maandag 18 juli 2011

Live at the Great Church

Yesterday I've been busy - together with Wouter Bessels - making a selection of tracks from my past Grote of St.Bavokerk (Great Church of Haarlem) performances, for an album release.

I did a total of three performances on this unique location situated in the centre of my former hometown, in 2007, 2008 and 2010, as musical support of the annual bookmarket.
Each edition consisted of two sets of around 45 minutes, of which one set contained (re-arranged) existing music, and another contained completely new (specially written for this occasion) compositions.

A short overview:
In 2007 my first Great Church concert took place. In first instance it was the intention to perform the new piece live with a brass ensemble. At the very last moment this collaboration was cancelled, and I performed the entire piece on my own, replacing the brass parts by synth parts. The upcoming album starts with the opening piece of this edition.

2008 I chose to involve two cello players (Rachel Mulder and Jasmijn Overbeek) into my newly written musical piece "The Traveller".
Due to temperature issues (it can be very cold in the Church in November, which also was the case this specific year) the cellos went out of tune more than wanted, so it was too hard (read: impossible) to do something with the multitrack recordings to make the final result sound acceptable. I could have chosen to re-record some tracks, but that would not justify the live representation on an eventual album release. As a result of this, one of the pieces without cello has been selected to appear on the album.

In 2009 my musical contribution was cancelled due to the birth of my son, exactly on the day of the performance.
As replacement my to be played sets were played from a prepared disc, which contained a rehearsal from a couple of days before the planned performance.
Although this set was never performed live, I did choose to use one of the featured tracks to appear on the cd.
From the specific piece I've excluded the percussion for a revisited version to appear at the 2010 performance.
For the flow and dynamics of the album, I've chosen to use the original 2009 version (with percussion) instead of the 2010 track.

2010 Was the concluding edition of the trilogy, where I performed last year's "EoD" ("Exhibition of Dreams") set, as well as the new project "Sinfonia Senza Percussione" (as the title suggests, entirely without any percussion), of which most will appear on the new release.
Although I had in mind to only select unreleased tracks, "Silent Conversations" is an exception to this, and will probably also be added because it fits perfectly in between the tracks.

In my opinion this album concludes the Great Church trilogy, giving a perfect overview of my performances in the Great Church so far, representing the overall atmosphere as much as possible, and exposing a variety of tracks which form clear transitions in between my so far released albums.

For those who have never attended one or more of my Great Church performances: expect lots of orchestral sounds and choirs, besides the casual electronics.

For now, I will be busy the coming weeks creating proper mixes. After that, Wouter Bessels is going to do the mastering part.
In the meanwhile I will keep everyone posted here with the progress of the new release.

This compilation of Great Church tracks (title to be announced soon) will be released as the second album on my newly established label Deserted Island Music, and should see the light in October.

maandag 4 juli 2011

Jean Michel Jarre live in Monaco

Last weekend I visited Monaco together with some friends to attend Jean Michel Jarre's concert as part of the royal wedding of Prince Albert II and Charlene Wittstock.
Jarre's free outdoor concert in the shipyard of Monaco was one of the events that was being held during these days of celebration and was a gift of the Royal couple to all Monagasque people and those who visited Monaco on this day.

On the day of our arrival (Thursday, June 30th) we visited the fascinating concert site for the first time, at Port Hercule (one of Monaco's shipyards) where the huge 120 meters long stage was situated, containing eight towers with screens intended for projections.
The afternoon the band (which consisted of the same musicians as the last tour: Jerome Gueguen, Claude Samard, Francis Rimbert, and not to forget Jean Michel Jarre himself) appeared on stage to have their first soundchecks. The organisation was very strict so it was difficult to get close to the artists. During the day Francis Rimbert showed up in the audience, so there was a possibility to have a talk with him. The day before, the soundchecks were cancelled due to very bad weather, of which no traces were left on this day after. The following days the temperatures were around 30/35 degrees, and sound engineer Patrick Pelamourgues told us that he had a real tough job to get all analog equipment (which contained more or less the same approximately 50 synthesizers as the last tour) tuned.
As soon as the soundchecks started it became clear that there were some interesting changes in the tracklist of the last tour, which caused excitement by a lot of the real Jarre-fans. At least "Chronologie 1", "Chronologie 4" (which haven't been performed live since "Europe in Concert" / "Hong Kong" (1993/1994) - and - most surprisingly of all - "Vintage" (from the 2007 album Teo & Tea) were added.
During the soundchecks we searched for the right place to attend for the day of the actual concert, and we decided to take place behind the swimming pool, which was situated in the middle of the concert site. Due to visibility of the huge range of the stage and the excellent sound, even when standing about 100 metres from the stage, we've chosen to take place here.
Later on we had our dinner on a terrace actually in front of the stage, listening the the music to be performed and enjoying our food.
Around 20:00 the soundchecking was ended, and all musicians left the stage and concert site.

