Liam Rudden: Lost in Jarre’s cathedral of sound

Jean-Michel Jarre
at Glasgow Hydro 2016
Jean-Michel Jarre at Glasgow Hydro 2016
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I’VE waited a long time to see Jean-Michel Jarre live.

From the moment I heard his genre-defying album Oxygene in 1976, he went on my ‘Must See’ list.

Then, he was 28, I was just 12, but his music was ageless. Forty years later, it still is.

For decades, I’ve watched from afar as Jarre has staged some of the greatest sound and light shows the world has ever seen. Never quite in the right place at the right time.

They started in 1979 when more than one million people turned up in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day with him, securing him his first entry in the Guinness Book of Records for largest outdoor concert audience.

Indeed, open-air concerts quickly became his signature. He played Houston to celebrate the 25th anniversary of NASA, Lyon, to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II, and even stage one gig at the Eiffel Tower.

Then there was one at Egypt’s Giza Plateau, and another to celebrate the 850th birthday of Moscow, which attracted 3.5 million Russians, earning Jarre his fourth entry in the record books.

Back in 1988, his Destination Docklands concerts, at London’s docklands, took the UK by storm. It so could, and should, have been Leith.

I remember my dear, sainted mother returning from the shops one day, excited that she had met ‘a lovely wee French musician’ with a TV crew. He had been asking locals in The Kirkgate if they thought a concert in Leith Docks a good idea.

The plan was to use Cairngorn and Grampian House, high-rise dwellings since demolished, to project lights from and onto, as the music boomed from the dock basin.

Apparently, along with the other shoppers, she had agreed it would be a great idea.

I asked my mother, herself ‘a lovely wee Irish woman’ the name of the Frenchman.

“John something,” she replied. “Jean Michael...”

“Jean-Michel Jarre?”

“That was it,” she said delightedly, “What a lovely man.”

Of course, that concert never happened. Not sure what went wrong. But just imagine...

And so, 40 years after I first succumbed to Jarre’s synthesised aural dreams, I found myself at The Hydro in Glasgow, last Friday.

Now 68, could the musician live up to a lifetime of expectations? After all, it wasn’t even one of the famous outdoor gigs I always said would be my first experience of the maestro live.

However, as the haunting strains of The Heart of Noise filled the auditorium, I knew I needn’t have worried.

Oxygenes 2, 8, 4 (the famous one) and 17 (the new one) all featured, as Jarre mixed classic and new seemlessly; from the stupidly catchy Circus to a glorious mash-up of Glory and Equinoxe. His latest collaboration, with Pet Shop Boys, Brick England was a highlight.

For the best part of two hours, Jarre entranced and enthralled, creating a cathedral of sound and light, that more than lived up to any of those iconic outdoor gigs.

What a legend.