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April 5th 2006

Concerts - Rendez-Vous Houston


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Date: Saturday April 5th 1986
Location: Downtown Houston, Texas, United States of America
Visitors: 1,300,000 approx.
Cost of project: $5,000,000 approx.
Ticket cost: free
Length of concert: 1hr 30mins approx.

"Houston: The city that makes Dallas look like Doncaster". In 1985, Jean Michel Jarre received a phone call from the Musical Director of Houston's Opera House with the proposal for him to do something special to celebrate Texas' 150th birthday in 1986, aswell as the 150th birthday of the city of Houston. NASA were also to get involved too as it was also their 25th birthday - the celebrations, of course, were to be monumental.

For Jean Michel, this was a first as the only previous contact with Texas he had was with "spare ribs and John Wayne's movies". So when he visited the city of Houston for the first time, he instantly fell in love with the city's skyline, stating that it is totally unique, even within the United States itself. This gave him the inspiration, and the idea of creating a large-scale, Metropolis style concert, involving the city's skyline.

Because of NASA's involvement with the celebrations, this gave Jean Michel a chance to keep in contact with a friend of his, Astronaut Captain Bruce McCandless (the first Astronaut to perform an unaided space walk), who in turn introduced Jean Michel to a flight companion of his, Astronaut and Jazz Musician Ron McNair. Jean Michel and Ron became good friends, and together they had the idea that, for the celebrations, Jean Michel would create a piece of music that could be performed by Ron on his Saxophone. The idea was that Ron, on his next trip into space in the Challenger Space Shuttle, would perform (and record onto video) the new piece of music, which would then be projected (through a video playback) onto a giant projection screen that was to be constructed on the front of one of the buildings.

Whilst preparing the concert, Jean Michel Jarre started work on a new album - Rendez-Vous - which would contain the music that was to be performed live at the concert and was also scheduled to be released on the same day of the concert too. Whilst making the album, and preparing for the concert, Jean Michel and Ron continuously worked together, sometimes in person, sometimes by phone, on their collaboration.

On January 28th 1986, Ron telephones Jean Michel for the last time. "...Everything's ready. See you in a week's time. Watch me on TV for the takeoff!" On that same day, an appalled world witnesses a historic tragedy - the Challenger Space Shuttle explodes in mid-air whilst on its accent into outer space, and at the same time Jean Michel loses a friend.

Distraught by what has happened, Jean Michel almost decides to cancel the concert because of the tragedy that has happened. But at this point, both the Astronauts from NASA and also Bruce McCandless telephoned Jean Michel after hearing that he was considering canceling the concert. They asked Jean Michel not to do this, as now the concert MUST go ahead, and be held in tribute to pay respect to the Astronauts who had lost their lives in the disaster.

This, of cause, posed one slight problem as he was now without a Saxophone player to perform the track he had specially written for Ron McNair. Luckily a musician friend of Ron's, Kirk Whalum, contacted Jean Michel and together they collaborated at the concert to perform, in tribute to the Astronauts and of Ron who had died in the disaster, Rendez-vous 6 - subtitled 'Ron's Piece' in respect to the man himself.

Before the concert, one amusing 'close encounter' happened. While scouting around, a Police helicopter flies over one of the Rehearsals, and curious as to why (and where) a numerous amount of skimming an dancing lights were being projected, they decided to shine their helicopter search light down onto the area where the stage was (which was in an area of darkness at the time). The Police Officers were responded to by an array of sky tracker lights beamed directly at the helicopter, which in turn panicked the Police Officers into landing their helicopter in the parking lot adjacent to the stage. Fuming with anger, the officers climb out, armed with their guns, but one of them (who was still blinded by the spotlights) slipped and fell on the tarmac.

But the run-up to the concert itself was still not to go smoothly. Rain poured down on Houston a couple of days before the concert, destroying much of the equipment on stage (which was repaired by the concert day itself), breaking wires and ruining instruments. Plus there had been a very strong wind blowing all week, which ended up splitting open the giant projection screen (which was made from several small canvas panels) and for it to come crashing down.

