Kraftwerk at the Tate: One Original Member Left, So Is It Just a Tribute Band? Does It Matter?

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Kraftwerk's 8 day stint at the Tate Modern is a perfect tribute to the band's legacy, but with only one original member left, are the people performing actually just a tribute band? 

The Tate is the perfect venue for them, not least because of the incredible acoustics of the Turbine Hall, but also because Kraftwerk's legacy stands somewhere between popular culture and art. Their experimental music has not stopped its influential power. Indeed, entire genres would probably not exist if it weren't for Kraftwerk's wholly original approach to music. The Guardian described them as "one of the most iconic bands of all time" while the Art Desk describes their performance at the gallery as "effortless perfection". However, they also question whether that 'effortless perfection' is enough to bring people back for more. Which also raises another question about the validity of the performances at the Tate as Kraftwerk. They are, of course, Kraftwerk songs, but is it Kraftwerk performing them, or merely a tribute to their legacy.

The Telegraph likens watching Kraftwerk, with the only original member performing being Ralf Hutter, "like watching the Beatles perform without Lennon or McCartney, the Rolling Stones without Jagger or Richards." Of course, the difference is that it isn't a tribute band. The Beatles without Lennon is still the Beatles, and a lot more exciting than seeing four men mid-midlife crisis in a working men's pub in the Midlands. The venues Kraftwerk appears in (who else has performed at the Tate Modern?!) and the kind of energy and crowd they elicit is not merely unique, but impressive. 

All of this, though, is mere myth, it relies on the powers of both belief and fandom for Kraftwerk shows to actually be Kraftwerk shows rather than 'just tribute'. And while those powers of belief and fandom are certainly integral, it would be nothing without the band's performance following through on its promise of brilliance. For the Telegraph, Kraftwerk have lost nothing in their 40 year career, "chilling in 1975, spine-tingling in 2013."


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