Jarre fortunately ends the loonnngggg wait
Blue Hills Pavilion, Boston, May 16, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The ultra-long weight for Jean-Michel Jarre was finally over. After playing exactly 1 lone U.S. concert - way back in 1986 in a Houston show that drew 1.3 million people in conjunction with the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster - Jarre brought his array of keyboards and music machinery for a night of varying music from EDM to his trademark synth music backed by a top of the line stage show.
At 68, Jarre remains best known for his "Oxygene" album from 1976, a synth-driven disc. He has continued making music ever since with several albums of variations on the "Oxygene" theme along with EDM sounds. He even was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album at this year's Grammys.
Jarre dove into both styles throughout the 110-minute show. He played five different versions of "Oxygene,"(through December 2016, Jarre has released 20 varying songs of "Oxygene") with sufficient variation not to result in déją vu all over again.
Jarre spent a lot of time on his most recent discs, "Electronica 1: The Time Machine" (that was the Grammy nominee) and "Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise," starting with the mood-inducing title track of the latter.
Not all songs clicked. "Souvenir of China," inspired by a concert in China was a slowed-down affair that didn't have a tremendous amount of direction.
A few too many of the EDM songs sounded similar with big, fat, fast beats with a driving sound.
Jarre more than made up for it by staging one of the finest visual presentations from moving metallic screens that at times would open and close to backing geometrics flashing on the screens. He had mainly red lasers shooting later in the show in almost a throwback, but it sure looked good.
He also wore a camera on his glasses, enabling the audience to at times to actually see how and what he was playing on backing screens. The music could have been cold and distant. In Jarre's hands, it wasn't. Very cool.
While the staging enhanced the music, it didn't overwhelm it because Jarre had enough going on musically.
All songs were instrumentals save for one where the two backing musicians, who were an integral part in shaping the overall sound, assumed the vocals on "Brick England" with Jarre playing key-tar (keyboards and a guitar mashed up) and another with a bit of recorded vocals.
Prior to playing the techno sounding "Exit," Jarre said he recorded the song in Russia with Edward Snowden, who appeared in a backing video as the musicians played live, repeating the oft-repeated spoken words "If you don't stand up for it, who will?"
While one may not think of a guy who sits behind a bank of keyboards playing instrumentals as being political, Jarre did not shy away and made it clear where he stood. "We need to know the truth," Jarre said.
Jarre clearly was enjoying himself onstage, often jumping up and down, pumping his fist. At times, he almost came off as a bit too much of a cheerleader for his own songs by waving his hands as if encouraging the crowd to get into the songs. Truth be told, that while not a huge crowd for the venue - probably less than half filled - he deserved their appreciation.
Jarre may have saved the best for last. With a green spectrum of laser lights in a vertical formation at the front of the stage, Jarre put on white gloves, saying "This doesn't always work." He proceeded to place his hands at varying times and places on the lights emitting synth music, (he calls it a laser harp) making for a neat reading of "The Time Machine."
Jarre concluded with three oft-repeated words - "See you soon." Now considering his long past, it's hard to say Jarre has much street cred.
But given the fact that he did finally show up, continues making music and even gets recognition, who knows for sure? With dynamic, sensory tour de force outings like this, that would be quite all right.