Jean-Michel Jarre performs Oxygene live in Dublin, 18th March 2008

I went to see Jean-Michel Jarre perform his first live concert in Dublin at the National Concert Hall (NCH) in Dublin tonight. It was great to see him at last, as I’ve been a fan of Jarre’s ever since I first heard Oxygene 4 on the radio / TV as a child at the end of the seventies, coming across the piece later on in secondary school on one of our “Salut!” French learning tapes in 1985. It was a year or two later that I found out from listening to a DJ called Jock Wilson on Scottish shortwave pirate Radio Stella that the artist who played “doooh, doh-doh-doooh, dooooooooh” was known as Jean-Michel Jarre, and it wasn’t long until I managed to get my hands on a copy of the “Essential Jean-Michel Jarre” tape and various other albums and videos including “Zoolook” and “Destination Docklands”. (My first music web page some years later had a picture of Jarre’s legendary “Music for Supermarkets” one-off album at the top of the page.)

In the National Concert Hall this evening, there were a variety of attendees ranging from devout fans to intermediates to newcomers. Some old-school Oxygene and “Concerts in China” t-shirt wearers were in attendance. “Was he Tubular Bells?”, a newcomer to Jarre asked. “No, that was Mike Oldfield…”, another replied. Music from the album “Waiting for Cousteau” played in the background as we awaited Jarre’s arrival. At about 8:20, the light shone on the stage to reveal a giant white egg shape. “Big chicken”, the guy beside me said. The egg turned around to reveal Jean-Michel sitting inside it, and he began an introductory speech with “Good evening, Dublin”. I took a blurry photo and a zealous staff member alighted on me waving a disapproving finger.

Jean-Michel told us how glad he was to be in Dublin to share this special concert evening with us at the beginning of his tour (he began in Glasgow two nights ago, see review). He explained that this is the first time that he has played Oxygene entirely with all of these extraordinary instruments, and he described how great the intimate venue of the NCH theatre was in contrast with the outdoor concerts he normally plays. He talked about how the strange and special instruments behind him on stage were the reason that he (and most other electronic musicians) existed today, being the foundations for part of the mythology behind electronic music.

He made an analogy with violin players who often want to play on Stradivariuses created four centuries ago, saying that modern electronic musicians now want to play on the analogue synths of old, and that the secrets and know-how of the “crazy guys” who invented and designed instruments like the Theremin and various analogue synths between the twenties and the seventies was lost when computers became commonplace. He said that they have a very special sound and are obviously a big part of the sound texture for Oxygene.

He then talked a bit about Oxygene itself and the inspiration for the album (see also his interview in the Times; there was a similar article in today’s Metro Ireland where the idea of an outdoor Irish concert was touted). About the name, he said that his mum asked: “Why are you calling your music with the name of a gas?”. He said that the ideas about Oxygene from thirty years ago were now very much in phase with the thoughts and feelings of people today, and cited this as a reason why he was very happy to perform the album now.

The band was introduced: Dominique Perrier, a regular collaborator and performer at Jarre concerts (I especially remember him dressed in Turkish gear with a very unusual keyboard at the London concert, but he was also in the China video from the early eighties); Claude Samard; and Francis Rimbert, another Jarre veteran.

Jean-Michel said that we could now share the next step with them which was where they would tune these “old ladies”, to try and make them work. He explained that this is different from the days when you had lots of computers on stage, creating a “pure, 100% live, plug-and-play experience” with potential accidents that he said they would be happy to share with us. They warmed up for a while and then began the music with Oxygene 1.

Apart from some spots highlighting the various instruments and a light bar floating above the stage, the effects were discreet and low key, culminating in a spinning Oxygene globe logo projected on-screen towards the end of the album. The music performed was longer than the album release, including some segue pieces where the players no doubt had to re-tune their instruments for upcoming pieces. Jean-Michel also performed on the Theremin to much applause from the audience.

After finishing the main Oxygene album, he played a piece from the follow-up album, Oxygene 7-13, with some black-and-white nature shots in the background. The concert ended, and the performers received a standing ovation and calls for an encore.

On returning to the stage, Jean-Michel went on to describe a personal aspect to tonight’s performance. His PA and best friend, Fiona Commins, who has worked with him for 20 years, recently lost her dad. His name was Patrick, and Jean-Michel dedicated the next Oxygene piece for him on his journey to heaven.

