5:02 PM GMT 17/05/2013
A space craft passes over my head. Slowly, it skims 27,000 people and then vanishes. Under normal circumstances, the mass sighting of a UFO would probably be worldwide news, but Kraftwerk's performance at Gothenburg's sold-out Way Out West (WoW) festival is so reality-shifting that it takes you to somewhere beyond suspension of disbelief, to a place where anything seems possible.
The audience in the beautiful Slottsskoggen, a wooded, lake-filled park to the south-west of the centre of Sweden's second city, are wearing 3D glasses, which bring this extraordinary spectacle to life. The four members of Kraftwerk themselves - Ralf Hütter stage left - stand impassively at lecterns doing something-or-other. It's impossible to see what they are up to. Although, during the clear-up after they finish, the lid of a lap-top can be seen being snapped shut.
The music is stunning enough, with a full-length, pulsing Autobahn, a kinetic Tour De France, a jerky The Robots. But the accompanying films, instead of being the icing on the cake, are integral to the show. A Volkswagen Beetle swerves off the autobahn in time with the music, the arm of a giant man-machine Hütter swings over the crowd.
The final band of the three-day festival on WoW's main Flamingo stage, Kraftwerk are immeasurable against anything else: even Blur, the previous evening's headliners on the same stage. Road-testing the set they'd perform 48 hours later at Hyde Park's closing-of-the-Olympics show, the latter are favouring their more reflective, artier material. Recent single Under The Westway finds Blur most engaged, Beetlebum is a creepy crawl. This Is A Low, For Tomorrow and a stunning, closing The Universal sound an elegiac note. If they are bowing out and Hyde Park is their last show, this penultimate outing suggests they go with contemplation rather than triumphalism.
Music fans of '80s-'90s vintage have other reacquaintances to make: The Afghan Wigs, Mark Lanegan and also Thurston Moore, whose new band Chelsea Light Moving layer violin drones atop detuned rock moves like Daydream Nation's gnarlier cousins. And for the home side, Sweden's seminal hardcore punk band Refused - who reformed earlier this year after splitting in 1998 - slay the crowds, with singer Dennis Lyxzén appearing to walk on water - or at least the waving hands of his audience.
Of course, most of what WoW offers is not so charged with back-story. Hot Chip, at the smaller, roofed Linné stage, shine, their bubbling pop harder-edged than ever. Mogwai, on the same stage, envelope like rolling fog. At Flamingo, a clearly thrilled Leslie Feist instantly gels with the audience, dividing them up for a singalong. On the opposite Azalea stage, Wilco churn like the edge of a storm. But the Black Keys, headlining on the Thursday, look like they may have played too many festivals this summer.
Representing 2012, Scandinavian style, we have Norway's Ane Brun - whose ebbing and flowing songs turn daylight to dusk - and First Aid Kit's Stockholm-born Söderberg sisters, who could have just stood there, so much was the goodwill for their folksome harmonies. However, the standout Swede is Frida Hyvönen, at a grand piano in superhero cape, singing songs about her grandparents while evoking spectres of Judee Sill, Laura Nyro and Dory Previn.
On the Saturday, local newspaper Metro put Blur on the front cover with a headline declaring the show a "nostalgifest". There's a kernel of truth in that: MOJO's three days in the park were a statement of where music is now - the past more integral to its present than ever before. And in Slottsskoggan, with everything running like clockwork, the past and the present prove inseparable, as fresh as the sylvan setting of this congenial festival.
Photo: Hugo Johansson
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 3:19 PM GMT 28/08/2012