Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 14:25 UK

Olympic cyclists join Kraftwerk

By Elizabeth Alker
BBC 6 Music News reporter

Kraftwerk are widely recognised as pioneers of electronic and dance music

Kraftwerk have wheeled out four British gold medal-winning Olympic cyclists to ride to their music at a show in the Manchester Velodrome.

The German godfathers of electronica played a two-hour set to open the Manchester International Festival.

They were joined by Ed Clancy, Jason Kenny, Jamie Staff and Geraint Thomas - who all triumphed in Beijing in 2008.

The quartet appeared from behind the band to ride in a wave formation during Kraftwerk's song Tour De France.

The cyclists' names were announced from the stage with a thick German accent a couple of minutes into the song, much to the delight of the crowd.

The wave formation was then mirrored by elaborate visual effects on screens behind the stage.

Most of the audience agreed the appearance was the highlight of the show.

'Gig of the year'

"I think I died and went to heaven when the cyclists came out for Tour De France. That's the best track and action I've ever seen working together - it's my gig of the year," said one enthusiastic fan.

Another added: "It was absolutely fantastic, seeing the Olympic team cycle round the track was amazing and it gave the music so much energy."

Kraftwerk are one of the most influential artists of their generation, pioneering the use of electronic music and tape loops to revolutionary effect.

They have influenced artists from 1980s electronic acts such as Depeche Mode, The Human League and New Order to hip-hop superstars including Jay Z, who sampled their song Man Machine. Even Coldplay reference a Kraftwerk riff in their 2005 single Talk.

Their Manchester show also saw them perform their best-known songs including Trans Europe Express, Man Machine, Computer Love and Autobahn.

During the second half of the show, the band emerged in luminous green outfits from behind a light show, with 3D visuals that required fans to wear special glasses.

The lyrics of tracks including Radioactivity and Computer World were then thrown out at the Velodrome in 3D.

It made for an impressive encore and each of the current four members of the Kraftwerk line-up left the stage one by one at the end of the set.


American minimalist composer Steve Reich opened the show with the premiere of his new work 2x5.

Reich is no stranger to rock 'n' roll, citing Radiohead as one of his favourite acts and having rubbed shoulders with David Bowie and Brian Eno in the past.

But he told BBC 6 Music he was not familiar with Kraftwerk before he was asked to open their show.

"It took me until 2009 to finally hear their music, although I knew of their existence and their name and that they looked like robots and were interested in electronics," he explained.

"When I heard Autobahn, it reminded me of the world I was living in, in the 1970's.

"It was the beginning of people doing repetitive music and I guess in rock 'n' roll, Kraftwerk were an extreme example of that, very deadpan."

The two-week Manchester International Festival will also see original performances from artists including Rufus Wainwright, Damon Albarn, De La Soul and Elbow.

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