Soundchecks Music Reviews

Tangerine Dream: Phaedra 35th Anniversary Concert

director: Andy Gamble
167 minutes (E) 2007
Music Video Distribution

Edgar Froese

Tangerine Dream

review by Jim Steel

Tangerine Dream offered us the music of the future. Unfortunately that future has already happened. With its black-clad men swaying behind banks of black Rolands, throbbing fluorescent lights and dry ice, this concert presents us with a vision of the technophilic 1980s.

You certainly get quantity. This concert is two and three-quarters of an hour long and contains 26 numbers. It starts with Edgar Froese walking out on stage and dusting down a grand piano before proceeding to play the introduction to Ricochet part II, and with his flowing white hair, he certainly looks the part of the classical German maestro. The curtains then part, and he joins the others behind keyboards for Phaedra '05. Presumably the 2005 appellation is to acknowledge that it has been reworked from the 1974 original.

Technology has moved on, of course, and the gradual drifting of the original synthesisers has been rectified, which has had the effect of removing some of the charm. It is hard now to remember how stunning and original Tangerine Dream were in the mid-1970s. This only goes to show how successful their vision was. Within a decade their music was everywhere. It can be heard in David Bowie and Iggy Pop's Berlin albums, for example, and it washed over countless soundtracks, with Tangerine Dream responsible for not a few of them.

The first hour drifts past with the band frequently playing with their backs to the audience. There are great pieces in here such as Rubycon part I and Desert Dream, but at times it is hard to concentrate on what is happening on the screen. Audience interaction is limited to the odd nod or smile. One remembers that this is a band that has played gigs in total darkness in the past. (Stockhausen tried that during his brief British tour in 2005, but health and safety no longer permit such things, alas.)

Things pick up a little in the second half when Linda Spa appears with her saxophone, and guitarists start to add to the material. Edgar Froese even plays lead guitar himself at one stage, but Zlatiko Perica, who first appears 20 songs in for Back Street Hero, competently and cleanly handles most of the guitar work. Make no mistake, though - we are not talking about a Hendrix level of showmanship, a point all too clearly made when they finish with an instrumental cover of Purple Haze.

Edgar gives a short speech at the end where he hopes the audience enjoyed a representative sample of the band's 35-year history. However, the first five years are totally absent. There is nothing earlier than Phaedra. While it would have been cruel to inflict anything from Zeit on the audience, a reworking of something from the stunning Atem would have been most welcome.

Apart from a track listing, there are no extras on this disc, although there is a limited edition release out there with an extra disc that contains interviews. So what should you do? By all means get this DVD if you were at the concert. It will make a fine souvenir. If, on the other hand, you were looking to discover what they sound like (relatively) recently, then I'd recommend the budget CD Valentine Wheels - Live In London from the late 1990s. Otherwise, best stick to the classic releases for this material. Curiously, their latest studio release, Madcap's Flaming Duty, is a set of sung poems that, while not exactly setting one's stereo on fire, sounds like nothing from this concert.

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press