The music began before the curtain rose at Tangerine Dream’s marathon (two-hour set plus half-hour encore) show at UCLA’s Royce Hall Friday night. But anyone expecting the German band’s dreamlike soundscapes was in for a surprise: The keyboards of Edgar Froese (the leader and only constant member in the band’s 40-year career) and Thorsten Quaeschning chattered lightly, but with Linda Spa on soprano sax and Iris Camaa playing lightly syncopated rhythms, it was possible to believe that Dave Koz or Yanni was behind the curtain.
Things changed a few minutes later, as the band segued into the chilly techno heard on the soundtracks to films such as “Risky Business” and “Sorcerer.”
Hypnotic electronic sounds alternated with soporific lite jazz throughout the show. This once-pioneering band is celebrating its 40th anniversary and settling into a “greatest hits” dotage — a state of affairs mirrored by its light show. It may have once been state of the art, but the images of fish swimming or interplanetary meteor showers now resemble 20-year-old computer screensavers or videogames.
The evening’s best music cast Tangerine Dream as a precursor of trance music, only more rhythmically nimble and harmonically sophisticated. There was impressive compositional and instrumental chops on display –the music touched on a wide variety of styles, including an ominously scudding “Peter Gunn” theme and a delicate interlude that took on a Baltic accent, while the liquid, sustained notes of guitarist Bernhard Beibl’s solos brought to the music a Pink Floyd edge.
When the keyboards interlocked in a clattering groove, the effect was like an asexual Giorgio Moroder; slowed down, they were like a more accessible version of Steve Reich’s music; when those keyboards were suspended glacially above the beat, you could hear Tangerine Dream’s influence on Brian Eno and the scores Angelo Badalamenti wrote for David Lynch. But whenever Spa picked up her soprano sax, it sounded like a bad ’80s TV theme.