Having released little new material in the past 20 years, the members of Kraftwerk are now essentially the curators of a museum of their own work.
But group founders Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider don't just periodically dust the exhibits. They've undertaken massive renovations, beginning with 1991's "The Mix," an album of remade classics, and including a painstaking conversion from analog to digital technology. Monday night at a packed 9:30 club, the influential Duesseldorf quartet brought new sounds and images to such futuristic oldies as "The Man-Machine."
As at most techno-pop performances, most of the music was pre-programmed. Some of the vocals were live, but significant deviations from the script would have derailed the tightly coordinated revue. Such songs as "Tour de France" were linked with pertinent video footage, and the elementary lyrics (in German, English and a smattering of French and Russian) to tunes such as the anti-nuke "Radioactivity" flashed on the screen behind the laptop-punching performers.
Kraftwerk has added harder, more metallic beats to many of its songs, updating its bleeps and swooshes to fit mid-'90s styles such as Berlin tekno and London drum-'n'-bass. Yet the group's machine-mad vision seemed largely nostalgic: Abstract videos suggested early-20th-century artists such as Mondrian and the Soviet Constructivists, while "Autobahn" and "Trans Europe Express" were illustrated by images of gleaming but antiquated cars and trains. By the time the band unveiled its trademark performing robots -- for the second of the two-hour show's three encores -- it seemed that Hutter and Schneider might be well advised to hire outside consultants for their modernization program. Kraftwerk is still lively and stylish but seemed a little quaint.
-- Mark Jenkins