Atmospherics a Notre-Dame [no label 1CD]
Live at Cathedral Notre-Dame, Reims, Paris, Dec 13, 1974. B’cast on France Inter FM. Ex- FM stereo.

According to legend, the Catholic Church was so outraged by this concert that it demanded the full rededication of the cathedral where it took place - although whether it was the music that bothered the holy men, or the fact that the promoters so oversold the show that the 8,000 strong audience could not even move to get to the bathrooms (so they pissed where they stood) is another matter entirely.

Certainly one can think of few acts who would be more appropriate to perform in such surroundings. Nico, alone with her candlelit harmonium and still celebrating the rebirth of her The End album, earlier in the year, is spectral and lovely, grand and Gothic, her five songs marred only by the babbling of the French radio broadcast host. One wonders what was so important that he couldn’t just shut up?

"Janitor Of Lunacy" and "The Falconer" open her performance; a stunning "Valley of the Kings" and a typically scarifying "The End" highlight it, and "Abscheid" brings it to a heartstopping close - sadly absent is the rest of her performance, together with the adlib that gave a watching Melody Maker reviewer such a start, when "that chillingly savage voice" suddenly informed the audience, "somebody forgot to buy me a drink."

Tangerine Dream played two sets, one on either side of Nico. This disc preserves just one, 15 minutes of atmospheric "Atmospherics," to remind us of the days when the Tangs unleashed their spooky soundscapes because they sounded good, not because there was a vast, chattering new age audience out there that would accept anything if it had enough whooshes in it. Not that "Atmospherics" is at all lacking in whooshes, or any of the other strange tones and textures that the band once delighted in, and the performance goes past way too quickly. As does the disc itself. Does the rest of this show - the full Nico performance, and both sets by the Tangs - still exist? One hopes so. Because, at just 42 minutes, this barely whets the appetite. - Dave Thompson

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May 2, 2008