The Police again turn up during the middle of a Rehearsal demanding immediate payment of a fine; the residents who lived close were complaining of excessive noise and were exhausted from their sleepless nights due to the Rehearsals. Also, FBI Officers threatened to put a stop to the whole proceedings due to the fact that they were being deprived of electricity because of 30 large lamps installed on top of their headquarters, and so were unable to continue their surveillance of Colonel Gadaffi who was visiting the city at that time.

The concert itself was a technical masterpiece (for its time), consisting of a large projection screen which had been constructed on the front of one of the tower blocks. Giant sky tracker lights were erected on top of the majority of the buildings on Houston's skyline, aswell as the stage itself. The stage consisted of 7 miniature towers, each holding a lighting rig in it - the miniature towers served as a contrast to the actual larger tower blocks that overwhelmed the stage in sheer size. The concert was also the first time Jean Michel had used a Laser Harp to perform a couple of tracks (he used a lighting effect Laser Harp during the China Concerts) and has become an expected (if not required) set piece for all of his future concerts.

The emotions were running high throughout the spectators, and because of the celebrations, attracted a record breaking audience attendance of approximately 1.3 Million people - although this was a lot more than the original expected attendance of 200,000-500,000 people - and gained Jean Michel another place in the Guinness Book of World Records for attracting the largest audience (for then, to date) for an outdoor 'rock concert'.

But there was still yet to be one more slight problem before the concert started. The Chief of the Houston Fire Department, Robert Clayton, had told Francis Dreyfus that the show must be canceled. This was due to a change of the wind direction, and so the Chief was concerned that the crowd would be showered with firework debris. And so, as the argument broke out around Jean Michel between Robert Clayton and Francis Dreyfus, Jean Michel (having no say in this), had to wait for the outcome - eventually with both agreeing on a 'see how it goes' term. This was not the only fireworks related problem with the concert, as Fireworks are banned in Texas, and a special dispensation had to be granted to the team before the fireworks could be transported over the stateline into Houston, and then they had to be transported by armed guard. Over 40 firemen had to be stationed on top of the buildings that were used to launch the fireworks from aswell as 7 adjacent buildings in order to comply with the Fire Prevention Bureau.

The concert begins to a familiar sound of whale cries during the first part of Ethnicolor, in which is used as an introduction to Jean Michel's stage presence as he descends progressively down a flight of stairs accompanied by two cloaked 'servants'. "Is there anybody out there?" asked Jean Michel Jarre before wishing the audience to enjoy the show. Jarre then launches into the first part of the show - entitled 'Rural Space - with Oxygene part 1. The pace of the music to start with gave out a nice relaxed start to the concert before the proceedings started to pick up slightly with Oxygene part 2. The pace then was to pick up even more with Oxygene part 4 and then into a frenzy with Equinoxe part 7, only to be brought back down again with Souvenir of China and to give you a rest before moving onto the next part of the show, entitled 'Urban Space'.

Equinoxe part 4 thrusts its way onto the speakers much to the appreciation of the audience, but only for their brief appreciation to be lowered again as Equinoxe part 2 weaves its way onto the speakers. The only problem though with performing slower tracks such as Oxygene part 1 and Equinoxe part 2 during a concert is that although the tracks are nice to listen to on CD on your home music system, the audience will start to fidget while they wait for the next upbeat track to kick in (which is why it seems that more upbeat tracks have been performed at future concerts). As soon as Equinoxe part 5 makes itself known to the public, the audience begin to pick up again, clapping merrily away, but a fear that had been concerned about earlier had now been encountered - due to the amount of fireworks being used during the track, debris from the fireworks begin to rain down on the audience, covering them in ash. Robert Clayton, the Houston Fire Chief, frantically began to try and stop the proceedings, fearing that people would be injured. Although his fears were duly noted, the crowd took no notice of the ash falling onto them and carried on enjoying the concert proceedings.

