Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 11 June 2005
It's a hard life being an icon. Respected and revered to
such an extent that if you put a foot wrong you can plummet
from grace in an instant. Tangerine Dream were alongside
fellow countrymen Kraftwerk at the forefront of electronic
experimentation in the 1970s, releasing truly ground-breaking
albums such as Rubycon, Phaedra and Stratosfear.
Froese, Christopher Franke, and
Peter Baumann amazed crowds with their
expansive electronic sounds, completely improvised in a
pre-digital age. But the line-up, and the music, changed
as they were swallowed by the eighties, producing around
twenty film soundtracks alongside their own, increasingly
this put paid to a vast chunk of their fanbase, they retain
a fervent, cult-like following today. Tonight's first ever
live performance of Phaedra guarantees an excitedly expectant
crowd made up largely of middle-aged men and younger folk
with an ear for alternative electronica. Froese, lining
up alongside son, Jerome, and third keyboardist Thorsten
Quaeschning, merely strikes the first key and the
gaping audience scream, shout and applaud - these are true
fanatics, no doubt about it. The curtain lifts to reveal
a scientist's lab with three seats and three huge PC screens.
Froese, looks like the Wizard of Oz surrounded by dry ice
smoke and bathed in blue light as the huge, lush chords
of Rubycon sweep away.
Each of the seminal seventies albums is revisited as ambient
abstraction and snatched melodies are driven along by fat,
bass-heavy synth loops. It's haunting, beautiful and surprisingly
timeless, each composition belying its thirty-plus years.
All that went after can be heard here - ambient, trance,
chillout - and you can hear why Tangerine Dream are held
as one of dance music's Godfathers. However, it's understandable
why fellow pioneers Kraftwerk continue to trade off past
glories to retain their invincible aura as Froese and friends
play material from their eighties phase. This is where the
soaring synth pomposity of Vangelis meets
the cheesy, Miami Vice muzak of Jan Hammer,
where sax-laden soundtracks combine with self-indulgent
guitar solos, all backed up by a bongo-bashing percussionist.
It's like 1985 all over again, with the first sighting of
an electric drum kit since Matt Bianco
played Top of the Pops.
comes as a relief when the gig moves into its third phase
of more contemporary material, with kick drums, breakbeats
and sub-bass - even some acid - all employed to great effect.
OK, so there's still the odd panpipe but, if you can suspend
your idea of fashion for a moment, this is damn good dance
music. The encore comes courtesy of a drum-filled guitar
version of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze and
the three-hour set then finally, thankfully, comes to a
close, though you get the feeling the fans are still disappointed
that it's all over so soon. Overlong, unfashionable and
grating it may have been in parts but, remove its flabby
midriff and this was a stunning concert from one of electronic
music's true originators.
- Ian Roullier, 06/2005