It was a bit like time travel – both ways. Once the Karlsruhe Schlossplatz seemed to float past satellites in the spaceship. Then again, the 70s were inevitably present: the legendary electro-pop band Kraftwerk thrilled the audience on Saturday evening with classics such as “Autobahn”, “Mensch-Maschine” and “Das Model”. The well-known pieces were also those moments when the smartphones were pulled out to capture freshly awakened memories.

The spectacle of music and light art was something special in several respects: On the one hand, it was the only Kraftwerk concert in Germany this year. On the other hand, it took place in the open air in front of the Karlsruhe Palace. When it was dark enough, 16 high-performance projectors illuminated the facade of the baroque building.

Four men in bright suits

They projected a multimedia show onto the 170 meter wide front. Sometimes pulsating digits in neon green, sometimes the bright yellow nuclear power symbol, sometimes driving on the freeway or the view from a spaceship. Four men were standing at desks on the balcony in front of them, also in bright suits. In addition, synthesizer beats and a distorted voice roared across the small park: “I’m sitting here on my home computer. Programming the future for myself.” Spectators with rain capes and umbrellas braved a brief shower.

The 16,000 tickets for the concert were quickly sold out. There were also countless onlookers who didn’t want to miss the performance by Kraftwerk co-founder Ralf Hütter and his colleagues a few days before his 77th birthday. Some in the audience may have been a fan from the very beginning.


The Kraftwerk project was created in 1970 in the context of the experimental art scene in Düsseldorf. The band wrote music history and was style-defining for directions such as electro, synth pop, minimal and techno. Hütter is the only one left from the original line-up.

The fans owed the performance on Saturday to the longstanding artistic and scientific director of the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM), who died in early March. Peter Weibel maintained an artistic and friendly relationship with Hütter.

When the ZKM opened in 1997, Kraftwerk were guests. Most recently they performed for the 25th anniversary of the ZKM in Karlsruhe in 2014. And this time, the ZKM reported that the two men worked on the concept for the multimedia performance at the palace until shortly before Weibel’s death. Hütter then dedicated the performance to his “wonderful” friend before wishing the guests good night at around 11:30 p.m. The only moment during the two hours when it was heard differently from the actual tracks.

In connection with Karlsruhe, legal disputes between Kraftwerk and music producer Moses Pelham keep cropping up. It’s about a two-second sequence of notes from the piece “Metall auf Metall” from 1977. 20 years later Pelham put it slightly slowed down in an endless loop under the song “Nur mir” with the rapper Sabrina Setlur. In June, the Federal Court of Justice dealt with it again. He wants to announce his decision in a month.

Anyone who missed the show on Saturday evening can at least get impressions of it during the Schlosslichtspiele. From August 16th to September 17th, the baroque palace will again be illuminated every evening. The so-called projection mapping of the power plant concert should also be seen as an independent show in the program.