Tangerine Dream, 15th February 2003
Astoria, London, UK
By John Morley
Despite concerns about traffic and transport problems due to the peace march that day, I managed to get to the gig reasonably early. There was a very relaxed, carnival-like atmosphere in London that day - most of the roads were closed off in the center, so you could walk wherever you wanted.
I had read on the bands website there would be some exclusive merchandise on sale at the gig, and hoped to be able to check it out on the way in. No such luck, though - as soon as I got in, there was a queue of about 150 already. So I decided to concentrate on getting a seat upstairs instead Amazingly, for the first time ever in this venue I actually got a seat in the center of the front row - and with a table to rest my bottles of pop on too.
It had been about 6 years since I last saw the band live, and I have to say that there are certain periods of the bands recorded output that I am not familiar with, such as the early 70's albums, and some of the more recent albums. But I have been checking out the website recently, and had an idea of what we were in for this evening.
When the band started, they received a rapturous welcome from the (to my eyes, anyway) capacity crowd. And it was LOUD. Occasionally a little too loud, with the bass notes shaking the foundations. But they soon got the levels sorted, and it was actually the best sound mix I have heard at a concert for some time.
Essentially what we got was a musical journey through the bands career, an almost continuous piece of music lasting over two hours. Included in this were some familiar pieces, though in often vastly different guises, interspersed with newer material. At times it really did feel like a musical discovery, as you would be listening to an unfamiliar piece of music, and suddenly you would hear a familiar note or sound effect, and the track would suddenly turn into something more recognizable - the audio equivalent of CGI morphing. I like the fact that you felt like the band were creating the music in front of you, and you never quite knew where they were going with it. As for what they actually played, I detected large portions of Poland, Tangram, Stratosfear, Force Majeure, Logos, Melrose era stuff, and much more. But a track-by-track listing misses the point of the concert. My unfamiliarity with some of the material meant that there were often sections of the piece that I did not recognize, but could not be sure how much of this was actually new material. Whatever - it still sounded damn good to me.
After the main piece, we got 4 encores, one of which included an excerpt from Beach Theme from Thief, with the main solo played superbly on guitar by Zlatko. And another featuring Edgar's now legendary guitar solo spot. Always goes down a storm, and you tend to forget what a fine guitarist he actually is.
In addition to the Froese family, the rest of the band consisted of the striking figure of Iris Kulterer, playing what looked like every possible piece of percussion under the sun, and Zlatko Perica on guitar. Zlatko did pull off a couple of really nice guitar solo's during the night, but looked a little lost and redundant the rest of the time.
If there is one criticism I have, it's that I think the main piece of music could have included a short 10-15 minute break to give us a bit of a breather. You felt like you did not want to go to the toilet in case you missed something. However, that actually worked to my advantage, because when the call of nature came, I happened to pass the merchandise stand, which was still manned and no one was queuing - and they still had all items in stock. Full marks to the organisers- best merchandise store I think I have ever seen at a gig.
I suppose there will be those fans who would have preferred he band to play a traditional concert, but they are a very different animal these days to the band we knew from the 70's and 80's. I am a big fan of the Dream Mixes albums, and have no problem with them shaking things up a little and putting a different spin on the older stuff. I came away from this concert more than satisfied with what I heard, and judging from the roars of approval from the crowd, so did everyone else.
Now then - what about a live album?