The concert from April 2nd, 1975 at the Royal Albert Hall in London was the last one in a series of performances where Michael Hoenig replaced Peter Baumann. Besides that it's one of the best performances that was released officially in its entirety on the first "Bootleg Box" set. Unlike all the other recordings of that era the music of the two main sets was indexed into different tracks or sections on the "Bootleg Box" so my comments can refer to these divisions.
"So welcome please, Tangerine Dream!" John Peel himself announces the beginning of the concert. The first set London 1975, Part One lasts for almost 69 minutes and begins in a very typical way with a chirping synthesizer and a slow organ melody underneath. Immediately we are in the middle of one of TD's typical sound worlds, a world that may be light years away on a different planet. The whole atmosphere reminds me a lot of the "Rubycon" album, especially with its haunting Mellotron choir and organ drones. Furthermore there are some weird synth sounds moving up and down the scale. These synths soon take over the stage and after 9 minutes one of TD's typical Mellotron flute solos sets in including a nice, almost charming melody. A few minutes later the Mellotron choir returns creating a slightly disturbing sound. But after all the whole first section has a quiet and most of the time soothing quality, especially with the soft synth sound building the bridge to section 2.
Here this soft and layered music is enriched with a Mellotron flute that blends in perfectly. Another charming melody line creeps in, played on another synthesizer that creates a sharper sound. The music seems to resemble a kind of dream state where impressions move by without disturbance. But after about 3 minutes the mood changes and seems to move into a nightmare as the choir returns once again.
With section 3 the choir suddenly disappears and a new synthesizer layer takes over, a deep drone that soon becomes more rhythmic and turns into the first sequencer rhythm of the concert. The Mellotron choir provides some kind of solo part with a haunting melody while a synth sound flies in. The sequencers gain speed and become more varied with the inclusion of some primitive drums, they almost drown the other sounds in the mix. Soon another synthesizer moves along while some sequencer sounds fall out of tune in a very "Phaedra"-like way. Yet the music is controlled completely by the sequencers by now and every instrument tries to find a complementing rhythm to move along. The development of this piece truely is breathtaking as different sounds take over the rhythm while others drop out, become slower or completely lose touch with the main part. More flutes and later deep synths set in, but by now the music is caught in this rhythm so that these shy melodies can't really break through. Although the rhythm solely is created by sequenced tones, it's kind of aggressive in its entirety. Finally after about 12 minutes the music calms down a bit, although the nightmare sound from section 2 returns again, this time incorporating some organ-like synths that seem to try to destroy the etablished rhythm. And once again the sequenced tones fall out of tune making room for the familiar Mellotron voices. This part feels like the whole music implodes or collapses, as the sequencers are reduced to repeating a single note and the primitive drum tries to keep itself alive. Near the end of the section a new melodic sequencer line appears chasing the other repeating tones away until only a organ and a windy synth remain.
This windy synth sound is the starting point for section 4 that is dominated by some organ sounds at first. Soon the wind synth takes over completely, drowning the whole piece in pure noise. The Mellotron choir makes another appearance but soon everything fades away, just some synth waves like sounds at an ocean coast remain. The musicians try to find new ground upon they can build up the next improvisation, and they find it with a monumental organ that moves in. A high synthesizer melody, a tune like a sad children's song, begins and after 7 minutes the vast synth layers can be heard again. There are no real melodies in there, it's more a mood piece just like those TD played during their 1974 concerts. Yet the combination of synthesizer and organ is very beautiful, calm and relaxed with no sequencer in sight. More Mellotron flutes come into play after almost 13 minutes, but they just blend into the sound dominated by the synth and organ.
Here section 5 begins, very softly a deep synth sound creeps in while the synthesizers and Mellotron flutes from section 4 continue. Still the music is very atmospheric and moody, but after 4 minutes the Mellotron choir returns and the whole mood changes completely. A synth pad performs some kind of wake-up call followed by some high and very strange synth chords. There is a great deal of aggression building underneath without being entirely recognizable. But soon the sequencers are set in motion again with some sharp synth tones and some deep bassy sounds. A synth solo melody appears that reminds a lot of "Rubycon" in places and the sequencer rhythm follows that path and plays its part from "Rubycon, Part One". Here is a perfect example for TD's ability to include traces of well-known compositions into purely improvised performances. More Mellotron choirs join into the dance as well as alarming synth arpeggios that create a disturbing atmosphere. Again the sequencers speed up and indirectly intensify the layers of synthesizers in their performance. With pieces like this it's very plausible that the sequencer rhythms were a kind of backbone to the whole TD sound. Here you can hear a very odd version of this sound as some strange sounds slightly out of tune are incorporated into the rhythm (I don't know whether this was intentional or not, given the instability of electronic instruments at that time). The music calms down near the end of the first set, although the sequencers gain more speed again actually. More disturbing Mellotron sounds creep in, while the sequencers literally give up and become slower and slower until they disappear. Deep waves close the first part of the concert that in a whole could be described as a rollercoaster ride.