Two hours later the dress-rehearsals (the complete show excluding the "Bridal Chorus" and the encore, and without fireworks. Sometimes leaving some space in between the tracks where things were discussed onstage) started with the newly added track "Chronologie 1". Jarre entered the stage via a boat. Excellent choice to start this concert with, and this also caused me goosebumps. This track had been performed for the last time during the tour of which I (conciously) visited my first Jarre-concert ever (Europe In Concert - Brussels, August 24th, 1993). Hereafter the rehearsals continued with "Oxygene 2", "Magnetic Fields 1" and "Equinoxe 5". Then the famous laser harp was introduced. Its beams reaching high in the sky, and Jean Michel performed "Third Rendez-Vous". "Magnetic Fields 2" was the next track, featuring improvised solos by Jerome Gueguen. Then "Souvenir of China" followed, Jarre playing a staccato solo part on it, and after a short speech interruption (which couldn't be heard by the audience), "Oxygene 4" and then "Oxygene 5", where Jean Michel improvised on his Moog Liberation, were to be played. The sequencer of "Variation 3" went completely out of tune and was started all over. Francis Rimbert practised the sequence (which he also did successfully during one of the performances of "Oxygene" at Marigny in Paris, 2007) in the short break before the track was being resumed. "Equinoxe 4" followed, and when this track was finished, Jarre climbed the left-middle tower to perform his solo on "Industrial Revolution 3", which was more coordinated (and rather neared the version to be heard on the album) than his solos on for example "Oxygene 5". "Second Rendez-Vous" started and when the laser harp (which was invisible from a long distance most of the time) was put on, it drifted a couple of times, playing some notes simultaneously and detuning at some points. Hereafter there was again time for an (again unhearable for the audience) speech. Soon after this one of the surprises of this concert followed: "Vintage". Since its release in 2007 it was never been played during one of Jarre's concerts, with the exception of the "Teo & Tea" showcases. However, this track - which was the beginning of the more danceable part of the show - worked out excellent live. The tempo increased with "Chronolologie 2" and "Chronologie 4". Also this fourth track of the 1993 album hasn't been played live for 18 years, so it also was a very pleasant surprise which was carefuly chosen to made up for the finale of this concert. Jean Michel performed one of the best solos on this track I've heard so far! Although I am not always in the mood for "Calypso 3", this track was performed very subtle, turning the over-all volume a bit down to highlight Jarre's solo at the end of the track. Again played for a large part as to be heard on the 1990 album, "Waiting For Cousteau".
The concert was concluded with the - always catchy - "Fourth Rendez-Vous", again featuring some stunning solo work by Jerome Gueguen. No words were being said after this last track, and the people left the concert area after having attended the music and light show for 2 hours.

The day after we went to the shipyard around noon, just to ensure our places. The day of the rehearsals not too many people attended the show in my opinion, and also this morning there were only a handful of fans that gathered at the 'best' places. With a temperature of 30/35 degrees, and no shade on those 'best' places we decided to find a cooler spot, and eventually had a walk around the area, as also later on it seemed like not too many people showed up yet.
Around 17:30 we decided to have our dinner, whereafter we went to the location we wanted to take place. In the meanwhile more people entered the concert site. At a certain point some short musical atmospheric, sometimes classical sounding, pieces could be heard, and only 15 minutes before the show "Waiting For Cousteau" started. The amount of crowd increased 45-60 minutes before the show, and finally there were counted 85.000 present people (according to one newspaper), mainy standing in the surrounding area, but also a lot of viewers could be located on the balconys and roofs of the flats.

