Giorgio Moroder – DJ Set
There aren’t too many people who could spin a DJ set of just their own songs and productions, and have it come even remotely near the breadth of what Giorgio Moroder achieved last Friday evening. With over 40 years of songs, productions, and mixes, he could have had a four hour slot and still had plenty of comfort room left when all was said and done. Similarly, there aren’t too many humans on planet earth, who could get me to leave a Kraftwerk concert for a DJ set! But Moroder gets my respect. Sure, some of his work is cheese to me, but what I love, I love deeply, and it was work that was utterly seminal in a multitude of genres.
Moroder was mixing with a board from laptop with vocal and lead line stems of his many, many hit singles, along with deep cuts from his soundtrack work and even solo material like his “E=MC²” album. Beneath the melodic tracks, he was constructing new beats and rhythms, largely in the house realm, and working the board to alter reverb, EQ, and crossfades. His performance constituted a 90 minute Giorgio Moroder megamix that most of his fans would be happy to buy if given the chance.
Some songs, like the cheesy Berlin power ballad, gained new life in their house music guise. The hard dance sound dignified what was past its sell-by date. Others, like Limahl’s solo hit “The Neverending Story,” went largely untouched for their first movement, before Moroder added house rhythms to the mix to take the song elsewhere before the next cross fade. That was smart and he certainly knows his audience, since the arrival of that song really resonated with the 35 year olds who grew up with a well-worn VHS of that film.
Through it all, Moroder was mixing and conducting in the cool night breezes; his hair billowing wildly in the night air like a mad scientist of sound. He reminded me of Rottwang from his own pet project “Metropolis.” This was exacerbated buy his penchant for addressing the audience through his signature vocoder. He played a world premiere of his latest remix, for Coldplay which would be distributed later this month. Sure enough, it sounded like Moroder. Thank goodness! My only complaint? As was common, the level of bass abuse for this show was at the top of the scale; surprising for an open air set. Fortunately, one could moderate the sound by moving backward. After his set, it was time for the last Kraftwerk show.
Kraftwerk – Synthpop Pioneers – Set 3
The third time was the charm with Kraftwerk. Satisfied, that the concert-fracking* sound problems that plagued and ultimately stopped the first night in its tracks were largely avoided, and with no living legends in conflict with their set, I would finally see a full Kraftwerk set at Moogfest. And seeing them 2 hours later was very illuminating.
The set was different from the previous three in terms of mix, song selection, and what I’ll call variation. “Metropolis” was back early in the set with “Electric Cafe” moved out of the queue. “The Model” was sung in English, and most dramatically of all, “Autobahn” was now performed in what was probably a 15 minute suite, coming very close to replicating the original LP side, with what I’ll refer to as two more “movements” added to the performance of the song compared to earlier the same evening. It took a seminal song I had enjoyed two hours earlier and made the performance even better.
Now that I was seeing a full set, I finally made it past the “Tour De France” zone and into the end of their set where surprising amounts of “Radioactivity” [!] and finally, the centerpiece of “Trans-Europe Express” was finally played. The arrangement of “Radioactivity” was different to both recorded versions of the track, and naturally, had revised lyrics incorporating the Fukushima disaster. It was delightful hearing the other tracks from “Radioactivity” played as they had been written in 1975 and not altered much in the arrangement at all. It stood in stark contrast to the heavy dance orientation of their post ’77 music as released and played here at Moogfest. It spoke to parts of Kraftwerk that had been long muted in their overall development, but that the Katalog 12345678 residencies had forced to re-emerge.
The fact that the group were now playing their 1974-2003 catalog of albums in full, meant that they had to revisit music that is not necessarily feted by dance music fans and musicians, and this gives me hope for Kraftwerk going forward. By having to confront their past and incorporate it into their present, they might, just maybe, be reminded that they can produce electronic music that is not dance oriented. Personally, my favorite Kraftwerk songs are pre-1981. I enjoyed these shows more than the one I saw in 1998, but still missed favorite songs like “Europe Endless,” and “Hall Of Mirrors.” Not that I don’t think that “Numbers/Computerworld 2” is not a staggering piece of work, but given a choice, I’ll opt for beauty over beat most of the time. If that vaunted “next album” ever materializes, I’m hoping that maybe Kraftwerk can pull their fat out of the fire. The surprising vibrancy of these 2014 shows in rapid succession gives me hope.