Tangerine Dream first broke through in the UK and mainland Europe with 1974’s critically hailed Phaedra, and, before long, America also succumbed to them. Indeed, when the West Berlin-based electronic pioneers announced their first ever US tour for the spring of 1977, tickets for their shows in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Washington DC and New York sold out within just a few days. With their itinerary kicking off in Milwaukee on 29 March (and ending almost a month later, at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, on 26 April), the band performed these hotly anticipated shows with the aid of spectacular visual effects courtesy of a krypton gas laser provided by the London Planetarium’s Laserium Light Show. Knowing that Tangerine Dream were intending to uphold their normal policy of performing primarily new and/or previously unreleased material, Virgin Records wisely recorded a number of the dates and released some of the choice highlights as Encore: a live double-LP originally issued in a striking gatefold jacket in October 1977.
In keeping with the TD ethos of the time, Encore’s four sides of vinyl each featured an extended improvisational piece which ran to over 15 minutes in length. Two of the selections, ‘Cherokee Lane’ and ‘Coldwater Canyon’ (both named after roads close to TD’s Californian home base during this US sojourn) were performed regularly on the tour. With its pulsing sequencers and stark washes of Mellotron, the rapturously received former still sounds like an extension of the eerie Phaedra, while the ambitious ‘Monolight’ included semi-classical piano interludes, revisited the main themes from TD’s 1976 LP, Stratosfear, and also included a brisk, Kraftwerk-ish slice of electro-pop which was later released as the stand-alone promotional single ‘Encore – Hobo March.’
Reputedly only performed once during the tour, the atypically strident ‘Coldwater Canyon’ leant on nervy, juddering sequencers and motorik electro-drum beats, though it also induced Edgar Froese to strap on his guitar and indulge in an extended Hendrix-ian flight of fancy. Closer in spirit to the band’s pre-Virgin recordings for German imprint Ohr, the amorphous closing track, ‘Desert Dream’, meanwhile, was a dread-fuelled collage of drones and deep space intercut with snippets from TD’s soundtrack for Oedipus Tyrannus, which the group had originally recorded in 1974.
Having gained a whole new legion of fans Stateside, Tangerine Dream bid North America an emotional farewell, and the much-revered Encore is now frequently cited as their definitive live artefact. Its release marked the end of an era, however, as long-time member Peter Baumann left in November 1977 and a reconfigured TD, featuring English vocalist Steve Jolliffe, returned to the fray with ’78’s prog-rock-inclined Cyclone.
The 16CD and double-Blu-ray release, In Search Of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979 is out now and can be bought here.