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Tangerine Dream In Australia

Sorcerer shows attract small but loyal following.

After selling out the Melbourne Town Hall for their near three-hour performance earlier in the week (which included some soaring pieces on the Town Hall’s Grand Organ), news that Tangerine Dream would be scoring William Friedkin’s Sorcerer live twice in one evening seems to have spread quietly.

Thus, many of the seats at this special show at ACMI (Melbourne’s public arts cinematheque) remain empty.

That’s perhaps typical of the demographic of the band these days, though. The Town Hall show filled with those who had previously caught the band in 1975 and were now grandparents, leaving the venue early to get last trains or perhaps just get to bed.

It’s quite surprising, then, that band leader/founder and kosmische elder Edgar Froese is able to maintain dexterity for two live scores of Sorcerer in one night – over four hours with barely a break in-between.

Known for their prolific soundtrack work (over 50 since 1971), this evening is a display of their stamina as well as their command of digital synthesizer technology. Each member is situated at an assortment of Korgs and screens, resembling a computer programming studio more than a live performance interface (the band recently composed a soundtrack for the videogame Grand Theft Auto V, further evidence of their ever-progressive approach).

With no dialogue or subtitles tonight, it may have been hard for newbies to contextualise why Roy Scheider was driving a makeshift truck loaded with nitroglycerin through the South American jungle, but the music is the driving factor this evening. And drive it does, seamlessly blending the original score with incidental music and what these ears assume are new creations.

The original throb of the soundtrack is well replicated as Japanese violinist Hoshiko Yamane syncs strings with the rest of the band’s keys, though the sound is heavily processed and barely recognisable as a violin.

Norway’s Thorsten Quaeschning, a member of TD since 2003 and the man largely responsible for introducing Froese to modern compositional software, strikes this reviewer as being responsible for much of the band’s current sound and style, just as Froese is for the band’s original sonic texture. It’s a solid match and the relationship between all players is one of respect and admiration, each member taking care to carry the piece at hand and never once jamming on their own accord.

This show is at times visually frustrating (Sorcerer’s 70s cine tropes lose the less rapt, who start to pull out their smartphones for stimulation), and the band do at times appear as if they could be checking their email. Still, it’s a fine display of an old band with a foot in the past and an obvious eye for the future.