Since its debut in 2007, the fortnight long Manchester International Festival has pushed leftfield music and art to increasingly clued-up Northern audiences.
Spread across the city and taking in both international and local talent, MIF has the backing of big budget sponsors and artistic patrons: Damon Albarn and Lou Reed are regular contributors (Albarn debuted his 'Monkey: Journey To The West 'production in 2007) while Rufus Wainwright showcases his 'Prima Donna' opera this week.
Opening the festival on Thursday evening were Kraftwerk who delivered a life-affirming hits set spanning their 40 year career. First, minimalist pioneer Steve Reich performed a new 20 minute musical piece entitled ‘2x5’. Immaculately performed it may have been, but it didn’t mean a lot to us mere mortals sweltering in the sauna-like Velodrome.
Pre-show, Reich confessed that he’d never listened to Kraftwerk until being asked to support them. Perhaps he should have done his homework.
More appreciative members of the audience included Rufus Wainwright, Factory Records in-house artist Peter Saville and er, John ‘Jazz Club’ Thomson, while outside an Oasis T-shirted tout struggled for business in amongst the chinos and sandals.
Inside, Kratfwerk opened with the robotic juggernaut ‘Man Machine’, appearing behind synths, metal boxes and a backdrop of electric visuals.
Video: Sam Starling
Soon after, the ‘super special guests’ of pre-show rumour turned out to be four cyclists from Team Great Britain swerving their way around the venue during a majestic ‘Tour de France’.
Kraftwerk's near-flawless set was immaculately balanced, with mid-set pair ‘The Model’ and ‘Neon Lights’ showcasing the band's pop genius. For the encore, scattershot visuals greeted a 3D spectacled crowd: NME can confess to welling up during a haunting ‘Radioactivity’, while closer ‘Musique Non-Stop’ proves that even their maligned mid-‘80s output has survived well in the real Computer World.
At Saturday tea-time we signed up for three hours of 'It Felt Like A Kiss', an interactive, on-set documentary production produced by political film maker Adam Curtis.
Focusing on the unwitting global power and suburban strangeness of 1960s America, Curtis and experimental theatre buffs Punchdrunk took over a scruffy Deansgate office block to create a mind altering and body consuming pop-art-horror walk through.
'It Felt Like A Kiss' left us breathless, mesmerised, sick to the stomach with fear and in need of a good lie down. We’ll never look at an office block in the same way again…
Check back later this week for the second part of our MIF round-up, featuring Amadou and Miriam, Elbow and Rufus Wainwright.
Photos by Sebastian Matthes/manox.net