Last night, I saw an incredible concert by one of my favorite bands (from my college days): Kraftwerk. They performed at Disney Hall in LA which was a brilliant choice in my opinion. There was really no light show to speak of. But each song had a perfectly crafted and precisely timed music video. The song selection was great. The sound quality was amazing. They even thru in some new sections and elements into their songs so that they were substantially different from the album versions. Two hours of electronica before anyone knew that term (or EDM) from the band that invented "Techno Pop" from probably one of the most influential bands whose inspiration can be heard in 1000's of artists today. I'm sure that even the Daft Punk Robots would acknowledge the influences of Kraftwerk.
The show was intense with a lot to absorb. The audience was mostly enraptured and quiet. In fact there was very little feedback from the audience (e.g., explosive clapping, yelling, hooting, singing, etc.). In some ways, it was a bit like a music lecture in electronic, synth music. However, the band, as usual, never spoke to the audience. In fact, the only acknowledgment of the audience came at the very end when each member bowed and waved to crowd just before they walked off.
So even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was absolutely transfixed by the music and video, I was left with two thoughts: "Did the band need to be there?" or "Did we even need to see the band at all?"
I'm sure that I, along with everyone else, would have been very disappointed not to see the band onstage. But it was clear that they were merely props to the concert and that they were secondary to the elaborate 3-D videos on screen. We might have been even more disappointed if all of the music was completely pre-programmed or recorded and didn't need anyone onstage at all.
Would I have enjoyed the music and videos less if the band played off stage or was not there at all? Maybe a little. But I'm really not sure. The event would certainly have had to be marketed more as a multi-media "experience" as opposed to a concert. That could have been done I think but it might not have sold out four nights at the Disney Hall. If there were ever a band that could have just had their famous burgundy-colored robots take their place, it would have been Kraftwerk.
I've been waiting 40 years to see them ever since "Autobahn" was released. So I am glad that I saw real people onstage after all. (or were they replicants?)