I also met a few people I knew at the concert: beforehand I met Conrad Gibbons (with some fellow Tangerine Dream fans, David, Geoff and Sean), my old college friend Brendan, and afterwards I also bumped into Brian from All in all, it was a good evening and I would love to be going again tomorrow night. But I have plenty of Jarre memorabilia to keep me happy until I see him again: some t-shirts, a mug and a print for my wall!

13 thoughts on “Jean-Michel Jarre performs Oxygene live in Dublin, 18th March 2008”

  1. Nice review! i was there last night (19th) and although It was a great performance, and as you said, low key, I do have a few criticisms (sorry) I’ve been a fan too since i was a teen, for years all i got to see of jarre was the odd snippet on TV of the big lazer/light shows he is so famous for. So finally I hear he’s coming to Dublin and I count down the days till the concert.
    When I walked onto the balcony last night I lost my breath when i looked down at all the famous synths from a golden age of music. The theremin, which no matter how he plays it though, sounds like a wounded cat. The guitar/strap on type synth ruined oxygen part 5 i thought. He was trying to look like Jimi hendrix, but basically played out of key, missed most of the melody and looked silly to me. Basically i thought these props were unnecesssary. They weren’t used in the original recording.
    I Though JMJ also spent too much time twiddling and not enough playing. I play synths myself and understand synthesis, but a lot of it was for show, for example, Oxygene part 4 is probably his most famous piece of music, but the actual melody line he played was very dissapointing. Sounded like a cheap synth with cheesy string sound. Considering what equipment was on stage, if he hadn’t spent the previous 10 mins making sweepy noises he would have had that synth ready to play a the rich ambient sound part 4 is so famous for. The musicians behind him were suberb, especially Dominique Perrier.
    The volume I thought was too low. maybe it sounded louder in the stalls but i doubt it. The guy sitting beside me kept yawning and that kind of irritated me, which didn’t help either!
    Overall, it was a special occasion I will never forget, JM Jarre was a big influence on me, my passion for electronic music. Hope I don’t sound negative, but I guess he just can’t help doing the “showman” thing. The encore was my favourite part where he just sat down and played Oxygen 13 from start to finish with little knob twiddling.

  2. I gave out to an usher for disturbing me during the performance. Four times she had to tell someone to put the camera away. I did apologise to her after and she said “no I’m so sorry” only doing their job I suppose. I never thought I would be so absorbed in such complete concentration that I would be upset by the distraction around me.

    I got to sit in the front row so I had no people in my view to break the moment but it wasn’t until the mirrors came down that I could see almost enough, in reverse. The acoustics in the hall were perfect.

    I frequented the National Concert hall as a teen totally absorbed in the instruments. I always would try to follow the sounds from instrument to instrument but this was so multi layered I found it hard at times to deconstruct the complex sounds of these perhaps now rare almost forgotten instruments on the verge of rediscovery. I seemed to be creating a story in my head throughout. I felt like a child again in an awe like state like witnessing a miracle.

    Four scientists turning back the earths clock from deep within its crust. Lighting lay out a time log….from AM to PM. Darkness to dawn to daylight to dusk to night. Sound like a blackbirds chorus echoing backwards, the wash of waves over sand, downward spiralling notes, slowing to a stop, intense moods. Electronic atomic altering. Bees, birds. Extinction, dieing, hopeless helpless sadness. Approaching sounds of spaceships. Land. As though to prepare the men for work, a dieing earth calls for help, at the end of part one and beginning of part two. The story unfolds as preparations are made. The excitement in the opening of the day this is a new day, a day that they rebuild the planet. Our call for help was heard. Uplifting beat and melody suggesting a chance for life. With nature in the hands of these men the miracle begins. Their beat, melody entering all the power the instruments need to heal and restore life again. Great care and concentration is taken with eyes fixed. Alien Chatter heard throughout the day mid track there’s a mood change the final communication is made. Part 3 starts Seriously. All data needed is entered, now a different level of concentration is required. After a few deep breaths Work starts to fix the earth. Its engines are powered up by external life force all mentoring has ended, the earth cries out its needs to the consoling listener lays it to rest then quietly began work. Part 4 we hear them turn the tides of time to mend with gentle masculine touch on a feminine body. Confident and precise work set the tone. They enjoyed their work without stress or struggle we could see the mental process of these men working with seemingly extraterrestrial power through the daylight hours. Keeping time together, listening to one another. Glances to and fro aware of the others the musicians use body language to communicate. Each sound in time with the other.
    Entering Part 5 work stops and goodbyes are communicated as we hear a departure. Help is no longer required.
    Electronic Organ notes soothing, gentle waking. Strength slowly returning to the earth in its twilight it rose again. Healing and growing in time like the spring after winter. Rhythm of the heart and the pumping of blood into the surface supporting life, dusk turns to night and the excited dance beat sounds a melody of great growth. Healing and renewal. Waves like the earths breath again takes a steady rhythm in Part 6, time to relax, enjoy, listen to the echo of the birds and the beat of life again in the night, worry over, we can enjoy our beautiful planet and all its sounds. The men have saved our only earth. The great life we are killing has some time left. Be at peace now and listen to the waves.

