Tangerine Dream: K2S Shepherds Bush Empire review.

Another year slips by and I’m off to another Tangerine Dream concert. As usual it’s all a rush, I’ve stuff to do and I’m a little late leaving. The journey is dull, thankfully, and I make it to Shepherds Bush at just before 6 pm.

I have every intention of finding somewhere for a snack and a drink but find nothing suitable before I arrive at the O2 Empire. The queue outside the hall is already enormous and I decide it might be prudent to get to the end of it. It’s then that I realise that the queue is actually for the club next door. Doh!!! Should have realised since most of them are young and half-naked.

So I’m now in a much shorter queue and faced with the choice of staying there or finding food and drink. Laziness wins out and I stay put. Well it is only 1 hour till the doors open.

As I wait an employee of the Shepherds Bush Empire (henceforth referred to as the SBE) starts erecting barriers. One set, on this side of the SBE, is for up-stairs and the other set, on the other side of the SBE is for the stalls. Yep, you’ve guessed it; I’m on the wrong side of the building. Doh!!! again.

It’s been seven years since the last time I was at the SBE and I’m amazed at how nothing has changed. Police cars and ambulances continually scream past. They’re still doing the same road works they were doing 7 years ago. Things obviously move slowly in London.

Nothing much else happens until the doors open. Except, of course, a brief appearance by Colin Jouxson yelling “Keep the Dream Alive!!!” which raises a chuckle.

Eventually the doors open and we all shuffle forwards and into the Hall.  My ticket’s checked and I’m ushered forward. I’ve got a choice; go forward into the Hall or right to the Merch stand. I can’t face the Merch scrum so I make my way into the Hall.

I pick out a seat and am amazed to be sat in the middle of the third row. What’s more amazing is I could have been in the first or second rows but I’m too lazy to walk that far. This will do me anyway, I’ve a clear view of the whole stage and I’m close enough to read the monitor screens behind Edgar and Thorsten’s keyboards. No craning of the neck for this TD fan.

After a short time, the lights dim and the band appear on stage. They’re straight into the first track, The Sensational Fall Of The Master Builder, and the sound is great, maybe a little bit distorted at the low end at first but that’s soon rectified.

The band is soon in full flow. One hit follows another, demonstrating the depth of the Tangerine Dream back catalogue. Dolphin Dance is up next and this is quickly followed by The Cliffs of Sydney.
 At first I’m a little concerned, the band look a little worried, even the ever-smiling Iris looks a bit glum. I shouldn’t have been concerned they soon start smiling and appear to be enjoying themselves. I can only assume that they were concentrating hard on making a good start or maybe they’re worried about the audience reaction. As for the audience, well they’re lapping it up.

The air of good humour continues. I can see Edgar exchange a glance with Thorsten between a tricky track transition, as if to say “Do you think we got away with that?” Thorsten shrugs in reply “Maybe”. The pair then share a wry smile. Later the situation is reversed, its Thorsten giving Edgar a shrug that says “Was that OK?” and Edgar nodding an “It’ll do, they didn’t notice”.

Another humorous moment occurs during a guitar solo. Bernie is in full flow but suddenly stops. He’s holding a note on the guitar, he then shows the fret board to Edgar, who smiles and nods his approval. The solo then continues, Bernie grinning broadly.

It’s clear that Edgar is a fan of Bernie’s, whenever there’s a guitar solo he looks up from his keyboards and glances over, there’s a certain amount of admiration in his gaze.

Linda Spa is on the left-hand side of the stage, at the back. She contributes keyboard playing throughout the set and occasionally appears behind Edgar to add sax or flute. Her first moment to shine comes with a rousing version of Oriental Haze; she makes her way to the front of the stage and plays a great sax solo that is met with a huge round of applause from the audience.
The first set comes to end and the band leave the stage. It’s flashed past and doesn’t seem five minutes since TD came on stage.
It’s the interval and a helpful sign is displayed at the back of the stage that says it’ll be 20 minutes. Time enough for a trip to the loo and a beer I think. Sadly it’s only enough time for the loo and I’m only just back in my seat by the time Edgar walks back out on stage.

He sits down at an acoustic piano and starts playing the intro to Ricochet Part 2. I know it’s an acoustic piano because that’s what it says on the monitor behind him. Ok, so it’s not really an acoustic piano but it sounds just like one. The audience don’t care; they’re shocked and delighted that we’re getting some classic TD.

It’s at this point that I notice that the couple, who had been sat to my left and seemed to be enjoying the show, haven’t returned to their seats. May be they thought it was just a 90 minute set and have left. What’s even more bizarre is that I’ve now got half-a-dozen empty seats around me, no one moves in to fill the gaps and that’s the way it stays to the end of the show.

