BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Multifaceted French artist and composer Jean-Michel Jarre continued his first ever U.S. concert tour with a stop at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Friday night as part of a brief nine city North American trek.
Jarre, the 68 year old son of concentration camp survivors from Lyon, is an early pioneer, if not the godfather of electronic music. This is as close as he’s come to anything approaching a conventional tour on this side of the pond. He last appeared in the U.S. in 1986 in Houston in front of an estimated 1.3 million people. Presenting what was intended to be a concert celebrating NASA’s 25th anniversary, a historically tragic twist of fate turned his appearance into a celebration of the lives of the Challenger Space Shuttle astronauts killed two months earlier.
Having also played in front of the Eiffel Tower and Great Pyramids in Egypt, the good fortune of those in attendance on a crisp evening at the greatly intimate by comparison Greek would not soon be forgotten. Arriving to a joyous ovation from the Berkeley crowd ready to let loose at the start of the long Memorial Day weekend, Jarre opened with “Heart of Noise” from his recent two album “Electronica” project. The pair of albums, “Electronica 1: The Time Machine” and “Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise,” have featured a cast of diverse All-Star collaborators ranging from Pete Townshend, Tangerine Dream, Laurie Anderson, Cyndi Lauper and The Pet Shop Boys, just to name a few.
But on this night the sole ringmaster for this spectacular genre busting music and visual spectacle was Jarre himself, slightly elevated center stage on an alter-like riser surrounded by numerous sets of keyboards. In spite of having sold over 100 million albums worldwide, he might not be a mainstream household name to the uninformed here in the states, but the high energy level and entertainment value of his performance was consistent for the nearly hour and three quarter show.
With the whole stage transformed into a gigantic stunning visual backdrop for the entire evening phenomenal 3-D production provided overwhelming optics throughout. The multi instrumentalist’s upbeat melodic instrumentals and laser displays overwhelmed many of the onlookers including this reporter, who is hard pressed to recall such an entertaining or jaw dropping light show amongst the hundreds of performances he’s attended over the years.
Other than some highly questionable praise for CIA traitor Edward Snowden as part of the introduction to “Exit” early in the set, Jarre’s handful of direct interactions with the audience were all quite personal and uplifting. By the time “Oxygene 4,” the first of three encores, gave him an opportunity to comment on his longstanding belief in the ongoing dangers of climate change, most of the assembled crowd would’ve likely been quick to buy anything this groundbreaking architect was pushing for sale.