THE ART OF RAY SCREENING BY JEAN-MICHEL JARRE
© W.L.Cross, specially for CrazyWeb
September 8, 1997
Once upon a time (let’s call it Future In the Past) someone named John Galt built a special ray screen in order to hide a settlement in the Rocky Mountains, where his mates hid themselves from an authoritarian regime… For several years no one but one plane from aside flew into the valley. Don’t know if any secret service uses this stealth technology by now, yet on September, 6 some 3.5 million people saw an open version of it near Moscow University Building.
Jean-Michel Jarre, the French synthesizer guru, wasn’t intending to hide a building, moreover the tallest in Moscow. He just turned the skyscraper into a big screen.
Virtually all Moscow was expected to come and see the show. Closer to the thing, it was just a part of the 850-years jubilee Moscow claims to have just these days. To be more exact, according to some remaining sources that date back to 1147, Prince Yuri Dolgoruky was reported to come to have a drink somewhere near the place. Thus, for millions of us, Muscovites it turns up to 850-year-old tradition: come and have a drink. One of the ways to do it was to come to Vorobyevy Gory (literally, Sparrow Hills) to see what that Frog brought as a present. The main man to be presented, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who was the opening act, seemed to be dead drunk at the moment, judging by his voice. He introduced Monsieur Jarre as if he was a Centauri emperor. He was accompanied by four fighters – the Mayor called them Su-37, but they were the older version, Su-27. They bombed the audience with fireworks – and flew away.
A couple of words about the audience and the place of action. Remembering The Monsters of Rock in Tushino of 1991 I was afraid to be jammed by crowd. I was too pessimistic: about a kilometer-long area between the University building and the hillside was an uneasy place to have people trampled. They had more chance in the underground where the local government followed it certain habit and closed one Metro station after another. Finally I gave up any hope to meet my fellows, climbed upside on Frunzenskaya and saw crowds, crowds and trolley-buses with people on the roof. The time was 7.30 PM yet the show was to begin at eight. Nevertheless, I walked on foot and never saw any jamming up to the very place where my point was too remote from the stage yet just opposite the University buiding. Another discovery was that there are not so many cops as I expected to see. Not so many – to compare with the whole crowd, I guess. The first place I saw them really affecting the crowd was the show area.
OK, let’s return t the show. It started at 8.30 PM, when the light just started to fade. All the people I talked after the gig said that they liked it more closer to the end, when the complete darkness descended. Another thing was the sound which I would say quiet. at least in the beginning. The music Mr. Jarre presented was rather old, up to 20 years old and more. Oxygen, Magnetic Fields, Equinox etc. And I don’t thing Jean-Michel Jarre is the best in this kind, just the first. At least, in 1988 Don Airey released ‘K2 – Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy’, the synth-oriented thing I value higher.
It was lighting that made the show worth seeing. And the first bunch of people I would bring up to see it are Web designers. At last, maybe after the such a show they would have some useful samples in on their mind – or to drop their business if all they can do is Soviet tasteless or post-Soviet grunge. It’s a shame to do it after the gig. And the very best was just lighting, in my favorite dark blue/green tones. I don’t find best most of the pictures displayed on the skyscraper wall, except those on the space theme; it seemed to be strange when Mr. Jarre announced a song as a tribute to princess Diana – and figures with proletarian slogans of 20-30s started to appear on the wall.
The funniest piece was when Mr. Jarre turned to remind us that the last man to conquer Moscow was the Emperor of the French. I burst out laughing seeing Netscape logos around silhouettes of Napoleon. It looked as if Napoleon were the Emperor of partisan, not one beaten by partisans. The Redmond kite or Explorer (=Emperor) emblem would have been be more to the point – but that’s history. Another thing to be remembered was ‘Revolution’ with just letters: FREEDOM – NO FREEDOM, SEX – NO SEX… Just like Anthrax.
Maybe the peak of the technical ecstasy was when Mr. Jarre announced the Mir crew like his very special guests. The projectors rose upside – and there was a lighting point moving in the sky. The real Mir, a nameless satellite or a virtual object – that’s I can’t say. I would say, Mr. Jarre loves astronauts more than himself. Head of Gagarin in encounter suit was something like Jarre’s trademark meanwhile I was expecting to see a glimpse of Jarre himself during the work onstage – and never saw. And the stage was so remote from most part or the crowd than only when it all ended I convinced himself that the actual stage was under the skyscraper’s colonnade. Rush at least presented their audience with online shots of themselves during their shows not unlike those of Mr. Jarre. Some animations were similar like a figure of a running man. Only in the very end Mr. Jarre announced that he didn’t played alone – keyboards, keyboards, keyboards… Mice too?
Closer to the end some people in the crowd wanted to dance – the music was disposing them to, yet the weather was cool. Just, not as much space per person like in nightclubs. The very end was initially taken as another encore when Menatep Bank commercials appeared on the University wall. Yet, back to sad realities with the certain cops raising their heads and sticks. Just people on the roof of a trolley in 1 AM were a sign that something big really happened that night.
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