Jean-Michel Jarre has no problem rattling off countries and continents where he’s more famous than he is in North America: “Europe, China, South America, Japan, Australia …” he says, on the phone from his Paris studio. Jarre could go on. “But,” he quips, “this is going to change after your article.”
Yes, he’s joking, but, finally, after ignoring North America as a touring market, Jarre, a pioneering synthesizer wizard/multi-instrumentalist/composer who has sold about 80 million albums worldwide, just made a move: This month, he launched a nine-date string of multimedia shows that stops at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on Tuesday, May 16. He’ll be joined by two percussionists, Claude Samard-Polikar and Stephane Gervais.
When I talked to Jarre two decades ago, he had said he wanted to mount a U.S. tour of eight to 10 cities. That did not happen, even as he was promoting the sequel to his best-selling album, the six-song “Oxygene,” with “Oxygene 7-13.” Nor did any other tour.
Curiously enough, the reason Jarre hasn’t toured the U.S. yet goes back to his father. “My dad used to lead these concerts for a long time and somehow I had a difficult relationship with him, always,” says Jarre. His father, Maurice Jarre, was a conductor and masterful film composer, scoring “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Witness,” “The Mosquito Coast” and “Ghost,” among many others. Jarre’s parents divorced when he was 5, and he lived mostly with his mother.
“I always considered that the U.S. was a little bit my father’s territory,” Jarre says. “But he passed away seven years ago and it is behind me. We have no problem in my mind. I’m not doing psychoanalysis here with you at the moment, but just to say I think that’s changed and now I’m very eager and excited about the music I want to share with the U.S. audience.”
Ask anyone working in the electronic music world — from ambient to trip-hop to techno — and they’ll likely cite the 68-year-old French-born Jarre as a primary influence.
It’s not like Jarre has been one of those electronic geniuses who are also studio recluses. He was the first Western musician invited to perform in post-Mao China. He played at the Great pyramids in Egypt; he played four times at Place de la Concorde outside the Eiffel Tower, bringing in over a million people each time. He gave a concert to 3.5 million people in Moscow. His one and only concert in the U.S. was in 1986, where he brought 1.3 million together for a city-scale concert in Houston for NASA’s 25th anniversary and a commemoration of the Challenger mission.
“I did a lot of recording in America, but I didn’t do lots of touring in my life,” Jarre says. “I did lots of one-offs, like the one in Houston, a lot of concerts all over the world. Each time I was touring, for one reason or another, it didn’t happen in America because of…