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Wednesday 28 March 2007
In March 2007, I travelled to Lint in Belgium to be at Jean-Michel Jarre's showcase for his new album 'Teo & Tea'.
It's like Chronologie and Metamorphoses cross-bred with dance music, and the intimate club-style gig was a day to remember.
Before the concert began, an announcement was made: you weren't allowed to touch Jean-Michel while he was playing.
Jean-Michel Jarre has repeatedly broken the Guinness World Record for the largest live concert audience (as many as 3.5 million people in 1997). I've seen him three times before - at Docklands I didn't see the man at all, although I was engrossed by the music, lights, lasers and fireworks. At Wembley Arena in 97 I was in block A but was still about half a football field away. Today, with JMJ playing in the round to an invited audience of about two or three hundred, we were all going to be within touching distance. There was a sense this was going to be very special indeed.
Everyone in the audience entered the studio on a red carpet. Where the curtains parted, we could see the set, like a cross between a circus big top and a nightclub. The audience was arranged in about three concentric circles, with a raised walkway to the stage between the first and second rings. I was right at the front, stage right.
Accompanied by two other musicians, JMJ played seven or eight songs from the new album 'Teo & Tea', including three versions of the title track, one of which was an unscheduled encore. While not playing, Jean-Michel ran through the crowd on the walkway, slapping any hands offered to him, and getting people to clap and dance. He wore a portable keyboard to play on the walkways.
After the performance (and before the encore), there was a Q&A session taking questions from the internet and the studio floor. "Teo & Tea is about how even though we have more communications tools, there is a feeling of loneliness," said Jean-Michel (in English, but paraphrasing from my skimpy notes). "People try to find their partner, not only for sexual reasons (also, for sexual reasons), but to share their feelings. Teo & Tea describes a relationship, which is an electrifying moment, which is why this album has more rhythms... and fun, I hope. Also, the dancefloor is one place where people can make these encounters."
The new album is mainly instrumental, with the exception of a spoken voiceover on the title track. "The beauty of music as opposed to songs with lyrics is that you can let the audience create their own story in their minds," said Jarre.
He confirmed that he would like to do a tour of clubs in Europe, and named the Queen Club on Champs-Elysees in Paris as a possible, as well as listing London and Brussels and in response to crowd pressure, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
This album involved a different way of working, he said. "Usually, I go deep into one song and lose myself in it for a month before moving on to the next one. This time I made 15 demos in one month. It was more like how you would produce a rock album, keeping the ideas that work and developing them further." From 20 demos, he developed the 13 tracks of the album.
He was asked how he felt about the development of electronic music since Oxygene. "Electronic music is not just a fashion or a style," he said. "It's a new way of doing music. Pierre Schaeffer invented this. He said that music is made of notes, harmonies and sound. It changed the music of the 20th century. The difference between noise and sound is the intention of the musician."
After the show, Jean-Michel had a meet and greet with the audience. The guest list, coordinated by Dunkie at Jarre UK, included fans from the UK, Romania, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Bulgaria and more. Many had arrived with memorabilia to sign, including the end plate from the same model synth used on the new album, vinyl singles (remember those?) and inlays of the new CD. The webmaster of Jarre.ch presented JMJ with a CD containing a discography of 3072 items. "I don't have all that," he told me. "My collection is 1327 items." (can't remember the real number, but it was over 1000 and wasn't a round number). Suddenly, despite my near-complete collection of studio albums on CD, I didn't feel like such a hardcore fan after all.
On the way out, I saw them packing away the kit from the show:
It was a long day. I got up at 5.15am and got home again at 11pm. I spent about 14 hours in trains and stations. But it was well worth it. A Jarre concert is unforgettable, and this one has injected many happy memories into the new album for me.
Many thanks to Dunkie from Jarre UK for putting me on the guest list, and to Jean-Michel and his team for having us all along. I'd like to extend particular thanks for finding time for the unscheduled meet and greet.
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