A disclaimer to start. At the age of 12 it was a dream of mine to see Jean-Michel Jarre live. He had just completed the Rendez-Vous concert in Houston, and I had suffered the ignominy of performing Rendez-Vous IV, one fingered, in school assembly.
Even then the scale of Jarre’s live events seemed way beyond comprehension, a reputation boosted by his horizon-altering concerts in China and London’s Docklands. The latter event took place just down the water from tonight’s O2 Arena gig, where we find the Jean-Michel Jarre live experience shoehorned into what is effectively an enormous garage. Such is the Frenchman’s adaptability, however, that he produced a staggering show of lights, music and images to wow the assembled.
With the release of Oxygène 3 imminent, Jarre took the opportunity to reflect on past achievements, but dealt more with the current Electronica project. This celebration of a music form involved a huge guest list, and while none of the vocalists appeared directly here, we did get some brilliantly contrived images of the Pet Shop Boys for Brick England, whose moving chorus notes how “they build them up and then they knock ‘em down”.
The other vocalist was Edward Snowden, whose face popped up on screen during Exit, with the message that “it’s important that we watch those who are watching us”. Jarre’s trick of taking off at tracer-like speed, slowing down for the meaningful stuff, then speeding up again, was extremely effective.
More moving than this, however – aside from the heart-altering bass of openers The Heart Of Noise and Automatic 2 – was Oxygène 2, its loop floating serenely over the assembled throng, Jarre keeping the vintage analogue sound as we all became airborne in our heads. As the set continued, great waves of synthesized sound crashed over the O2, Jarre building momentum with Claude Samard and Stephane Gervais, two incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists.
With big percussion and next to no vocals it was a show that majored on primal musical instinct, revealing in the process just how big an influence Jarre’s music exerts on today’s dance music from the Calvin Harris, David Guetta and Tiesto to name just three. Jarre has his own take on modern trance music and it has effective clarity, melodic loops dancing around the arena in time with the pinpoint lasers.
Then it was time for the laser harp, modestly introduced with the aside “I hope this next bit works!” It did, and shards of green light bisected the O2 Arena as Jarre manoeuvred his way through a surprisingly graceful performance. Sometimes it felt as though he and Shard designer Renzo Piano were in cahoots, the shapes flitting over the ceiling often carrying his imprint.
The light show had emotive power too, and when the images of the Équinoxe album cover were shown for Équinoxe 7 the eyes from the stage became intrusive, a further reflection on today’s technological life.
Inevitably many of the audience had their phones out, but thankfully a good number of them also started dancing, surely the most logical reaction to the high energy Electronica music. Jarre – at 68 – moved quickly around the stage too, showing his audience the way. His music is still relevant, operating seamlessly either side of the technological curve. Give him any venue and he will deliver – in this case a breathtaking show that fulfilled the ambition of a 12-year-old boy from a school assembly in Norfolk.