Thursday night was a very special night over at the Metro as they hosted an evening with electronic music pioneers, Tangerine Dream! The band (in any of its incarnations) rarely toured the United States, and this was the final night of their largest US tour in their career, one that spans over five decades.
First up was Forest Management. This was a solo act by Chicagoan, John Daniel. Daniel spent 45 minutes creating droning soundscapes with his laptop. There was no real songs, it was just a steady 45 minutes of largely the same background sounds. It was fine for the first ten minutes or so, but lacked enough variety to keep it interesting for that length of time and as a result it was just easy to tune it out as background noise while engaging in conversations or looking at your phone. Whatever changes Daniel was doing to the music he was performing was just too subtle and was probably lost on a majority of the audience. A shorter set featuring this material would’ve probably gone over better.
Tangerine Dream is a band that is in a pretty unique position in that they have no original members left. The band was founded by Edgar Froese way back in 1967, and Froese was the one constant in Tangerine Dream for their entire run until his death in 2015. For the last ten years of his life, Froese was joined by Thorsten Quaeschning in the band and left Tangerine Dream in Quaeschning’s care to lead and continue the project after Froese’s passing. Quaeschning was the longest serving band member in Tangerine Dream other than Froese, so the band was definitely left to the best and most qualified person, and if anyone in the audience before the band performed on Thursday had any doubts about that, they would’ve been easily erased by the incredible performance the trio of Quaeschning, Hoshiko Yamane, and Paul Frick delivered.
When the band took the stage and made some last minute preparations of their equipment, Quaeschning explained to the audience what their agenda was for the evening, which was two hours of music from Tangerine Dream’s career, played in a certain key that he determined sounded best with the Metro’s acoustics, to be followed by 30 minutes of improvisation. That was a promised two and a half hours of music!
The lights dimmed and the projector fired up to provide some really beautiful visuals to accompany the equally beautiful music the band started playing. They opened with “Phaedra”. Unlike a lot of electronic bands performing these days who largely stand in front of laptops and have little else besides mixers on stage with them, Tangerine Dream had an intimidating amount of equipment on stage with them to create the lavish soundscapes they are known for. Quaeschning and Frick were literally surrounded by equipment, all of which they used to create and manipulate songs, and even Hosiko Yamane, who mainly plays electric violin, had a table with devices on it to add to the sound.
For roughly the next 90 minutes or so, the band was all business and played one amazing piece after the next, each one unique, but many sharing qualities of starting off a little slow and simple, and then building layers and adding really hypnotic rhythms over the course of the next 10 or so minutes of the song. While this is happening, the accompanying visuals being displayed across the entire back wall of the stage were completely mesmerizing and really brought the whole performance together into an amazing musical visual journey. The band made 90 minutes go by so fast that it felt like they just got started when they took a bow to walk off stage for a few minute break. All connection to reality was suspended for the entire time you were entranced by Tangerine Dream’s performance.
The band reappeared on stage and played for nearly another hour, the last half of which was their improvisation piece that was every bit as captivating as what preceded it, and absolutely showcased just how perfect this trio was to continue Tangerine Dream into the future. Somewhere up in musical heaven, Egar Froese had to be looking down inside the Metro and smiling at how great Tangerine Dream was honoring and continuing his legacy. It was one of those really special performances that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.