What better way to kick off this new archive series than with Tangerine Dream’s infamous gig at Reims Cathedral in December 1974. The trio of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Christopher Franke were fresh from their first UK tour and still riding high on the success of Top 20 album Phaedra.
An estimated 6,000 people - twice the building’s capacity – duly squeezed themselves in for what turned out to be two monumental sets either side of an hour-long performance by Nico. The early tone of the Reims show (which takes up discs one and two) is generally sombre and contemplative, the trio using synths, Mellotrons and organs to improvise a panoramic vista clouded with semi-classical elements. It gradually swells to something more dramatic, full of odd squawks and effects, an exotic forest of unspecified sound, before rising to an urgent finale. Musique concrète on a vast electronic canvas, the effect is often breathtaking. The clergy weren’t too impressed though. After clearing up an inordinate amount of litter amid reports of pot-smoking and pissing in the aisles, the local priest demanded a purification ceremony. The Vatican got wind of it too and promptly banned further concerts in cathedrals. Just under two years later, in October ’76, the Tangs wound up a ten-date tour of their homeland at the Mozartsaal in Mannheim. Spread across discs three and four, the contrast with Reims is fascinating. Here the band’s sound is emboldened by a new sequencer, as unveiled on the just-released Stratosfear, creating huge ringing drones that cleave through symphonic noise and busy electro patter. The encore section is particularly bright and melodic, set to relentless rhythms and topped off by spacey effects and Froese’s extended guitar solo. Given their dip in quality control towards the end of the decade, these recordings represent Tangerine Dream at their creative peak.