London 1975, Part Two consists of three different sections mounting up to 40 minutes in total. The first section starts with a slow, deep organ-like synth solo, once again a very atmospheric intro that soon includes a high synth part too. This solo resembles a synth part on "Rubycon, Part One" once again, yet the music soon turns into a completely different direction. A meandering synth sound gives the piece a rudimentary rhythm but all in all the track's very peaceful and harmonic. After 9 minutes the mood gradually changes as another synth solo sets in.
Section 2 starts with more Mellotron choir and some strange synth tones in the background that would almost fit into the "Pink Years" era. This part is very calm and contains no rhythm at all, but there is a very nice and shy synth solo embedded into it. I wish this solo, barely audible here, would have been recorded seperately somewhere. After 4 minutes the solo synth becomes louder and gains control over these omnipresent choir voices. The band flips between these two elements, one time strengthening the synth, the next time the Mellotron. Yet section 2 never flies off properly, you must hear it as a kind of platform on which the next section can build upon.
Section 3 kicks right off with a sequenced synth sound and more aggressive synthesizer layers on top. The sequencers once again give the improvisation some speed and this rhythm belongs to my favourites: It's kind of dry, almost like very early soft techno, hammering around with ease, yet still urgent in a way. For a while the synth layers vanish behind this sound, instead some single chords creep into the mix from time to time. The music seems to indicate some hidden danger, you could expect this in a psychological thriller or horror film. A very high solo synthesizer joins in just to strengthen this impression. This section doesn't sound like anything else heard in this performance, a sudden change of atmosphere: Instead of peace and tranquility the music transports feelings of fear, with a little imagination you could also hear a sense of panic. After 8 minutes the solo synth takes the lead playing a melancholic melody (as if to indicate that there's no escape from the danger, whatever it may be). More and more synth layers appear, flood the room and almost bury the sequencers. In a concert consisting of very different parts this section is by far the most consistant. Some synthesized percussion and the by now too familiar Mellotron choir come into play, as well as some synth effects that work like a solo. After 12 minutes an additional, more melodic sequencer line appears together with more flutey sounds. By now the danger indicated before is completely gone, as the whole improvisation turned into dance music of sorts. This part is quite funky indeed and one of TD's best sequencer driven pieces of that time, I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone told me the audience really was dancing during that period of the performance. From time to time additional percussion effects are brought in. The different sequencer lines on their own – and that may be the secret – are quite monotonous, but together they create a web of sounds that is just hypnotic, while synths or the Mellotron provide the melodic parts. After 17 minutes the sequencers slowly disappear and let the Mellotron and synths take over again. This improvisation ends, like it's typical for the concerts of the mid-70's, with a melodic part including a Mellotron flute melody and a minimalistic synthesizer layer underneath. So this highly energetic section ends in the softest way possible.
With London 1975, Part Three the band played additional 14 minutes as an encore. This track begins with some crashing synthesizer sounds flooding the room. A sequenced percussion brings some order into the chaos, soon providing another funky rhythm. Bass sounds join in together with more synthesizer tones and soon a nice melody starts, this time more uplifting than anything else before. More Mellotron throws this melody out of track changing the atmosphere a bit, however this time the drumming prevents the mood to overturn completely. The music remains very dancable and rousing until at the 7 minute mark the drumming suddenly disappears, leaving behind just some sequenced tones. Now a single synthesizer takes over the rhythm playing a funny succession of tones that at one point even loses track (the synth seems to be out of tune here). So the drumming reappears again as if to help out. I absolutely love this piece of music as it succeeds in creating a special atmosphere while still being very dancable with lots of variation. At the finale of that improvisation every single tone fits perfectly to the rhythm, every instrument joins into the repeating melody line. I wish this piece would never end, but of course soon the Mellotron choir appears again, calling the music to its close. This is a fascinating encore and the audience rewards it with a roaring applause.
Of the very few concerts with Michael Hoenig this one is by far the best. There are a lot of very atmospheric and calm moments and others with great sequencing and soloing. My only complaint is the excessive use of the Mellotron (the flute and choir sounds), an instrument that is incorporated too often for my taste, while the typical Froese guitar is missing completely. Besides that however, the music is simply stunning, very beautiful and entertaining and should be an essential listen for every TD fan. My favourite parts are Part One (Section 3), Part Two (Section 3) and Part Three as I'm a big fan of TD's sequencer sounds, but I also appreciate the more quiet parts. I sometimes use the first disc to put myself to sleep when I'm uneasy and it always works, as this music is able to soothe me like no other.