After Ricochet comes Hoel Dhat The Alchemist, closely followed by Lady Monk and one of those moments in a TD show that shouldn’t work but does. On one side of the stage is Bernie playing a gentle acoustic guitar piece and on the other Thorsten and Iris having what can best be described as a drum-off, taking it in turns to add drum fills.  It’s difficult to know which side of the stage to look at.
Next up is Long Island Sunset and, not for the first time, I feel sorry for Linda. She makes a major contribution to the song by playing both sax and flute solos; not an easy task but she handles it perfectly. The audience’s reaction shows that I’m not the only fan that’s bowled over by her performance.
As the clapping slowly subsides Edgar picks up a guitar and slowly makes his way to the front of the stage where he perches himself on a stool. The familiar notes of The Blue Bridge start and, as it builds, Edgar launches into a guitar solo. He’s soon joined by Linda on sax and the two sit opposite each other and trade solos. Both Linda and Edgar are playing their hearts out. Linda in particular is giving her all, repeatedly rising from her stool to wring more emotion out of the sax. The song finishes, again to thunderous applause.

The set continues with a choice set of TD classics. Alchemy Of The Heart, with another blistering solo by Bernhard, followed by various bits of Poland; Warsaw In The Sun and an excerpt from Horizon.

As Horizon fades Iris joins Hoshiko at the front of the stage. The two play a duet as Teetering Scales thunders on in the background. Hoshiko is on violin and Iris is playing a Cajon box drum. It’s clear that both artists are having great fun; Iris is beaming from cheek to cheek.
We’re into the closing section of the concert now. Transition is followed by Das Mädchen Auf Der Treppe (White Eagle), then the band launch into Loved By The Sun. This should be interesting. Who’s going to do Jon Anderson’s vocals? Actually the vocal melody is carried by Linda on Alto Sax and the result is stunning. Bernhard plays a guitar solo mid-song that is simply dazzling.

Next up is perennial favourite Stratosfear 95 and it’s a great way to finish the set, again Bernhard plays some great guitar.

It’s the end of the set and Linda has made her way down to front of the stage to take a bow. In a grin on his face Edgar looks at Linda, taps his watch and then gestures with his thumb towards her keyboards. She smiles; message received and understood. It’s clear that TD are against the clock.

After a brief pause the band launch into Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and we’re into the encore. Hoshiko is playing the solo parts on the violin, naturally, and doing a fantastic job. Her fingers are a blur.
At the back of the stage a roadie starts lofting large balloons in to the audience; he’s helped out by Linda. The balloons bob around the auditorium and occasional get very close to the band. One clatters into Edgar’s keyboards, narrowly missing Hoshiko, but fortunately causes no damage. The roadie retrieves it and it’s soon back out with the crowd.

It’s at this point that I notice that, not only is Hoshiko playing a technically demanding piece of music but she’s got her eyes on the balloons, to make sure they don’t hit her and even has to kick one away at one point. It’s quite an amazing sight. I bet Nigel Kennedy doesn’t have to deal with this sort of thing.

The show is over; the time has just flown by. Edgar comes to the front of the stage and asks the audience about the football. England have been playing Italy in the European Cup. As usual England have lost on penalties. Edgar says a few sympathetic things about English football but it’s really not necessary, the audience have just had 3 hours of top Tangerine Dream music and are ecstatic. Finally Edgar introduces the members of the band and they take their bows before leaving the stage.

The audience start to file out. I briefly wonder why the theremin, that’s been sat through the whole show in front of Hoshiko’s instruments, hasn’t been played. I later find out that, thanks to the SBE’s stringent curfew, we’ve missed out on Phaedra with Hoshiko playing the theremin.

Now I have a choice to make; leave now or stay around for the meet-and-greet. I’m tired so decide not to wait. I’m sure the TD girls won’t mind that the strange West Country lad, who keeps stealing kisses, isn’t there.

Before leaving the SBE however I do call in on the merch-stand. As usual I buy a poster, t-shirt and a CD or two. It’s then that I notice that Bernie has a CD for sale. Cool. I love his playing so it should be good. I buy two, one for me and one for my brother. The ladies on the stand look tired, it’s clearly been a long night, but they are ultra-polite and it’s quite humbling. The TD merch scrum is legendary; I can only imagine the hell they’ve been through.

I tuck my goodies under my arm and make my way back to the car. I quickly jam a sandwich and most of a giant Aero bar in my face. It’s not pretty, chocolate goes everywhere. I start the engine and head out into the traffic.

At a set of traffic lights I put Bernie’s new CD into the car’s player. It’s not long before I realise that what I’m listening to is awesome. In the next two hours drive the CD is on continuous play. Eventually I’m home and happy. The usual post TD gig glow of happiness.