencer.de ran a story on this back when it surfaced at the end of January – while CDM was too busy digging out from the NAMM show (and CTM Festival and the events we were running there).
Numark Orbit controller
Novation Remote SL Mk2 Zero (I could see it was a ZeRO, but not the mk2 – this is clearer)
Doepfer ribbon controller
Lemur on iPad
I am really fairly certain that software is Cubase. TouchOSC is in there, too, though the Sequencer.de article doesn’t mention it.
See the story:
KRAFTWERK – 2015 CONTROLLER CHECK
Also, I think it’s interesting that lay people immediately fixated on the “email checking” when you have four pedestals crammed with controllers. This is actually a complex rig with a lot of live elements, which you might actually not know watching the show – because of the aloof stage presence of the band.
Others have confirmed that each member divides responsibilities, and in this case, you’re looking at Falk who runs visuals. It’s not clear why he’s typing text into a text window on an iPad; it may be some communication window as some have speculated. Or maybe he’s working on his novel. It’s probably the least important detail in this video, though – mostly what you see in his machine is the preview of the video system.
Overall, I’m impressed with their rig. In a sense, it’s a shame they haven’t talked about it – not that they need to brag about gear, but there’s a misunderstanding that Kraftwerk are playing live. And conversely, a lot of “live” acts are often doing nothing.