Onto the third and final part of the show entitled 'Outer Space'. Up pops the Laser Harp and out comes the 'oven gloves' that Jean Michel has to use due to the heat generated by the Harp. Into Rendezvous 3 (subtitled Laser Harp as the track is performed entirely on the Harp) and the crowd go wild - probably due to the fact they are more familiar with the Rendezvous tracks as the album had been given a lot of airtime prior to the concert and its subsequent album release on the same day of the concert. Next to burst its way through the speakers was the epic Rendezvous 2, with the finale of the track accompanied by a very powerful and intense firework display, almost giving you the impression that you've gone back in time to World War II! With everyone still gasping for breath after the spectacular performance of the previous track, out funks Oxygene part 5 into the ears of the audience.

As the face of Ron McNair fades itself onto the large projection screen, a resounding cheer bursts from the crowd, as the accompanying track - Rendezvous 6 (Ron's Piece) - begins, with it being dedicated to the Astronaut Ron McNair and to all those who lost their lives in the Challenger disaster earlier that year. Whilst at his keyboard, Jean Michel is enveloped in a cone of laser light, whilst Kirk Whalum is perched on the top of one of the lighting towers above the stage. Solemnly, all 1.3 million fellow Americans who witness the concert stand as one whilst the track sits itself down and reminds everyone of the tragedy and of the memory of Ron McNair.

All the remaining visual tricks and fireworks are now thrown into the boiling pot as Rendezvous 4 bumps and grinds its way into the light. Starting to the familiar statement of President John F Kennedy - of which marks an all too familiar resemblance to the problems Jean Michel and his team faced to make the concert happen - "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." The crowd explode into apocalyptic proportions as Jean Michel pounds away on his circular keyboard, leaving what the audience think is the last track of the night, with no possibility of an encore. How wrong they were.

Eventually, stepping out onto the stage again (to a Country & Western tune) is Jean Michel, suited from head to tow in a white cowboy suit and Stetson. Introducing the members of his band to the audience, Jean Michel then proceeds to gesture to his band to get the music going faster, and then a drum beat is added to the music. As the music gets faster, in fades Rendezvous 4 yet again for another beating on the eardrums.

Jean Michel concludes his encore, and the concert, by throwing his Stetson out into the audience (making us here at Jarre UK who actually owns that!) and promises to the audience "I hope to see you again in another 150 years.. Maybe.." - let's hope so. The concert will forever hold a place in Jean Michel's heart - as it will for many of the people who attended the concert.


Jean Michel Jarre - Keyboards, Laser Harp
Michel Geiss - Keyboards
Sylvain Durand - Keyboards
Dominique Perrier - Keyboards
Francis Rimbert - Keyboards
Pascal Lebourg - Keyboards
Jo Hammer - Drums
Dino Lumbroso - Percussions
Kirk Whalum - Alto Saxophone
Christine Durand - Soprano
Choir - The High School for the Performing Arts
Choir - The Singing Boys of Houston

Concept Artwork:

(c) 1985 Mark Fisher

Stage Preparation / Concert Rehearsals:

(c) 1986 Robert Francis (c) 1986 Robert Francis (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian

The Concert:

(c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder (c) 1986 Terry Munder postcard from the concert postcard from the concert promotional studio photo promotional studio photo (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian

Original concept artwork painting (c) 1985 Mark Fisher

Main skyline photos (unless otherwise stated or not) (c) 1986 Terry Munder
(Thanks to Gina Pate for providing the photos)
Other concert photos (unless otherwise stated or not) (c) 1986 Vahe Peroomian, Robert Francis

If you are not credited here, please email us with your details and we will be happy to credit you for your photo(s) - if you do not wish to be credited, we will gladly remove any photo if requested


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