Kraftwerk : Detroit : 1998

kw-cropIn the summer of 1998 Kraftwerk landed on the Motor City. This was only the second time they would perform in Detroit in their entire 30+ year career. The first time was 12 years prior. Needless to say, the tickets were expensive and they sold out in 2 days.

Detroit has always been deeply involved with Electronic Music. I can still remember hearing Kraftwerk put into the mix by local radio legends, The Electrifying Mojo and The Wizard.  Both mixed Electro with Hip Hop and Soul late nights on urban radio stations in the early 80s. The Kraftwerk song, “Numbers” was popular in dance halls and frequently featured on Detroit’s local TV dance programs like Contempo and The New Dance Show.

Kraftwerk has a special place in the hearts of Detroiters. For this reason, they could have played any venue in town, even the largest stadiums and still packed the house.

They chose to play The State Theater on Woodward Avenue. The State is a medium-sized historic venue and offers only general admission.

Upon arriving I was astonished by the diversity. Like myself, I sensed that the rest of the concert goers viewed this as a “once in a lifetime” event. There was no visible majority.  Indeed a full cross-section of classes, cultures, ethnicity, vocation and fans of any given music genre. I have never in my life witnessed anything like the turnout for Kraftwerk.

Detroit is a segregated metropolitan zone with sectarian undertones. Kraftwerk should be commended greatly for successfully reaching out to and uniting a total cross-section of our region. No other band to my knowledge has ever been able to speak to the masses in this way.

While I was there I saw goths, punks, rockers, rastas, G’s, ravers, nerds, dorks, GQ’s, hippies,  preps, proletariat and bourgeoisie. People were dressed to display various ethnicities and every imaginable music and art genre. I even saw a 50-something wearing a yarmulke talking to his pre-teen grandson about the band. Outside I talked to some folks who drove all the way from Quebec City. Everyone was excited to be there together to see Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk had created a “Rainbow Gathering”.  It was beautiful.  It was good for our community.

The curtains rose to reveal what looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The endless audio gear fitted nicely in crafted racks that reached to the ceiling.  Just above each of four band members hung a video monitor which displayed often intentionally low resolution graphics.

There were keyboards behind their laptop screens each on a sleek stand. They seemed to be tweaking knobs and pushing buttons all night. It was obvious that they were not just staging an act to a prerecorded tape. Their showmanship did not come from any of the usual band posturing but from a calm demeanor with subtle facial expressions. The sound was all-encompassing similar to a IMAX or THX movie theater.

No one danced. It was more like watching fireworks. Everyone stood at full attention with jaws dropped in total amazement. The subtlest cue from the band was met by cheers. When the first text message “Computer World” flashed across the monitors, the crowd just exploded.

The strongest performance was “Trans Europe Express”. It also happens to be one of the most sampled songs of all time. The song was performed in a version I had never heard.  The visuals included old black and white railroad films that were hypnotic to watch.

Then the curtain fell, but the show was not over. Shortly they rose again to reveal the Kraftwerk robots. The song played but the band was not in sight.  We were treated to a light show robot ballet. The mechanical robots did not do anything spectacular but the effect was perfect. They moved from side to side as their hydraulic arms flapped up and down. The hyper lighting effects were magic. Each robot featured a wax model of each band member’s head.  It was a bit comical.  Will the robots replace the band someday?

Then they went off stage again but the crowd refused to accept that the show was over. By the end of the night, Detroit managed to get the almighty Kraftwerk to perform a total of  four encores! The show ended and everyone was excited. I hope to see them again some day.

[ review by Alex Velocity ]

Sam Smith Paying Royalties to Tom Petty

sam-pettyUpon the release of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” in April 2014, a number of listeners were quick to note the distinct resemblance to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1989 classic “I Won’t Back Down”. As it turns out, Petty’s lawyers also took notice, and the UK crooner has since agreed to pay songwriting royalties.

According to The Sun, Smith and Petty actually settled out of court back in October, but details only emerged just this weekend. The settlement reportedly included a 12.5% writing credit to both Petty and singer-composer Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame). The song’s credit on ASCAP — that’s the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers —now lists Smith, Petty, Lynne, and Jimmy Napes as the chief songwriters.

Said one source close to the case, “When Sam’s track was originally released, it was clear to a lot of musicians that there were notable similarities between the tracks,” referring specifically to melodies of the respective choruses. “After it was pointed out to Sam’s camp, they didn’t try to fight it and amicably dished out royalties. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, musicians are just inspired by other artists and Sam and his team were quick to hold up their hand when it was officially flagged.”

The source went on to note the case was “done behind closed doors without any mud being slung,” explaining that similar songwriting cases have turned ugly publicly.

Update: A rep for Smith confirms that Petty and Lynne are now listed as co-writers for “Stay With Me” and “acknowledges” its similarities to “I Won’t Back Down”. However, the rep contends that it’s all a “complete coincidence.”

“Recently the publishers for the song ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ written by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, contacted the publishers for ‘Stay With Me,’ written by Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips, about similarities heard in the melodies of the choruses of the two compositions. Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of ‘Stay With Me’ listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and acknowledged the similarity.

“Although the likeness was a complete coincidence, all involved came to an immediate and amicable agreement in which Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne are now credited as co-writers of ‘Stay With Me’ along with Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips.”

“Stay With Me” has sold nearly four million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful singles of 2014. It’s also up for both Best Pop Performance and Record of the Year at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

[ article by Chris Coplan , audio transcribed ]