Gig review: Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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Leeds Arena on a wet Thursday evening might not have quite the same ring to it as the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the pyramids of Giza or some of the other dazzling backdrops where Jean-Michel Jarre may have played record-breaking concerts in the past four decades.

Yet the godfather of modern electronic music seems in good spirits as he takes to the stage with drummer Claude Samard and multi-instrumentalist Stephane Gervais.

Dressed in black and with his eyes hidden behind aviator shades, he’s soon jumping around with one hand pointed skywards like a 90s raver as his set shifts through a selection of tracks from his 2015 and 2016 companion albums Electronica 1 and 2 along with such classics as Oxygene Part II and IV and Equinoxe Parts 2 and 8.

In the booming sub-bass that vibrates through your chest or the pulsating rhythms hitched to snatches of keyboard melodies it’s easy to appreciate the scale of Jarre’s influence on 80s synth pop and club culture in 90s and early 2000s. His Electronica albums return the compliment by featuring collaborations with those who have followed in his wake, such as Vince Clarke of Erasure, M83, Boys Noize and Armin Van Buuren.

The stately Souvenir of China is a throwback to his ground-breaking concerts in Beijing and Shanghai in 1981 but the evening’s most striking moments belong to Exit, a pounding collaboration with the US state surveillance whistle blower Edward Snowden, which questions secret services’ right to mass monitor internet commmunications, and the elegiac Brick England, originally written with the Pet Shop Boys and here sung by Samard and Gervais through Vocoders.

Enhanced with spectacular projections and a dazzling light show, they can’t help but leave a lasting impression.

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jarre proves quite the Anglophile throughout the evening, announcing at one point, to loud cheers, that: “The UK is like my second home. With or without Brexit, we love you.”

And towards the end he demonstrates his showman’s ability, playing notes on green beams of light on his famous laser harp.

In the encore there’s an amusing play on the original artwork from the cover of Equinoxe, with a crowd of prying faces gazing through binoculars being replaced by a huge backdrop of shapeless people clutching cameraphones, and there’s also the premiere of Oxygene XVII, from his forthcoming album Oxygene 3. A spry techno track it’s accompanied by giant images of giant illuminated skulls and a rotating Planet Earth and Jarre says he’s chosen this show to feature in its forthcoming video.

Just one more souvenir from a memorable show.

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Jean-Michel Jarre at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

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