And then, finally the show started at 22:00 precisely, because of the live broadcast on television and iternet, starting again with Jean Michel Jarre arriving by boat, and this time finding his way to the stage through the crowd (which took a couple of minutes) while the music was introduced, creating atmosphere. "Chronologie 1" started, while the soundmix (fading in the strings theme too late) wasn't yet as good as the day before, but this time this excellent piece of music was concluded with the first fireworks of the evening. Jean Michel Jarre as it should be!
Then there was reserved some time to introduce the event, Jarre explained the use of non-polluting fireworks, and the Royal couple appeared on stage, thanking all present people and everyone who made this unique concert possible. After Prince Albert II spoke his words, he confirmed his friendship with Jean Michel Jarre. The South African Charlene said some nice words in French, which was clearly appreciated by the Monagasque audience. Then they found their place to the VIP-tribunes to enjoy the concert, receiving a loud applaus of the audience.
Bruno, the flying camera, was introduced to the audience, and mr. Jarre and the other musicians - who where introduced later on - continued the show with "Oxygene 2", which also seemed to have some sound issues compared with the version of the day before. In fact it took me some longer before I really got into the show. According to the very positive response of the audience this probably also had to do with my own critical way of experiencing concerts. And because this concert was my 13th one from Jarre, there was something to compare with. "Magnetic Fields 1", "Equinoxe 5" and "Third Rendez-Vous" where the next tracks. Again the laser harp seemed not to react completely as expected in the beginning, but this accented the 'live'-feeling. Jerome Gueguen again dominated "Magnetic Fields 2" and a point of rest was created with "Souvenir of China". A lot of the audience that know Jean Michel Jarre from his biggest success to date, started to get enthusiastic when hearing the first notes of "Oxygene 4", and in my opinion the tracks that followed, "Oxygene 5" and "Variation 3" (which absolutely belong to Jarre's best tracks in my opinion) were too chaotic and caused a 'weaker' (musical) part of the show. This time the Moog Liberation solo of "Oxygene 5" seemed to fill the track a bit too much and - just like during the rehearsals - the main sequence of "Variation 3" turned out to a completely different theme. The Arp 2600 detuned, but Jarre corrected this professionally during the track.
Then "Equinoxe 4" started a more musically stable part of the show, and "Industrial Revolution 3" maintained the overall excellent atmosphere of the show (which actually never disappeared since the beginning), and although the solo Jarre played while standing on the left-middle tower wasn't perfect, this track always has been one of my favourites to listen to (Actually I always prefer the hear the complete opening track from the 1988 album, but this hasn't been played since Docklands). "Second Rendez-Vous" blasted, but then the laser harp totally lost its way and it took quite a while the beams were under control again, also causing some minor problems with the synchronisation of the fireworks. Anyhow, the finale of this epic track made forget the laser harp incident, and after Jean Michel dedicated the next track to Princess Charlene ("Vintage"... hope he didn't have any meanings by that), the best part of the show started, continued with "Chronologie 2" (which evoluated to one of the strongest tracks that Jarre played live during the last years), Richard Wagner's "Bridal Chorus" (better known as "Here Comes The Bride"), and "Chronolgie 4" (which missed 'something' compared to the version played the day before, but still was part of the climax that was being built). "Calypso 3" formed the some 'silence before the storm', after which "Fourth Rendez-Vous" made it's way for the grand finale, supported by the maximum amount of lights, lasers and fireworks. It should have been impossible for any of the attending people not to get goosebumps or get touched emotionally seeing a show of this calibre. Something which could hardly be imagined to be human creation.
Jean Michel, Jerome, Claude and Francis left the stage after this track and re-appeared to play an encore of "Vintage". Could this probably be a hidden message towards Princess Charlene (depending on al rumours that had been spread the news the days before the marriage) or did the 62-year old French composer chose it, just because it seemed to work out excellent during a concert? The show ended ten minutes past midnight.

Anyhow, for me it was again a great and unique Jean Michel Jarre experience, which absolutely overwhealmed me. It was back in 2005 (Gdansk, Poland) that I had the previous opportunity to see Jean Michel performing an outdoor concert, so I was really excited to witness last weekend's show. Although I really liked his indoor concerts, Jarre is at his best with these huge shows, actually never copied on this scale by any other artist or band in this world, which is one of the main reasons that makes Jean Michel Jarre the entertainer he is.
In my eyes (and ears) "Aero" (Denmark, 2002) and "Solidarnosc" (Poland, 2005) neared perfection more than this Monaco show, but that absoutely didn't affect the outstanding quality of this concert. Besides, it was great to hear such an amount of comparisons with the first Jarre-concert I've ever attended ("Europe In Concert" - Brussels 1993).
I really hope to witness more of these absolutely tremendous experiences in the near future!