The Electronica World Tour was the first time Jarre performed in Canada, and all of Toronto knew that this show would be a treat. It begins with a three-dimensional LED screen flashing images of squares, and prisms, and pyramids. Synthesizers blast through the speakers, and then the screens pull away, revealing a lonesome figure towering above the crowd. Standing in the midst of fog and a sinister red light, with his round-glasses eyeing down the crowd, is the science-fiction-straight-out-of-a-movie Jean-Michel Jarre. I’ve been to plenty of concerts. I’ve been to plenty of festivals. Nothing compared to this.
I can only imagine what the show must have been like for an uninformed crowd. I had the chance to speak with Jean-Michel a few days before the event, and he warned me that this concert would be extremely special.
You’re finally on your way to Canada, playing Toronto and Montreal. One of the biggest questions all your Canadian fans are asking is why has it taken so long?
JMJ: It’s actually a question I could ask myself. I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life to come to Canada, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen. Sometimes I was supposed to play Canadian festivals, in Montreal and all over. Other times I was supposed to be part of musical projects in Canada. A lot of times the scheduling just didn’t work out – I had other things planned in parts of Europe, and Asia and I’ve had to cancel my Canadian trip. I have a lot of connections in Canada, and there are a lot of musicians I know as well as parts of my production team, and of course I know people in Quebec.
I’ve always wanted to perform in Canada, and finally here I am. I’m very excited to be performing this show in Canada also, because this project is very special to me – I think it’s quite spectacular. We are mixing a lot of my old pieces of music with a lot of my new compositions, and of course putting that all together with lights and lasers. It’s a very special stage production. For a long time I’ve had the idea of trying to express visually of what I’m doing while mixing, or creating music, or making atmosphere. I wanted to express this on a visual point of view – with modern technology I can finally do this. We’ve created a type of 3D without glasses; real 3d. We use a lot of transparent screens, and 3D lights which allow the audience to really experience the show. You have to see this show live to actually experience it.
Jarre was not exaggerating. He dons a new pair of sunglasses, and the LED screens pulls away to the side of the stage. Suddenly we see what he sees, through a miniature camera attached to the glasses; everything is shown through the magic of LED lights. He brings out his keytar. He brings out his electric guitar. He jumps down to the crowds level, and plays his instrument in the midst of lasers and lights as if he were Jimmy Page. The production is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and it pairs perfectly with the music.
Your music has undoubtedly served as a major force in the growth and expansion of electronic music. And you’ve collaborated with so many people who have been influenced by your music. Because we are an electronic music website the first name that comes to my mind is Armin Van Buuren. What was it like working with someone who is notorious for making a modern style of electronic music/trance music? Was it difficult, or did everything just kind of flow together?
Working with someone like Armin was really cool, and very easy. Apart from being a really great musician, he’s a great guy, and a really amazing human being. He’s been very kind, and has said wonderful things about my music, and how he’s been inspired by it. Because of this it was like working with a little brother! Making this track with him, which is one of the strong moments of the concert, was amazing. A lot of people consider my music to be an influence for trance music, and I have a lot of connections with trance as a genre. It’s something I feel very close to, which made working with Armin that much better.
There’s so many talented artists these days who have innovated their own sound when it comes to trance music. Deadmau5, for example, has done an amazing job with this. All of the collaborators in Electronica have also helped create sounds and styles in electronic music, so when I had the opportunity to work with another artist like this I took it immediately.
To me the most impressive part of the show was the laser harp. He turns out all the lights. All the lasers fade, and turn red, engulfing the room in the fiery light. Multiple green lasers shoot out from the floor, and Jarre begins to play them. He uses his hands, and smacks each laser as if it were a string.
Speaking of the evolution of electronic music, your own style has grown and changed over the years. Were there specific artists, or styles that influenced the changes in your music, or helped you grow your own sounds?
As an artist, and as a musician, I think that I am like a sponge. I am constantly influenced and changed. When you see all the guests in Electronica, all of these artists have had a major influence on me. You listen to ten seconds of any of these artists, and you instantly recognize their sound. You’re instantly able to soak up their influence and turn it into your own.
And you can hear when you collaborate with these people, both of your styles working together which is a huge benefit to younger listeners who can hear the differences between the two types of music, and how they flow perfectly together.
That was really the goal of this project. To try and merge our DNA, and our sounds, and our styles in this way. I took a lot of time during the mixing process to try and balance this, and was very moved and honored by the fact that every artist in this project said “you do what you want, it’s your project”. The pressure was even bigger because I wanted to give each track to these friends/collaborators and to make sure their own sound came through just as much as mine.
You’ve played absolutely massive shows – larger than any modern electronic music festival – and you’ve also played shows like the one happening in Toronto, which is in a kind of intimate, theater setting. Do you have a preference?
I’ve always said that the scale is very important in a concert, but that does not necessarily mean that a concert has to be big. With this project, I am coming back from Israel and Spain where I did two massive outdoor shows with the exact same production that I am using for this tour, which is in a smaller setting. With this production I can play massive shows, I can play arenas, and even on top of a mountain. Or I can play theaters, and small venues. It is all the same production, design and concept. In Toronto I’ll be playing some new tracks in order to make it feel kind of exclusive, and different from every other concert I have done. Because its my first time in Canada, I am trying to push the boundaries of the show as much as possible.
The Electronica Tour was unlike anything I have ever seen, and likely unlike anything I will ever see again. From the insane amount of lasers and lights, to the beauty of the music, everything went far above any sort of expectation set by the crowd. Jean-Michel Jarre has impressed Canada tremendously. If you have the chance to catch the rest of the tour, be sure to take the opportunity. It is not something anybody should contemplate missing.