Touring the U.S. for the first time since 1992, the mighty Tangerine Dream’s Electric Mandarine Tour came to the Mountain Winery in Saratoga last Saturday. Beginning at 7:30, with the early evening sunlight still streaming onto the outdoor stage, the first set spanned the transition into darkness, with increasingly sophisticated lighting effects being introduced along the way.
Founding member Edgar Froese played keyboards throughout the show, only switching to guitar on “Blue Bridge” (see video below). Other than gently swaying with the music he sat stoic and largely expressionless. At his side, keyboardist (and vocalist on the encore, a cover of the Doors’ “Crystal Ship”) Thorsten Quaeschning played a nearly identical keyboard setup. Large screens behind each of them displayed the graphical interfaces of whichever software synthesizers they were currently playing, providing a treat for the geekier members of the audience.
Two very blonde women dressed in black and positioned on risers flanked Froese and Quaeschning. Multi-talented keyboardist, saxophonist, and flautist Linda Spa—the third official member of the band—mostly sat motionless wearing a glamor-goth dress and velvet top hat. In contrast, touring electronic drummer and hand percussionist Iris Camaa, clad in a classy gown, smiled and danced continually while locking down the groove.
The other touring musicians were violinist and electronic cellist Hoshiko Yamane, whose simple but highly effective playing lent an organic quality to the otherwise electronic strings, and guitarist Bernhard Beibl, whose expert but relatively predictable playing evoked Gilmour, EVH, and Vai in turns, accompanied by arena-rock showmanship that sometimes appeared out of place. Beibl‘s most inspired playing came while executing tricky sequencer-like counterpoint figures, and adeptly bouncing comparatively loose funk figures off the metronomic pulse.
The music spanned a huge stylistic range, from dark to light, sinister to campy, brooding to buoyant—with each piece crossfading into the next and only occasional breaks between songs. But nearly all of the music employed the signature TD juxtaposition of insistently consistent rhythmic pulses and majestic, sweeping, cinematic structures combined with immediate, often heroic melodies. “Sort of the middle path between the spaciness of Pink Floyd and the clockwork pacing of Kraftwerk,” I kept thinking to myself (though, of course, Tangerine Dream’s music predates that of the latter by three years).
It is a winning formula, and one that has served the band well since 1967.
The audience loved the music and the spectacle—and so did I.
Edgar Froese takes a great guitar solo on "Blue Bridge."