Jean Michel Jarre, RAH, London

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Released in 1977, Oxygene has always been Jarre’s most successful album, and one he has revisited more than once.  In 1997 he produced a “sequel” Oxygene 7-13, and in 2007 he rerecorded Oxygene in its entirity (with the original synthesisers) to produce Oxygene – 30th Anniversary.  In support of the new version of Oxygène, he took fellow musicians Francis Rimbert, Dominque Perrier and Claude Sammard and a large number of vintage analogue synthesisers (plus a few newer pieces picked up en route) on tour to play the whole of Oxygene live, complete with variations between the pieces (most likely to allow time to change the settings on the synths from piece to piece) and Oxygène 13, which he dedicated to “everyone who has been in love”, to round the evening off.

Jarre started the evening off with a small introductory speech to the audience about the concept of the project (narrowly avoiding a falling chain from a faulty piece of the stage manipulation equipment in the process), and spoke fondly of his then-recently deceased friend Sir Arthur C Clarke, before introducing the musicians and the equipment.  He that because they were old analogue devices they needed to be gently warmed and tuned, and so they began (although the musicians were actually reading off a score for the “tuning” which suggests it was more a way of letting everyone hear the different synths before the show properly got going).

The visuals for the show were much more muted than a traditional Jarre show, with the focus being squarely on the music and the gear, with some back-projections at times (complete with a 3D fly-through animation based on the famous Oxegène cover art), plus a mirror which descended from on high to let everyone get a better view of the equipment.

Annoyingly I forgot my usual camera, so had to rely on the one in my mobile phone which is why these pictures are not up to the usual level.

There is not much to say about the concert itself, it was exactly what you would expect, Oxygene played in its entirety live on many of the original instruments – marvellous!  The bass from the analogue beasts really came through as notable, although not so much as to dominate and overpower the rest of the sonic palette.  The other notable part was at the start where, due (Jarre said) to the nature for analogue gear to drift in tuning as it warms up, the entire 4 piece group tested each of the synths before launching into the concert-proper; I have to say I have my doubts about the need to check the tuning, not least because they all sounded in tune!  I rather suspect it was more to show off each of the different synths to the audience as snippets of the famous tones and motifs filled the air during the tune-up.  This view is strengthened by Jarre never having done this in previous or subsequent gigs even though he includes some old analogue gear in those.

Still, it was great to hear the individual tones in isolation and to try to spot which beast was making which noises throughout.

Setlist – Prelude, Oxygene Part 1, Oxygene Part 2, Oxygene Part 3, Variation 1, Oxygene Part 4, Variation 2, Oxygene Part 5, Variation 3, Oxygene Part 6, Oxygene 13