This live album documents what were apparently the first gigs by a Western musician in Communist China. It's a colourful melange of individual tracks from Jarre's first three albums plus a fair amount of new material written specially for the tour. The live performances of his major album backbones, such as Equinoxe VI and VII, are engaging, with a few new twinkles and blips, but have less power than their studio equivalents. Curiously there's nothing from "Oxygene" here, maybe he had played that to death, but the surreal "Magnetic Fields III" was a welcome inclusion.
The new pieces, from the Overture onwards, are firmly in Jarre's established style, with his familiar analog keyboard sounds and chords. The techno-ish "Arpegiator" and the industrial-tinged cityscape "Night in Shanghai" are strong arrangements. "Orient Express" is yet another potential daytime game-show theme. The downbeat ending "Souvenir of China" evokes a wistful departure from the country, as an "Air on a G string"-style melody is chased by a harassing concerto of camera clicks.
The kaleidoscopic heart of this set is the full Chinese orchestra tour-de-force "Fishing Junks at Sunset". It's a successfully affectionate electronic-Oriental crossover with warm Western melodies at the heart of the dazzling local theatricals. It's so successful that it makes me wonder why he hasn't fused more acoustic colour into his sound through the years as Vangelis has.
January 24, 2005