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 Daft.ie. 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!