When does it stop 'being' Kraftwerk?
The other day I bookmarked a story about the recent tour of the USA that Kraftwerk have just done, which culminated in their appearance at the Coachella festival. The set-list has changed slightly from when they were on their post 'Tour De France Soundtracks' world tour, but the biggest difference has been the absence of founding member Florian Schneider.
There is no official word as to why he isn't on the tour. He might be ill, he might have left the band, he might have just filled in his complicated US immigration landing card wrong - who knows?
This isn't the first time Kraftwerk have played live with temporary members. In the early 1990s Portugal's Fernando Abrantes appeared live with the band for a few months, although on the five times I've seen them live since 1991 the line-up has always been Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz.
That in itself isn't the 'classic' quartet. During the late seventies and eighties when the band were at their most productive, Ralf and Florian were augmented by Wolgang Flür and Karl Bartos.
However, Florian not appearing is different - after all their second album is even called 'Ralf und Florian'. It did make me question at what point it wouldn't be Kraftwerk anymore.
If Florian never appeared live on stage again, but Ralf Hütter was present, that is still Kraftwerk - albeit without a founding member. But what if Ralf wasn't there either?
I happily accept that when they play 'The Robots' as an encore, with nothing on stage except 4 laptops and 4 mechanical robots, that I am watching Kraftwerk.
People pay good money to see 'Elvis' on video accompanied by a live band. If Kraftwerk consisted of any four people standing at laptops, playing Kraftwerk songs, would it still be Kraftwerk? Would it still be Kraftwerk if it was Fritz and Henning plus two others, playing the songs written by Hutter-Schneider-Schultz. Becuase, when you think about it, many of the 'classic' era songs were co-written with Emil Schult, and despite designing their iconic sleeves and writing the lyrics, he hasn't played with the band since 1973.
So, when does it stop 'being' Kraftwerk?