    As they played the sounds of Oxygene, I became calm at the thought of our sick planet in the hands of these space men and their other worldly sounds twigging controls and switches. Reversing and finely tuning the delicate balance of the earths atmosphere. Work ceased, waves sounded calmly, rest easy, work was done the heart beat strong and steady the earth seemed okay. Forward replay recreated time and hope was restored crashing waves and the nightly echo of birds in the distance it was time to rejoice at the recreation of our home, clean and perfect once again. I hoped more people would be touched in the same way. I wondered what Jean Michel Jarre’s written story would tell of all these sounds. Have I understood you at all Jean. I was so amazed how the piece spoke to me as I worry about our future and it’s delicately, finely tuned atmosphere. Hurry people time is running out, we have no magic to fix the earth but we do have music perhaps to inspire us reduce our carbon footprints on the earth.

    Almost 40 years to get to this point and time seems to have stood still for this stunningly attractive 59 year old. I find myself now listening to both versions simultaneously, the recording re-released and the original to compare. I completely left out the variations and prelude because I need more time on them. Please enlighten me if you think this is not what I was supposed to take from this work.

  3. Hi,

    I saw JMJ play at the Royal Albert Hall last night. Well, the main review at the top of this page is correct. And he said many similar things.

    I too am a lifetime fan of JMJ, but I was greatly disappointed. I was expected a laser and light show, with some great tunes.

    The threatical side of the show was rubbish, a mirror with some backlightning, rubbish, and the performance was rather boring. While most of the crowd there semi-enjoying themselves, I did think it was rather like the emperor’s new clothes sydrome.


  4. Simon,

    I think you may have missed the point about the concerts. I was at both nights – two very different concerts in terms of atmosphere.

    I was pleased that the concerts were more about the music than the show. There is no doubt the big outdoor events he has done over the years have been spectacular presentations, but as far as I am concerned this tours is all about going back to the roots. For me the mirror was an excellent prop. We rarely get to see what goes on on the stage – unless cameras are present – and to be able to watch that they other guys were playing was excellent.

    All I can say is that I would dearly love to see an ‘Equinox-30’ tour…

    Stewart Bourke

  5. Simon,
    I’m glad you have enjoyed the spectacular Jarre concerts before this current tour. However, I’m guessing you have totally missed the point of these gigs. they are 100% LIVE played with 30+ year old synths. I have seen 6 previous Jarre gigs, Docklands, La Defense etc. and I was under no illusions that they were pre-recorded with only a small amount of live stuff. These gigs are the real deal of electronic music, nothing pre-recorded, all playing live, mistakes etc. The light show is meant to be low key, the emphasis is on the music, and I would be surprised if you ever see some of the synths again, and never in the quantity Jarre had on stage. I would love a MemoryMoog, but at £3k it’s never gonna happen, just a MiniMoog would do, about £1500 and there were 3 there! I would love an Equinoxe 30th too – but I don’t think it’s gonna happen…


  6. I like the Jean-Michel Jarre so much when i was a kid, my father bought me audio cassette about “oxygen” Jean-Michel Jarre . actually the cassette was rerecorded from a foreigner so it is not the master copy. from that time i was a great fan for this great music composer. music remind me space of the galaxy opening a new platform to me. Now i have finished my graduation in Fine Arts major in drawing and painting . I love music. Jean-Michel Jarre was my inspiration to my art.

  7. Our new electronic band Jarreheads is touring the USA, we are playing Oxygene 1 – 13 ( along with Bells, Magnetic Fields & Gagarine. We will be posting our showdates and calender on our myspace page. We also include Lasers, Fog and large scale video imagery, the show has received excellent reviews from our local newspaper.

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