By Alan Ranta
VANCOUVER – There is no need to go to Coachella this year. The best is coming to us. Yes, French electronic legend Jean-Michel Jarre is bringing his unparalleled spectacle to Vancouver, and there isn’t a shred of hyperbole in assigning this guy the legend tag.
Granted, Jarre came in a couple years after the likes of than Jean Jacques Perrey and Wendy Carlos, but he quickly planted his flag as one of the most important names in electronic music history. He went on to sell over 80 million albums worldwide, with his landmark 1976 album Oxygène selling over 12 million copies alone, an album that became a cornerstone for the progression of ambient music. Meanwhile, the magnitude of his live shows have made it into the record books multiple times, starting with a 1979 Bastille Day performance for a then-unprecedented million celebrators in Paris and culminating with the 850th birthday of Moscow, where he played for an astronomical 3.5 million people.
“If I had to keep one moment, I think that would be the concert I’d done in Houston for the 25th anniversary of NASA,” Jarre reminisces about his 1986 stateside performance. “Gathering 1.3 million people is still in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest audience in the United States. An astronaut was supposed to play live in the timelessness of space, but, unfortunately, it was Ron McNair, and he died in the Challenger crash. Of course, the concert became a tribute for the astronauts, and something special in my life until today.”
Despite his many impressive achievements, Jarre never rested on his laurels. Ever since his early days studying elements of musique concrete with its pioneer Pierre Schaeffer and the power of the synthesizer with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the late ’60s, he has produced a steady stream of work, dropping new albums every few years or so, including two spiritual sequels to Oxygène that were each spaced out by twenty years. He keeps the passion alive listening to classical, jazz, hip-hop, and punk, but especially today’s younger electronic acts, as demonstrated by his two-part collaborative Electronica releases, which featured the likes of Gesaffelstein, Little Boots, Sebastien Tellier and Siriusmo, and his 2013 DJ mix for contemporary eclectic electronic label InFiné, simply titled InFiné by JMJ.
“I always think that I’m a beginner,” Jarre remarks. “For instance, I’m going to play Vancouver for the first time. It’s a great excitement. It’s a very special city, a unique atmosphere. We have this image all over the world that Canada is so cold and full of show, but Vancouver is exactly the reverse. Also, these days, the fact you have such a big Chinese community makes Vancouver an international hub. I’m so happy to share with the Vancouver audience one of the most sophisticated projects I’ve ever achieved, both on a musical point of view and on a visual point of view: 3-D without glasses, total immersion in terms of visuals, and also my music since Oxygène to the most recent work.”
Obviously, Jarre is no beginner to live performance, and this show promises to present an unforgettable and unparalleled experience, carefully crafted by the great mind himself.
“I’ve always been involved in the design of my shows, and this time, I really wanted to recreate visually what I’m doing musically, by creating architecture of sounds, creating perspectives, and giving that impact and giving that effect on the visual point of view,” Jarre enthuses. “So I conceived the stage design with giant slide LED screen panels, semi-transparent, and that gives fairly spectacular 3-D effects around the three of us, surrounded by 60 instruments from the first analog synthesizers to the very up-to-date touch screens and digital equipment, so it’s a fairly unique and ambitious project.”
While the show has been constantly tweaked by Jarre since he hit Toronto and Montréal in early 2017, his piece with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will still feature prominently. Jarre travelled to Russia to record with Snowden for a track on Electronica 2 – The Heart of Noise, as his sacrifice reminded Jarre of his mother, who was part of the French resistance in 1941. If anything, the track is even more relevant now than when it was recorded.
“Promoting the values of Snowden, which are actually more and more up-to-date when you see what’s going on with Facebook and the leaks all over the world, we need to protect our privacy,” Jarre declares, “And we need to protect people helping us to discover how our privacy can be in danger.”
So, come to pay homage to a master of his kind, come for the spectacle, come for the knowledge… No matter what draws you here, you will leave with far more value than your ticket costs.
Jean-Michel Jarre drops science on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 17.ambient, EDM, electronica, Jean-Michel Jarre, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Synthesis